Sunday, December 14, 2014

V. 4 N. 95 New Doping Revelations on the International Scene

This post is based on readings from   Science of Running blog article by Steve Magness

 and  this BBC article:

Generally speaking this type of stuff explains why we at Once Upon a Time in the Vest   delve more into the distant past (pre-1970) on this blog than the recent past , the present or the  future.

Track and Field has always had some corruption and bad behavior linked to it, but not at the levels we saw beginning in the early 80's onward.  Today a burgeoning scandal is in the news, and it runs from the top down to the middle levels of the sport.   It centers around doping as usual, but it also deals with bribery at high levels of the world governing body, the International Amateur Athletics Federation.  Several members of that august bunch of wankers  have stepped down recently including its treasurer as well as  the son of the president who has been connected to a $5 million dollar bribe to get the 2017 World Championships scheduled in Qatar.  In any organization, when the treasurer is forced to step down, there is some serious shit in the fan.    Lord Sebastian Coe is lobbying to become the next leader of the IAAF, and of course this recent revelation by the Germans may be something that spurs him on or perhaps has the opposite effect, to say 'the hell with it'.  I suspect his ego is one that will keep him in the race for leadership.

The latest doping piece has been outed by a recent  documentary from the  German "Das Erste" tv station suggesting that the Russians are pretty well drugged up across the board and surprise surprise, the Kenyans as well.  One former member of the Russian testing body who blew the whistle has had to flee the country along with his wife who herself was a 'banned' athlete.  The implications are  that if a Russian athlete tested positive in Russia, they could get things fixed with a $100,000.00 bribe. And since everybody is doping  this means a lot of money can be made if you work for the Russky testing agency.   The majority of the 228 international athletes implicated (names not given) are endurance athletes.    The only name connected at  the moment to this  is Sally Jeptoo, the Kenyan distance runner whose virtue was called into question this year with an abnormally high hematocrit reading indicating use of EPO to increase red blood cells and thus her ability to transport more oxygen to her muscle cells.

The data that came to the surface of the 228 athletes (unamed) was the result of statistical analysis of  a blood testing 'passport' established in 2009 that is maintained for athletes  over a series of years, showing fluctuations in blood chemistry that might indicate a periodic  use of performance enhancing drugs.  It does not measure for illicit drugs themselves  but looks at some basic blood profiles.   Thus if certain blood component levels rise and fall over a period of time, an athlete might be put on the sideline or subjected to more stringent testing , by an antidoping body, WADA, or  by a coach , or by an agent.  The latter two would do this to avoid subsequent detection and risk of  an international ban.  The key is getting to the athlete on a regular basis to draw blood and then analyze it and logging in the results where they can be compared over time.  At this time the collection is supposed to be done by each country's own forces, and the testing around big competitions may be done only in close proximity to the venue of the competition.   It has been assumed that Kenyan initiated testing is all but non-existent, and if it is, it is highly corrupt.  I'm not sure where the fingers are pointing in Russia.  Jamaica has also been chided recently for its lax anti doping program.

And we know why this is occurring.  It's about the rewards of success in the sport.  A lot of money stands to be made by the athlete, her or his  coach, agent and equipment supplier and even the administrators who are supposed to be the watchdogs.  Indeed some of the foxes appear to be guarding the hen house.

We in no way care to go into this too deeply, because it is not the mission of this blog to be in this arena.   Actually I'm not sure we have a mission.  However, some days you just cannot keep your head in the sand about these things.  There is plenty of material to be read on the subject.  Just go the the Track and Field News website and start clicking from there.

"Mission?  We don' got to show dem no stinking mission...."   R. Mason with apology to
B. Traven author of  "Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

"The fact that most of the offenders have been distance runners is a somewhat recent trend, but not unexpected.  The emergence of Chineese distance runners and distance swimmers about 10 years ago foretold of that problem.  Kenya has so much to lose if they no longer dominate distance running, so they might be at risk.  They are so gifted, but the fear of losing that monopoly might cause them to flee to the dark side.  This is especially true with Ethiopia coming on strong.  To have equal testing done all over the world would be an amazing feat, far beyond what is being done now."  Bill Schnier

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