More of the same – drugs in sport

The international media seem to delight in determining how the unsuspecting public addresses most issues in life.
The case of the just concluded Zimmerman trial is particularly instructive in this regard. The US media went to great lengths to have the masses zero in on the trial especially as it drew to a close. Then they took us along a path of trying to predict the outcome and they vied with each other in this regard.
Then, even as the jurors deliberated the media took us along another path, conjuring up images of people being disappointed with the outcome and appealing for calm while encouraging others to come out in the media doing likewise.
In the end, as we have seen with the OJ Simpson trial, the invasion of Iraq and so many other issues, the international media displayed a penchant for transforming them all into global media circuses.
It is hardly ever the case that the international media turns around and apologise for anything that they have given rise to. At the end of the day, the real issues often get hidden in the clutter of the race for revenue at all cost.
The current media frenzy with the doping scandals in track and field athletics is not taken on board by the international media making it appear as though we are dealing with something new and strange.
The truth is that we have had doping in sport as far back and the time of the Ancient Olympics and it continues through to the present day. The media interest seems only piqued when it suits their pride and purposes.
The international media quickly dropped the Landis case when it appeared to lose traction. The Lance Armstrong case was significantly different because he was extremely high profile.
The media has no real interest in whether or not there are drugs in sport or ways in which we can redress this thorny issue. Instead, the media are keen on what hot issues can assist in enhancing their bottom line – increased revenue.
Recent revelations
First there was Veronica Campbell Brown of Jamaica. The Jamaicans quickly came to Veronica’s defence and several claimed how much they still love her and the like.
Then came news of Tyson Gay. This was followed by news of more Jamaican athletes including Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson.
Not long after the revelations we heard of the Italian Carabinieri raiding the hotel where Powell and Simpson were based and questioning their trainer.
While the international media have thrown much attention on the big names here they seem to have overlooked the huge numbers that have been unearthed in Russia leaving that country most embarrassed as it prepares to host the world next month.
Perhaps we paid so much attention paid to doping in road cycling that the other sports have been neglected in respect of the extent to which the win at all cost attitude has drive many to use performance-enhancing drugs to get by.
As has happened in almost every case unearthed the athletes all claim no knowledge of what happened.
Indeed, it is the preferred response of lawyers in advising their athlete clients. It is the same stance they urge clients to adopt in respect of vehicular accidents where they are attorneys for insurance companies.
The stock response is never to claim liability. Always deny knowingly taking drugs. Leave it to the officials to prove that it happened and that it could have come from any and everywhere.
It came as no surprise therefore that beginning with Campbell-Brown through to Simpson, they all claim no knowledge of what has happened.
Tyson Gay seems to be the exception, however.
Gay was quick to state that he was clear what had happened. He trusted someone who disappointed him. That is a very interesting approach since for the first time it appears we are able to point to someone in particular and take appropriate action. His comment seems to suggest that he knows who is involved.
Then came mighty mouth, Ato Boldon, and his comment on athletes pushing the envelope in respect of supplements.
The story about the use of supplements and whatever else is available has always been a challenge.
Interestingly, if one group finds that some supplements are working to help in the improvement of the performances of their athletes they try as much as possible to keep it a secret. The reason is simple. They want to win.
Athletes, their coaches and team management do not readily share information on supplements.
Some athletes have been taking very expensive supplements for years.
It has long been the case that athletes have been encouraged to imbibe a large variety of supplements most of which are creatine-based, and which are considered legal by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA). Some take as many as 15 tablets as often as twice daily. Others imbibe or inject a variety of other products, which they have been told are legal.
Boldon’s statement about athletes pushing the envelope in respect of supplements may well be true and as an athlete who appeared to push himself, he may be well placed to make the claim inherent in what he said.
But Boldon, like so many others ought to be aware of the level of recklessness involved in the desire of some coaches to produce the very best athletes in the world as their own claim to fame. The athletes are, more often than not, encouraged by their management team to engage in the use of an ever-increasing variety of supplements in order to achieve more for the glory of their coaches and management teams without due regard for the consequences for their bodies and general well being.
Other drugs
WADA has, since being established, been engaged in extensive research. They have made up considerable ground on the drug cheats led as they are by aggressive researchers as well.
Information coming out of WADA is that there is a very serious and professional drug underworld committed to the development of performance-enhancing drugs for use by athletes.
The desire to win seems to override any other interest and so athletes become willing allies.
The norm seems to produce novel drugs that cannot as yet be detected by the WADA-accredited laboratories. We have seen this in cycling as well as in athletics. New drugs are almost always being produced and over time, discovered by WADA.
WADA is well aware of the production of designer drugs such as was produced by the infamous BALCO that had on its list of clients some of the world’s leading athletes. It has been said that had a coach not brought the loaded syringe to the US anti doping agency – USADA – it may have taken several years before the cocktail was discovered.
There is also increased use of masking agents, drugs aimed at covering up the real performance-enhancing ones being imbibed, in order to distract the anti doping agencies.
International Federations
There is reason to believe that some of the international federations may well have been accomplices of sorts with regard to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in their respective sports. They must have recognised that some of the performances have simply been too incredible to believe.
Too many performances have come literally out of the blue.
Aficionados of sport are very adept at pointing an accusing finger at athletes whose performances have simply taken off. They know for certain that something is amiss and they are often spot on in this regard.
Many critics are convinced that the leadership of several of the so-called tainted sports are well aware of the use of performance-enhancing drugs by their best athletes but choose to turn a blind eye.
Of course some have to face up to the reality that the athletes are passing the various tests. The issue however is how often they are tested.
Medically it seems almost impossible for some athletes to recover from what is considered serious injury in the time frame within which some return to active competition.
This was a primary bother for those who followed the career path of Ben Johnson in 1988, the year of the Seoul Olympics. Earlier in the year Ben Johnson was declared injured and many felt certain that the nature of the injury would rule him out of consideration for the Olympics. Surprisingly he not only returned to competition but set blistering performances enough to get him on the team and first past the post in the finals of the 100m. Of course the rest is history.
The case of Ben Johnson is repeated all too often, especially in athletics.
In any given year we have top athletes who either cannot finish an important race or who surprisingly finish down the line but yet in a week or two later deliver performances that are among the best in the world for the particular year.
The international federations while spending millions claiming to be leading the fight against drugs in sport are really often playing games and this through to the very highest level.
How many athlete sin the final of the 100m at the Seoul Olympics were clean?
How many Tour de France winners were really clean?
What really happened with the drug tests at the Atlanta Olympics? How many of these were valid tests? What proportion of the tests was spoilt for one reason or another?
Have we being using the best laboratories in the world when the Olympics come around?
Have we been testing to the best of our abilities?
Have international federations been protecting their most favoured sons and daughters whom they believe are the flagships of their respective sports?
The foregoing are important questions for which answers have to be given.
There is a glaring disparity in sport between those who can readily be seen as getting help of one sort or another and those who are working diligently to succeed.
While it is often the case that athletes are not always told the truth by their coaches and physicians what it is they are being given to imbibe the regulations are very clear. The athlete is responsible for anything found in his/her body.
In growing up at home each child is cautioned not to take things from strangers and certainly not to eat or drink anything that they do not know.
It is therefore difficult to understand why any athlete would imbibe something the contents of which they do not know. If in doubt leave it alone.
Additionally however, the world of sport has to find ways of getting at the entire athlete’s entourage and hold them all responsible for what their athletes imbibe. Unless ways are found to get at this grouping we are spitting in the wind. Theya re as culpable as the athlete and when they are allowed to go free they simply move on to another group of athletes offering them an opportunity to bask in the glory of success while their own pockets reap a harvest.
There is gross injustice in the world of sport.