November 16, 2004

Doping News

Too much news about doping in the last couple of weeks.

BALCO Sprinters Granted Delay

Hearings at the Court of Arbitration for Sport for Tim Montgomery and Chryste Gains have been postponed until June and July, respectively. Gains and Montgomery have been charged with doping offenses by the U.S. anti-doping agency, and both face lifetime bans if found guilty. The interesting twist here is that neither athlete tested positive. Both are being charged based on evidence obtained during the BALCO investigation.

While watching the 2004 Olympics on CBC, I was often exasperated by Brian Williams' poor grasp of the facts. This news story reminded me of one particular instance. Williams stated several times that U.S. sprinter Kelli White had been suspended as a result of the BALCO investigation. He seemed to be insinuating that this is somehow unfair treatment, handing down suspensions without a positive test result. In fact, White is currently serving a two-year ban, but tested positive for a stimulant at the 2003 World Championships and has since admitted to using performance-enhancing substances. Her case is certainly linked to the BALCO investigation, but she is not in the same position as Montgomery and others.

Nina Kraft Ashamed ... To Get Caught

German triathlete Nina Kraft, winner of the 2004 Ironman world championship, has been disqualified after a positive test for EPO. Kraft has admitted taking the drug. The world championship title passes to Natascha Badmann (SWI), followed by Heather Fuhr (CAN) and Kate Major (AUS).

Since being caught out, Kraft admits to being ashamed and says that she never really rejoiced in her win. While it is somewhat refreshing that she didn't immediately deny the test result, I don't think that we can find anything particularly admirable in this. In her "charming" victory speech in Hawaii, she apparently went on at length about all her hard work and thanked her coach/boyfriend Martin Malleier for making it possible. Apparently he did support her ... in the decision to start using EPO. Asked about doping in triathlon, she was quoted as saying: "In triathlon there is not so much money that the athlete would turn to doping. It's different from cycling and athletics. I believe that in triathlon one does not dope." I guess she hoped that everybody else would believe it, too.

End of the Jerome Young Story

U.S. sprinter Jerome Young has received a lifetime ban for a second doping offense. Young's drug of choice was also EPO, which is unusual for a 400m specialist. He tested positive for EPO at a meet in July 2004. He has denied using any banned substances, but previously tested positive for nandrolone (a steroid) in 1999.

This has been a very high-profile case. In an outrageous decision, the USOC exonerated Young for his 1999 positive test, allowed him to compete in Sydney (where he won a gold medal in the 4x400m relay), and did not inform the IAAF. The IAAF has since recommended that the gold medal-winning relay team be disqualified. That recommendation (but not Young's lifetime ban) has been challenged by the USOC, and the appeal will be reviewed by the CAS. And lest you feel sorry for the five "innocent" members of that relay team, note that two other members are currently serving suspensions for doping offenses after the fact.

Doping of Non-Humans

Finally, it looks like Germany is going to lose another Olympic equestrian gold. Two of their show jumping horses (Goldfever and Ringwood Cockatoo) have failed their dope tests, as recently confirmed by B sample results. I am not an expert in equestrian sports, but as I read it the gold medal in question is in the team show jumping event. Germany lost two other apparent gold medals in Athens, under protest, due to a timing violation. The gold medallist in the individual show jumping event, Cian O'Connor (IRL), has also received notice of a positive B sample test. That's the horse's sample again, not the rider's. O'Connor and his vet admit to the drug use, but deny any wrongdoing.

It is interesting to note that the IOC only takes responsibility for testing the human participants in the Games. The horse testing is managed by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, although any decision on disqualification rests with the IOC. Since I have had to submit to a drug test before, I naturally wondered how this works for horses. Apparently urine and blood samples are taken. And yes, they make the horses pee in a cup.

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