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Wednesday 13, Aug 2008

  Juiced-up athletes and faked fireworks – welcome to Summer Olympics 2008, y’all!

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olympics-steroidsLooks like the Summer Games in Beijing are not only riddled with athletes testing positive for steroids, but with fake fireworks display as well.

Those who witnessed the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics at home were shaking their heads, staring at the boob tubes, awe and wonder written on their faces as they beheld the spectacular fireworks that announced “Let the Games begin!” And those who thought the fireworks seemed so unbelievable and so unreal might be correct. Well, partly correct.

Some parts of the display were indeed unreal as they were computer-generated effects. This has been revealed by a Chinese newspaper, the Beijing Times, over the weekend.

The report says the computer graphics were developed for several months leading up to the opening ceremonies and then electronically inserted into the coverage on cue.

Oh, the fireworks were there for real, outside the Bird’s Nest National Stadium. But there was the dilemma of filming everything and capturing all 29 footprints exploding above Tiananmen Square. So, that called for some Chinese invention.

The computer animation was even shown on giant television screens inside the jam-packed stadium. And the estimated three billion homeviewers across the globe were fooled (pleasantly fooled, we hope) by the fake images that looked like they were filmed from above by a helicopter. The effects included a ‘camera shake’ to create an illusion filming from a helicopter.

And there’s more. The designers even added some smog effects to simulate the polluted skyline of the host city. (And here we thought the Chinese are only capable of counterfeiting designer brands.)

TV networks around the world had no choice but to show the footage since it all came from one feed, courtesy of the Beijing Olympic Broadcasting. (Talk about total(itarian) expression.)

Gao Xiaolong, head of the visual effects team for the ceremony, said it had taken them almost a year to create the 55-second sequence. They even consulted the Beijing meteorological office to mimic Beijing’s skyline at night.

“Seeing how it worked out, it was still a bit too bright compared to the actual fireworks,” he said. “But most of the audience thought it was filmed live – so that was mission accomplished.”

Uh, China, we’ve got a problem.

Not everybody was happy with the ceremonies apparently. Architect Ai Weiwei says no way the mission was accomplished.

Writing on his blog, Mr Ai, who helped design the stadium, described the ceremony as “a recycling of the rubbish of fake classical culture tradition; a sacrilegious visual garbage dump and an insult to the spirit of liberty; low class sound play that’s just noise pollution”.

He was highly critical of China’s ruling communist party, labeling the ceremony as “a showcase of the reincarnation of the Marxist imperialism; the ultimate paragon of an all embracing culture of fascist totalitarianism; an encyclopaedia that encompasses total defeat in intellectual spirit.”

Wednesday 06, Aug 2008

  Steroid-free Olympics? An oxymoron, if you asked us

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steroids-2008olympicsWith the recent upsurge of steroid-related news making it to the mainstream media, it is now obvious how the use of anabolic-androgenic steroids has become prevalent in the world of competitive sports.

Despite the much publicized crackdown of China on steroids and performance-enhancing drugs recently, don’t expect a chemical-free Olympic Games.

And don’t let John Fahey and WADA assure you that this will be the cleanest Olympics ever, because it would not be so. To say that winners of events that require strength, endurance, and speed are steroid-free is to say that China is a totally democratic country.

And the more juiced-up athletes are caught, the more the public would think that winners are likely fueled by PEDs.

Well, we’re putting it rather mildly here.

Here’s a sterner view on China and the Olympics from Mail Online:

No one with a grain of intelligence will question that such diverse sports as cycling, in which Britain anticipates a medal haul, and weightlifting are rife with steroids.

It requires a leap of faith – of which not even the amazing Hildreth would be capable – to predict that the Beijing Games will not be blighted by drugs.

Even if that were to happen, the only rational conclusion would be that the organisers had cooked the tests to avoid killing the Peking duck. Catch 22 for the IOC is that the more cheats they reel in, the more doubting the world’s population becomes.

Even athletes who deny all guilt are acutely aware of the implications.

Top sprinters Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt acknowledge that whichever of them wins Saturday week’s 100m dash to be crowned fastest man on earth will be the subject of suspicion.

Our unlikely world 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu and triathlete Tim Don – both of whom managed to overturn their British Olympic Association life bans for missing three drugs tests – complain that no matter what they achieve in the next two-and-a-half weeks they will still be stigmatised. Too right they will.

Public perception of the Olympics will not be improved by the number of convicted drugs cheats coming back from suspension around the world to compete in these Games. Beijing has more problems than termites in rotting wood . . . air pollution, Tibet, human rights, Darfur, media freedom, dog-meat on restaurant menus and typhoons threatening the sailing events, to name but a few.

Monday 04, Aug 2008

  Steroid sentencing

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Who knew the FBI was involved with steroid busts? wasn’t that only the DEA?  We thought the FBI was concentrating on such things as terrorism not steroids.  Although there is a surprise in this steroid bust, the time of the sentencing.  It seems the time in jail for steroid distribution has been going down.  At the start of the anti-steroid agenda, steroid producers were getting 4-10 years, insane sentencing for some white collar worker who was just selling steroids to friends.  Now, the sentencing has gone down, with this latest steroid bust ending up with about 16 months in jail, that’s roughly 10-12 months with good behavior.

This might be related to the steroid dealer who was busted for selling steroids on myspace, so that’s possible as to the reason why the FBI was involved.  Otherwise, it would seem very strange.

An Arizona man has been sentenced to 16 months in prison for distributing anabolic steroids over the Internet.

Forty-year-old Brian Jeffery of Bullhead City appeared in Hartford federal court on Thursday.

Authorities say that on two occasions, an undercover FBI agent exchanged e-mails with Jeffery, placed orders for the anabolic steroids dianabol and testonogen and received the steroids in the mail.

Prosecutors say Jeffery admitted that he bought raw steroid powder from suppliers in China and converted it into forms that could be injected and taken by mouth. They say he sold at least 10,000 units of anabolic steroids from March through June of last year.

Jeffery has been detained since his arrest last September.

Wednesday 30, Jul 2008

  China’s crackdown on steroids – Better late than never

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china-steroidsIn preparation for the coming Summer Olympics in Beijing, and probably in response to the recent showing of a documentary in Germany about gene doping and steroid trade in China, Chinese officials are now intensifying their drive against suppliers of performance-enhancing drugs.

Those who have suffered the brunt of now embarrassed local anti-doping officials include manufacturers of steroids and peptide hormones, wholesalers, consumer outlets and websites.

The Earth Times has the complete report:

China has begun a clampdown on companies making drugs that can be used to enhance sporting performance ahead of next month’s Olympic Games in Beijing. Production bans, licence withdrawals and fines have all been used by the authorities, the national anti-doping agency (CHINADA) and other ministerial agencies reported Monday.

According to the reports, 257 companies which deal with or manufacture anabolic steroids and peptide hormones, 2,739 wholesalers and 340,000 consumer outlets were inspected.

As a result, 30 companies were ordered to suspend production while 25 firms had their licence to manufacture drugs which can be used for doping withdrawn.

Another 318 websites, which gave information on the sale of steroids and peptide
hormones, were also targeted.

“We have punished those who have broken the rules,” said Yan Jiangyung, spokeswoman for the Chinese state authority that overlooks nutrition and medicinal drugs.

Earlier this month, a German television documentary suggested that genetic doping is possible in China.

The documentary broadcast by the state-run ARD network showed a reporter, claiming to be a swimming coach, inquiring about performance- enhancing stem cell treatment for athletes in a Chinese hospital.

While Yan called on the ARD to hand over any information it had on Chinese medical practitioners who were involved in doping, a spokesman for the Health Ministry said genetic doping was not possible.

“I can say in agreement with international experts that such a therapy does not exist in China or elsewhere internationally,” said Mao Qunan.

With less than two weeks before the start of the Games, many consider the move to be a belated attempt to curb the use of these banned compounds. But China is under intense pressure from anti-doping agencies, particularly the World Anti-Doping Agency. WADA’s top gun John Fahey has been proclaiming that the 2008 Summer Olympics will be the cleanest ever.

From AFP:

Though Fahey refused to guarantee a completely drug-free Games, he said cheats are more likely to be caught by the doping agency this year than ever before.
“One has to recognise the question of doping in sport has been around now for a long time,” Fahey told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio.

“There’s been evidence that at successive games it’s occurred. (But) I can give this guarantee: there’s a far greater likelihood that anybody cheating or attempting to cheat in the Beijing Games will be caught than in any other time of our history.”

It is expected that around 4,500 tests for banned compounds will be implemented on participating athletes in the Beijing Olympics. This is significantly higher with those that had been carried out in Athens and Sydney, numbering to 3,700 and 2,800 tests respectively.

Tuesday 29, Jul 2008

  â€˜Stunning’ gene doping, low-cost steroids in China

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Beijing-2008-Summer-Olympics-SteroidsThe recent showing of the documentary film Flying High in Middle Kingdom once again focuses the public’s attention on the issue of the use of performance-enhancing drugs (i.e. steroids) and methods (i.e. gene doping) in competitive sports.

The documentary’s timing and locale is intentionally inopportune – it is in China where the Summer Olympics is to commence on August 8. The documentary, which aired on ARD television in Germany, shows that despite the clean-up act of Chinese authorities conducted for many months now, it is still business as usual for the manufacturers and traders of anabolic steroids. And this is causing alarm amongst anti-doping agencies.  Even more alarming for these watchdogs is the fact that there is a clear stepping up of doping in competitive sports – the use of biotechnology to enhance the performance of athletes.

Anti-doping officials were ‘stunned’ as an AP report put it. The same report provided additional details on this news:

The report, filmed with a concealed camera, shows the doctor with his face blurred speaking in Chinese and offering the treatment in return for $24,000, according to a translation provided by the ARD television.

The documentary broadcast Monday did not offer evidence that the hospital had provided gene doping to other athletes, but anti-doping officials were appalled that the treatment was so readily available.

“I could not have imagined it in such a provable form,” Mario Thevis, chief of the German center of preventive doping research in Cologne.

Another Cologne expert on gene doping, Patrick Diel, said he was “stunned to see it.”
“It goes beyond my worst expectations,” Diel said.

In the documentary, the reporter posing as an American swimming coach meets with the head of the gene therapy department of a Chinese hospital. It did not name the doctor, or the hospital.

The New York Times also ran a report on this documentary.

The documentary, broadcast by ARD on Germany’s main channel last night, went on to show evidence that drugs firms in China are prepared to sell steroids that have not passed full clinical trials, as well as erythropoietin (EPO), the blood-boosting drug, at a price far cheaper than in the West. In the case of one steroid, 100g was sold for €150 (about £120) when the price in Europe would have been more than €6,000.

When investigators approached three companies for the supply of steroids and EPO, they were asked to pick up the substances personally, to get round the preGames crackdown on selling illegal substances on the black market. EPO and a steroid called estra-diendione were offered. One hundred grams of the steroid cost 1,500 yuan (about £100). It came with quality control certification and proved to be a bargain. The cost in Europe is upwards of £4,500 per 100g, according to Mario Thevis, an expert at a laboratory in Cologne.

Leave it to the Chinese to offer the most competitive price on everything!