April 18, 2005

Doping News That's Not About Barry Bonds

Well, I have to bring it up every once in a while, don't I?

Two Hungarian throwers, Adrian Annus and Robert Fazekas, had their appeals denied by the CAS. Both athletes had their gold medals stripped in Athens, not for positive tests but for failing to comply with doping procedures. Annus' samples showed signs of tampering. The IAAF is also seeking two-year bans for each.

Waterford Crystal of Ireland also lost a gold medal due to a positive test, but is probably unaware of the significance of this ruling, being a horse. The horse's rider, Cian O'Connor, was cleared of any deliberate wrongdoing, but did violate doping rules (Waterford Crystal was given an illegal sedative). O'Connor has decided not to appeal the verdict.

On March 27, UCI president Hein Verbruggen went on the attack, calling WADA chairman Dick Pound a liar and questioning his objectivity. Although cycling has its problems on the doping front, I have to say that some of Verbruggen's comments were on the mark:

Pound's the sheriff who shoots everything that moves. WADA should be above all that and he should establish proof before he speaks.

On the other hand, Pound might be justified in thinking that he can't win either way. At around the same time as the Verbruggen comments, WADA named a new athlete committee. One of the members is Canadian Beckie Scott, who has had a few words with chairman Pound in the past. Her criticism — essentially the opposite of Verbruggen's — was that Pound was ridiculously naive if he relied on positive tests as proof of guilt.

Later that week, IOC Chairman Jacques Rogge was in the press urging world governments to make WADA's World Anti-Doping Code into law, and threatening to exclude countries from the Olympics if they don't. Governments play a key role in WADA, which has been part of the plan since the inception of the organization. The WADA anti-doping code is a key plank in the IOC's "war on drugs" strategy. Does anybody else find this kind of rhetoric a bit scary?

The sports movement is unable to do it alone. We have no judicial powers. We cannot interrogate people, we cannot search baggage, we cannot issue a warrant and search a room and we cannot arrest people. Governments can do that and they do it well and that's the reason WADA wants the support of the governments together with the sports movements. It's going to be an eternal fight, we can never hope to have a doping-free sport because doping is to sport what criminality is to society.

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