SLAM!Sports
 


 SPORT INDEX
 

 Previous Olympics
 









COLUMNISTS

Sun, July 18, 2004

Running scared in Athens?


Win and wait. Will that be the way the world has to watch the Athens Olympics? Watch an athlete win gold then hold their breath to wait for test results to come back?

The clouds of drug positives and paranoia that have hovered over the U.S. Olympic track and field trials the past week in California certainly are adding a new dimension.

If the crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs continues through the Games, no medal will be seen as safe until the doping lab gives a thumbs up. And that will make for an odd sense of discomfort for observers and participants alike.

The events in Sacramento have left no doubt that the hunt for cheats is for real. It began with those implicated in the BALCO scandal performing poorly and in some cases -- Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones -- failing to qualify for their marquee sprint events.

Then came leaked reports of three more positive tests followed by a series of withdrawals. Around it all, the internet chat rooms have been abuzz with rumours and innuendo that some results from these trials will be overturned prior to the Games.

Gone are the days, it seems, where an easy coverup is a possibility. There are enough in the know in the track world willing to blow the whistle and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is on board with worldwide cleanup initiatives. The proof is starting to show in the samples.

As Athletics Canada head coach Alex Gardiner said recently, it would appear the cheaters are starting to run scared. Gardiner boldly pointed out that the body types of many U.S. track stars have changed noticeably from recent years, the implication being that drug use is down.

Gardiner also wisely cautioned that it would be naive to ignore the fact there's always going to be a chemist or two ahead of the testing curve. But who is going to want to take a chance now?

The get-tough measures instituted by the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency are helping to start a long-overdue cleanup and that should be good news.

Craig Masback, the chief executive of USA Track and Field, isn't convinced, however.

"How is it good for the sport when there are 14, 15 or 20 days of articles about every positive test," Masback told reporters in Sacramento. "In a way that's just drip, drip, drip for suicide."

Here's guessing that Masback hasn't seen the last of the bad press. Which brings us to the next big perception issue - how will Olympic broadcaster NBC deal with the drug crisis in U.S. track?

Notorious for cheerleading in past Games, will NBC come down hard on convicted cheats or pretend they didn't exist? We'll see next month. The trials telecast yesterday offered a glimpse as the drug issue was glossed over with a brief mention 20 minutes into the show.

WAVE THE FLAG

The Canadian Olympic Committee is set to announce its flagbearer for Athens tomorrow in Toronto and Montreal and take your pick on who it might be.

It won't be a rower -- they're on the water too early -- and it won't be track star Perdita Felicien, which is fine by her.

"I think it should be someone who has accomplished something at the Olympics," Felicien said.

She's not alone in that view which is why the most common names that have been mentioned are wrestler Daniel Igali, triathlete Simon Whitfield, judoka Nicolas Gill and perhaps diver Alexandre Despatie.

MUCH ADU

He may not even participate in the Games but by all accounts, the youngest member of Canada's Olympic track team has a bright future.

Richard Adu-Bobie likely will be an alternate on the men's 4x100 relay team, but the 19-year-old from Ottawa is showing signs of being a future star.

So convinced was relay coach Glenroy Gilbert that he encouraged Adu-Bobie, who also holds U.S. citizenship, to get his Canadian citizenship papers in order in time for the Canadian trials. Adu-Bobie, who was fourth in the 100-metre final in a time of 10.28, became a Canadian citizen three days before he ran in Victoria.

"The kid has so much talent," Gilbert said. "We're going to hear a lot from him in the future. He's improved dramatically and he's just a kid."

BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?

The Canadian women's softball squad, one of few Canadian teams to make it to the Games, is considered to have a shot at a medal but it will be extremely difficult to make it gold.

The U.S. team has won 51 consecutive games in its Aim For Athens tour, outscoring its opponents 449-14.


Does Canada's low-medal haul in Athens bother you?
Yes, it depresses me
No, it's just sports
I'm disappointed, but not worried
We'll get 'em in Turin
Don't care

Results



CANOE home | We welcome your feedback.
Copyright © 2004, CANOE, a division of Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.