Friday, 8 December 2017


In this era and for that matter, every era, the media bombards today’s youth with magnificent physical mages they hope will be theirs someday. This results in their participation in sports which can then stand out as an important means to teaching our youth the the virtue of fair play. If our youth feel that the only way that they can win, and they use drugs to increase their abilities beyond what they are without the use of drugs, than the whole purpose of having sport becomes meaningless.

It is an unfortunate aspect of the Olympics that some Olympic athlete competitors are taking drugs to enhance their abilities to win. Not all of them of course but far too many of them are doing it.

Probably there is nothing that will put an athlete to shame  more than to be found out as a cheat and having his or her award rescinded. And yet, many of them are willing to take the chance rather than lose the competition honestly.

I am not talking about a few cheats I am talking about a great many of these cheating athletes. When they do this, they bring shame on their own countries that sponsored them. For example, what decent Russian citizen can hold his or her head up high knowing that some of their athletes didn’t win their awards honestly? 

When the International Olympic Committee announced that it would not ban the entire Russian Olympic team from the Summer Games held in Rio de Janeiro over allegations of systemic doping, the American Anti-Doping Agency’s chief executive, Travis Tygart, called the ruling a “blow to the rights of clean athletes.”   

Tygart was correct: The IOC missed an opportunity to punish nations that put national pride before clean sport competitions.

The Olympic organizers’ reluctance to hammer-throw the Russians out of the Games was only the latest chapter in a relatively new campaign to change an elite-sport culture that has always fought against doping that is used to both push the boundaries of human performance and to broadcast the potency of nation-states. When the Russians took the field in Rio, they paraded not only state-managed corruption but also the difficulty of imposing sanctions against doping.     

The World Anti-Doping Agency strives to preserve what it calls “the spirit of sport”—an athletic “celebration of the human spirit, body and mind.”

The brainchild of Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the original spirit of sport was a defense against class revolutions taking place after the Industrial Revolution. The first of modern Olympic Games, in 1896, were conceived as a sanctuary for gentleman amateurs, a “religion with its church, dogmas, service,” Coubertin maintained. Until 1988, professional athletes  were considered inherently inferior in aristocratic eyes and for this reason, they were barred from the Olympics. 

It turns out, though, that if there is an essence of elite and professional sports, it is enlisting technology to expand the limits of the human body such as doping.

After British-American runner Charles Hicks won the 1904 Olympic marathon with the help of brandy and strychnine, physician and Olympic chronicler Charles Lucas wrote that Hicks was “kept in mechanical action by the use of drugs, that he might bring to America the Marathon honors.” Lucas added that Hicks’s success showed that “drugs are of much benefit to athletes along the road.

That may be but it isn’t honours that doped up athletes are receiving nowadays, it is shame.

That nonjudgmental attitude carried on for decades. In 1941, the influential American exercise physiologist Peter Karpovich observed in a medical journal that “the use of a substance or device which improves the physical performance of a man without being injurious to his health, can hardly be called unethical.” It certainly is unethical if it is used in sports.

Drugs began their transition from athlete trade tool to instrument of moral decay in 1960, when Danish cyclist Know Enemark Jensen died at the Rome Olympics. Competing in a 62-mile race without water on a scorching day, Jensen collapsed, hit his bare head and broiled in an uncooled tent for two hours before dying.

Though his autopsy reported that he only suffered from heat stroke, news stories based on unfounded rumors made amphetamines into the killer of the cyclist.  Jensen like the millions in 1960 who swallowed stimulants to brighten their mood, lose weight or get a job done, cyclists had been happily using speed since it became commercially available as Benzedrine in 1937. But Jensen’s death helped precipitate the first European medical conferences on drugs in sports in the early 1960s. Reacting to better understanding of amphetamine addiction, media hysteria and countercultural social anxieties, the IOC introduced drug tests at the 1968 Winter Games.

Alarmed, in 1955, the future IOC president, Avery Brundage warned via the Saturday Evening Post that Americans had become “a race of grandstand and bleacher sitters.” Unless it got its Olympic act together, the United States was “doomed to a secondary position in the world of sports.”

Geopolitics, it turned out, trumped concerns about doping. The mission included anabolic steroids. Though physicians had been aware of steroid health risks since the 1960s, the IOC did not ban the synthetic hormones until testing became available for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

To foil these new anti-drug efforts, in 1977, East Germany built an IOC-accredited drug lab in Kreischa, where athletes were tested to ensure they were clean before competing abroad. The lab helped Soviet-bloc athletes in two ways: They made sure performance-enhancing drugs were out of their system before leaving the country, and because it also tested samples from outside East Germany, it gave them a sense of how other nations were doping.

Documentation revealed after the collapse of East Germany showed that some 3,000 Stasi police agents made sure that neither physicians nor athletes resisted annual administration of 2 million doses of steroids, even when those drugs had devastating effects. The lab also gave Soviet doctors warning when their dosing triggered positives in Russian athletes. It was a model for the use of government resources and IOC cooperation to tilt the sporting odds.

The United States noticed that something was amiss. U.S. weightlifter Bill Starr told Sports Illustrated in 1969 that “American athletes are usually a long way behind the Russians in drug use.” The 23 athletes who tested positive at the 1976 U.S. Olympic track and field trials suggested that without either a formal pharmaceutical program to measure doses or a test facility devoted to making sure no one was caught, American doping was, indeed, an ad hoc mess.

At the 1960 Rome Olympics, the U.S.S.R. took home 103 medals to 71 for the United States. In Munich in 1972, the Soviets bagged 50 gold medals to the Americans’ 33. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the U.S.S.R. and East Germany took 215 medals to the United States’ 94. Obviously, more of the athletes in Russia and East Germany were using prohibited drugs than the America athletes were.

The growing anti-doping forces exercised their clout at the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela, where drug-testing machines popped 15 competitors. Word of the positives sent 12 American track and field athletes packing before ever putting a foot on the track.

Wanting to avoid similar awkwardness at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, the USOC screened U.S. athletes at UCLA’s lab before the Games. Because the tests were informational and not official, of the 86 Americans who were positive, only two were denied spots on the Olympic team. During the final week of the Games, some 20 medal winners, many from track and field disciplines, tested positive. When a document linking athletes’ names to the urine samples mysteriously disappeared from an IOC hotel room, the doped victors kept their medals.

In 1999, IOC scientist Arnold Beckett told the BBC that the Olympic committee was making a show of “trying to prevent drug misuse in sport. He said, “Please don’t get too many positives, which will tend to damage the image of sport.” IOC medical director Alexandre de Merode said he was reluctant to speak about the 1984 scandal because it would perhaps destroy his credibility or the IOC or even the Games.

An entire country—in this case, Russia that blithely flouts all the doping rules, would undermine fair play by defiling the sanctifying myth of Olympic purity.

It would also expose the IOC to enormously costly legal liability. The World Anti-Doping Agency studies indicated that testing snares less than 2 percent of doped athletes. Changing sports’ enduring chemical traditions is hard compared with kicking doping scandals down the road to independent sport federations, as the IOC just did with the Russians.

Sending all Russians packing from Rio would have relayed a comforting message that sports can be an island of chemical and moral purity, and that the Games might someday return to Coubertin’s fantasy of fair play.

Ultimately, the IOC instead steamrolled over the World Anti-Doping Agency and gave Russia a pass which is no surprise. Commercial and geopolitical interests were still stronger than the moral reductionism of anti-doping missionaries.

Many athletes who dope get away with it. It's estimated that up to a third of the athletes that we'll watch at the Olympics, will be dopers. And yet less than two percent of athletes were caught last in 2015.  So how do they dope themselves and get away with it?

If athletes are searching for strength, anabolic steroids will increase their strength, by up to forty percent. Anabolic steroids are so popular with athletes that they account for two-thirds of doping violations.

Athletes who prefer to be doped up even include baseball players. Banned substances in baseball has been an ongoing issue for Major League Baseball. Several players have come forward in recent years to suggest that drug use is rampant in baseball. David Wells stated that "25 to 40 percent of all Major Leaguers are juiced." Jose Canseco stated on 60 Minutes and in his tell-all book Juiced that as many as 80% of players used steroids, and that he credited steroid use for himself  for his entire career.

The molecules of the drugs they use boost testosterone in their systems, but then they show up in their blood and urine. So that's what the anti-doping agency's test for. But they can only recognize chemical structures that they've seen before, not designer drugs with the same function, but unknown structures.

When it comes to endurance, muscles need oxygen; oxygen carried by the blood. EPO (Erythropoietin that is a natural blood builder) and drugs like it, increase the maximum blood oxygen by around seven percent. They increase the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow. Nowadays, EPO can be detected in their urine, unless the use only micro doses of EPO.

Let me explain how important oxygen is when it enters your blood’s corpuscles and eventually, your muscles.

I, like millions of others who suffered from heart disease, had a triple bypass operation. The surgeons removed the major veins in my legs so that they could be used to replace the damaged arteries leading to my heart. 

There is a side effect when those major veins are no longer in your legs. The blood goes down your arteries in your legs and when the oxygen is removed from the blood to energize your muscles in your legs, the blood minus the oxygen then heads back to your lungs via the major veins to get more oxygen, then to your heart  which will then send them on their way for the next trip back down to your legs and to the muscles of your legs.  

Imagine if you will, transport trucks carrying food to a village (your muscles) far from the warehouses that stored the food.  The trucks arrive at the village and unload the food and then leave the village to return to the warehouses. But suppose the major return highway was permanently destroyed by an earthquake. The trucks would then have to return via very small side roads. 

The return would be very slow and because of that, the trucks heading down the major highway would be held up since the empty trucks in the village would still be jammed up trying to get onto the side roads ahead of them. The people in the village would finally go hungry and many of them would become close to starving which would make them very weak.

My legs are so weak, if I fall down, I don’t have the strength to get up again because my muscles don’t have enough oxygen in them to give them the strength they need to let me got up on my own.  For this reason, I only go to places where there are people who can help me get up if I fall down—which is rare.  It’s a drag but I have to live with it and so do others who had their major veins in their legs removed. 

Now imagine if you will that the trucks of food heading down your legs to feed the hungry villagers are not only loaded with nutrients that the villagers need to survive, they are also loaded with drugs that will unnecessarily increase their strength. This is what is happening in the legs of athletes who choose to increase their strength, not by their training but by mixing Anabolic steroids with their oxygen.

This is a doping technique that works even mid-competition and it's simple. An athlete takes a speck of EPO, one ten-thousandth of a gram before he or she goes to bed and then drink a liter of water. By the time they can be tested, test the morning, the drug has broken down in the athlete’s blood, and the water dilutes his or her urine, leaving no trace of the EPO.

Nowadays, the labs have linked genes to almost all aspects of sport, to strength, to endurance and even sporting mentality. Today's technology lets them to modify genes, but it can't tell the labs if the genes have been modified.

Dopers are always ahead of the curve. These days testing labs can test for almost all chemical doping, but not for gene doping. Now this is sports’ Wild West because it's dangerous, it's unknown, but the potential rewards are massive.

The WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) report into corruption and doping in Russian athletics painted an ugly picture of both of a Russian concerted doping program and the repeated failure of authorities to deal with the problem.

Aside from the people who were red-flagged by the documentary recordings, there were those athletes who were likely involved in doping but were allowed to compete in London. As a result of this widespread inaction, the Olympic Games in London were, in a sense, sabotaged by the admission of athletes who should have not been competing, and could have been prevented from competing, were it not for the collective and inexplicable laissez-faire policy adopted by the All-Russia Athletics Federation.

German broadcaster ARD aired a 60 minute documentary Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia produces it’s Winners, by Hajo Seppelt in which he presented a hard-hitting exposé on the Russian doping system and how Russian sport executives, anti-doping labs, officials and athletes were involved in the doping process. The documentary revealed that athletes were making secret payoffs, how they avoid testing and remain undetected due to a large international system of sport executives, lab staff and sport officials cooperating in the doping knowledge and supply chain taking advantage of the lack of independent oversight in international athletics and anti-doping.

Part of the Russian doping system documentary was centered around the Russian Athletics Federation President and IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev among others. These revelations were particularly explosive and dramatic against the backdrop of Russia invading the Ukraine with Sergey Bubka as the UKR National Olympic Committee President and as the IAAF President.

In the documentary one male athlete lamented on the state of Russian sports, “You cannot achieve your goals unless you dope,” stated Vitali Stepanov. He also named Russian coach, Alexei Melnikov as a functionary in the doping supply chain who offered her anabolic steroids.

Team mate and discus thrower Yevgeniya Pecherina, RUS stated, “Most athletes dope; around 99 percent. If you do it, they (the federation) gives you everything. The least detectable the drug, the more expensive it is.”

In another interview with another athlete, Lilyia Shobukhova said that she handed over $550,000 USD to be able to compete in the 2012 Olympics. Shobukhova is currently banned for doping offenses. Shobukhova stated that she had to hand over the money to Melnikov because he demanded it to ensure that all other officials will allow her to compete. That means that fficials were taking bribes.

What was most shocking in the documentary was the case that was made for the systematic doping, how extensively and perfectly the whole system fits together. From the guarantees by Russian state government officials controlling the political side, down through the Russian government agencies that control RUSADA, WADA’s approved lab, which were all interwoven in the sophisticated doping supply chain network, combined also with high level coordination between the Russian sport executives, anti-doping officials, sport federation officials and coaches.

The Russian doping system in some ways mirrored the GDR (in East Germany) doping of the 60’s-90’s. Russian coach Oleg Popov stated, “The athlete has no choice. Either you agree and use the illegal substances, or if you don’t you’re out of sport in Russia.

This was a convincing example of how systematic doping is and was and how extensive it still is in Russian sports. It was the analysis shared by the award-winning business newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung after viewing the video. The allegations triggered an earthquake of disgust at Russia’s attempt to win medals illegally.

WADA had in fact already received some information and evidence of the type exposed in the documentary. All of that information has been passed to the appropriate independent body within the international, the IAAF. We will await the outcome of that independent body’s deliberations. Insofar as the particular allegations against Russian authorities and others were concerned, the evidence was to be carefully scrutinized and if action was warranted, WADA would take any necessary and appropriate steps under its authority.

The former head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency revealed his part in an astonishing state-run doping programme before and during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which included supplying banned performance-enhancing substances to at least 15 medal winners and substituting tainted urine samples with clean ones during the Games so that they passed doping tests. The International Olympic Committee described the accusations as “very worrying” and called for them to be investigated immediately by the World Anti-Doping Agency.  (WADA)

Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory from 2005-15, claimed he helped dozens of Russian athletes with a cocktail of banned substances including metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone which he mixed with alcohol. To improve the absorption of the steroids and shorten the detection window, he dissolved the drugs in Chivies whisky for male athletes and Martini vermouth for women.

Among those Rodchenkov claimed to have helped cheat were the bobsledder, Alexander Zubkov, who won two golds in Sochi; the cross-country skier Alexander Legkov, who won gold and silver; and Alexander Tretiakov, who won gold  in the Skeleton Competition. Rodchenkov also claimed the women’s ice hockey team, who were knocked out in the quarter-finals, were doping throughout the Games. Legkov and Zubkov described the claims as “nonsense and slanderous.” Yeah sure and pigs can fly also.

Among a series of extraordinary claims that were published in the New York Times, Rodchenkov said Russian anti-doping experts and members of the FSB, (the Russian Intelligence Service,) secretly replaced urine samples containing banned substances of medal winners with clean urine. To do this they set up a shadow laboratory in Sochi, having found a way to break into supposedly tamper-proof bottles.

Rodchenkov said that several weeks before Sochi, an FSB agent gave him a previously sealed bottle that had been opened, its uniquely numbered cap intact. “When I first time saw that bottle is open, I did not believe my eyes,” he said, adding: “I truly believed this was tamper-proof.”

In a development that could have come out of the pages of a John le Carré spy novel, the Russians set up a secret shadow laboratory (room 124) at the official drug-testing site. During the night, when no one else was around, tainted samples from Russian athletes were passed through a small hole in the floor to this shadow laboratory, where they were replaced with clean urine from athletes collected months earlier. The elaborate procedure allowed Russian athletes to continue taking banned substances during the Games, given them an advantage over their rivals.

Subsequently, the Russians topped the medal table in Sochi with 33 medals, including 13 golds, a stark improvement on the previous Winter Olympics in Vancouver where they finished only 11th with 15 medals. None of their athletes were caught doping in Sochi. Rodchenkov said that as many as 100 dirty urine samples were expunged during the Games.

However Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, was scornful of the allegations, calling them “a continuation of the information attack on Russian sport”. He told the agency Tass: “The system of organization of the Olympic Games was completely transparent. Everything was under the control of international experts, from the collection of samples to their analysis.” If anyone with any semblance of a working brain really believes this man’s drivel. then they can also see the pigs flying overhead.

After the Independent Commission report came out, Rodchenkov claimed that Russian officials forced him to resign. Fearing for his safety, he then moved to Los Angeles. Two of Rodchenkov’s former colleagues unexpectedly died in February. Was their deaths caused by a bullet in the back of the head or by poison surreptitiously slipped in a drink?

Rodchenkov’s comments came as Wada’s board met to discuss the developments in Russia’s anti-doping programme since the country was suspended from track and field and its anti-doping laboratory closed at the end of the previous  year. The IAAF, track and field’s governing body, will decided whether to allow Russian athletes to complete at the Rio Olympics. The Russian athletes were subsequently banned.

The International Olympic Committee announced that it has banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang, South Korea.  The Russian head of sports is banned from the Olympics forever.

As a result of this ban, no Russian officials will be allowed to attend the games. Their flag will be excluded from any display, and if any “clean” Russian athletes are given permission to attend, which Putin says they can attend, they won’t be competing under the Russian flag. They’ll compete under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia” (OAR) and the Olympic flag, any medals they win won’t be credited to Russia and the Olympic anthem will be played in any ceremony.

I believe that this policy should apply to Russia as long as Putin is the head of that nation. Once he is gone, then the Russian athletes should be able to compete in the Olympics under the Russian banner. However, if any of them were personally banned for doping, then they should never be able to participate in any of the Olympic Games in the future.   

No comments: