Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday September 9 2000
The race against cheaters
The International Olympic Committee has devoted more resources in its war against performance-enhancing drugs. Two Canadian athletes tested positive this week, and Olympic officials don’t believe Olympians will begin taking the high moral ground and turn away from drug use.Some of the world’s doping cops may point to the glut of recent positive drug tests — two involving Canadians bound for the Olympics — to claim the war on performance-enhancing drugs is working.
People on the inside know better. This is a rearguard action at best.
“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has finally devoted a lot of resources and tools to detection through the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), ” says Hamilton-born Richard McLaren, but “it will never catch up” with all those trying to escape detection.
McLaren is the only Canadian on the IOC’s Court of Arbitration, a body that rules on disputes involving the Olympics. He is a London, Ont., law professor connected with the University of Western Ontario’s International Centre for Olympic Studies.
He says the caseload involving doping that the Court of Arbitration has heard this year indicates more drug use and more detection — but no evidence that global athletes are seeking high moral ground by turning away from steroids, stimulants, blood doping and human growth hormone.
“We have heard as many cases in eight months as we heard all last year.”
McLaren, who grew up in Westdale, says policing is only a Band-Aid.
“The root of the problem is in cheating, and in the long-term it will take a widespread program of education about ethics in sport.”
He says there is just too much information available for anyone who has decided to cheat.
“In a half day on the Internet, you can get a good start on a regimen of drugs to improve performance.”
The bigger war to be fought, reasons McLaren, is the one for minds and souls, the one that stops aspiring athletes from doing that Internet search.
Others, like the chairman of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, say millions more must be spent on testing to stamp out drug-cheating.
Frank Shorter, a one-time gold-medal marathoner, believes every endurance athlet e competing in Sydney will be suspect because IOC testing is not extensive enough.
“Things have to change or we’re going under, ” he said. “The Olympics will be a freak show.”
Even more blunt is Penn State professor Charles Yesalis who has studied drug use by athletes.
“If this was a football game, the cheaters would be leading 84 to 3.”
Even Denis Coderre, Canada’s secretary of state for sport and the WADA delegate for the Americas, sends out a warning.
“If WADA doesn’t work, I believe the Olympics are finished. This is our last hope.”
The current Games will likely have a strain of cynicism that runs deeper than any other, given recent events such as the positive tests this week of Canadian hammer-thrower Robin Lyons for steroids and equestrian Eric Lamaze for cocaine. Both athletes are appealing. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)