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Thursday 28, Aug 2008

  The paradox of steroid testing

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If we’re to consider public opinions, we’ll see that no matter what anti-doping officials are able to achieve in their quest to minimize, or ideally to completely eradicate doping, in sports there will always be the skeptics and the cynics to deal with. This is to say that there will be sectors that view the Olympics as a sport spectacle speckled with doped-up athletes.

Since the Beijing Olympics officially wrapped up just a few days ago and as the grandiose venues begin to collect dust, there is the customary review of the events that transpired on the latest Summer Games and one of which is anti-doping programs that have been implemented.

There are those that say the small number of athletes who tested positive for steroids and other performance boosters might signify that many others were able to skirt detection. Of the 4,500 tests conducted in Beijing, only six were caught committing doping violations. Still, others are of opinion that the more doping busts is equal to more skepticism about the cleanliness of the Olympics.

According to the Sportingo article, the idea that only a few but high profile scandals have unfairly tainted the Olympics might not be completely true. It says there are many doping incidents that continually happen in diverse sports. However, since these incidents involved less known athletes they are not given widespread media coverage. Such incidents do happen “on a regular basis” and the “numerous bans of more obscure athletes only serve to re-confirm the public perceptions of the pervasive nature of steroids in Olympics and in sport.”

To further illustrate the point, the article provides this paragraph:

“Hungarian weightlifting silver medalist Ferenc Gyurkovics and Puerto Rican wrestler Mabel Fonseca were expelled from the games today after testing positive for steroids, the International Olympic Committee said. Gyurkovics, 24, tested positive for oxandrolone, the IOC said. He competed in the 105kg class and set an Olympic record by lifting 195kg in the snatch on Tuesday, but finished second to Dmitri Berestov of Russia in the overall totals. Gyurkovics was stripped of his medal by the IOC executive board. Ukraine’s Igor Razoronov will now get the silver, with Russia’s Gleb Pisarevskiy moving up to bronze. Fonseca, 32, tested positive for the steroid stanozolol.

Ukrainian Razonorov was later tested positive for nandrolone and became the sixth and last athlete to be expelled from the 2008 Olympics.

The numerous bans being issued also contribute to public’s awareness that games are tainted and steroid use is an “open secret” amongst Olympic athletes, trainers and coaches.

They train together, and share the same burden of pressure to gain a competitive edge. How many are using is unclear, but there is certainly no doubt that all athletes are conscious and aware of who is using or from whom they can get anabolic supplements or a steroid program for enhancing performance and building muscle. It is surely as simple as “asking around.”

Additionally, there is also the prevalence of systematic doping, i.e., use of performance enhancers are no longer exclusively practiced by “a single Olympic competitor… (steroid use) pervades an entire Olympic team, such as the example of the Polish weightlifting team in 2004.”

Five members of the Polish weightlifting team were disqualified from joining the Athens Olympics because they tested positive for banned substances.

This … is an example of how not only individuals but entire teams can be on steroid programs, and even sponsored by the state. This example is presented to establish that the cynicism in public perceptions of steroid use among Olympic athletes is completely founded.

Also, one may have noticed that there are many different kinds of steroids, and the fact is that as of now there may be no limit on the amount of steroids that exist, from those that have not been deemed performance-enhancing as of yet, through those that are designed to mask detection, to the ones that are already on the list of banned substances, a continuously and rapidly growing that officially numbers in the hundreds.

Wednesday 27, Aug 2008

  Incidents of steroid and PEDS use at 12-year low in 2008 Olympics

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Beijing Olympics SteroidsThe number of athletes who tested positive for steroids and other banned substances had hit 12-year low in the recently concluded Beijing Olympics and yet more and more athletes are being doubted for winning through legitimate means.

Take a look at the case of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and American swimming sensation Michael Phelps.

Bolt, who now currently holds both the Olympic and world records for the 100 meters, elicits some suspicion on his superb performance at the Bird’s Nest Stadium as he broke three world records in Beijing, way too easy in the opinions of fans and sports observers alike. This despite the fact that Bolt underwent rigorous and multiple drug screenings and passed them all.

Phelps, on the other hand, raked in eight gold medals in swimming and is now the proud holder of seven world records in swimming. And some opine the latest Spedoo LZR RACER swimwear might not be the only help the 23-year-old swimmer is getting when he hits the water.

The cynical view of many stems from the stark reality that former record holders and seemingly invincible Olympians have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs later on in their careers. Marion Jones and Ben Johnson are just two of the many who had once basked in Olympic glory then retreated in disgrace because of steroid use.

American sprinter Michael Johnson acknowledges this problem.

“It’s unfortunate what has happened to the sport and it has to be addressed and it is being addressed,” Johnson said. “But if someone wants to believe the only way (Bolt) can do what he’s doing is through doping, that is their prerogative.” Johnson’s world record in the 200-meter dash was broken by Bolt in Beijing.

There is also the concern of new class of PEDs, called designer drugs, and newfangled doping techniques constantly emerging from some rudimentary lab in some obscure places across the United States and elsewhere. Gene doping is at the forefront of these new doping technologies and anti-doping officials scramble as they find new ways to detect them.

Remember the case of Marion Jones, et al? Jones, who is currently serving her 6-month prison term due to lying to investigators who questioned her about her use of steroids, breezed through screenings while using the latest designer steroid at that time THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone. Jones, with her apparent use of THG, conquered the track to win five medals in the Sydney Olympics in 2000.  Jones and the other athletes might have continued with such illegal practice had it not been for the whistleblower in their coop, her track coach Trevor Graham.

Only six athletes of the nearly 11,000 participants in Beijing fell to the dragnet of the IOC and the question hangs if how many of these athletes were able to outsmart officials and got away with the gold loot.

The IOC also launched its first coordinated pre-games testing program, which caught 39 athletes and barred them from participating before the Aug. 8 opening ceremony. Such tests, for example, led to the entire Bulgarian weightlifting team to drop out before the Olympics.
While more positive drug test results could still turn up, especially for substances such as the blood booster erythropoietin, or EPOs, that take longer to detect, IOC officials were celebrating what they said was a victory for athletic fair play.

“We feel the deterrent effect played a part in what we see,” said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies. “The athletes know that at this event the IOC, which is the organization running the doping programs, means business in not having those who cheat as a part of these events.”