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Fri, July 30, 2004
A clean Games doubtful
By JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

A clean Olympics? Richard McLaren has doubts as he gets set to leave for Athens to rule on the various protests, eligibility questions and, of course, positive tests relating to performance-enhancing substances.

"We'll probably see cases during the Games and I think we'll have a few before then that relate to tests that have been done in the past couple of months," said the UWO law professor, lone Canadian on the 12-member Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Of them all, McLaren would know. His work as chairperson of a committee struck to look into dope-testing practices by the United States Track and Field Association provides him with a strong sense of doping in sports.

McLaren, along with former U.S. Olympic diver Micki King and former Bethlehem Steel CEO Curtis Burnett, found the USTFA to be lax and in some cases covering up doping tests. Their report, along with recent revelations of elite track athletes' connections to a San Francisco-area laboratory turning out performance-enhancing substances, has led to far-reaching investigations.

Given the gambles past Olympians have taken in efforts to get an edge for a medal, the only surprise probably would be if nobody is picked off by testers.

"If Salt Lake (2002 Winter Olympics) is any guide, we'll see cases. In theory, everyone's national Olympic committee will have tested every athlete and won't be bringing anyone who has the possibility of a doping problem," McLaren said. "Quite a number of cases are going on in the U.S. and Australia involving athletes either named or who could be named to their Olympic teams."


Ones in which the results are just becoming known will be rushed over to be dealt with by the panel.

McLaren heard a case this week in New York involving Calvin Harrison, a member of the American Olympic relay squad who tested for a banned stimulant. He said further evidence is coming in and a ruling will be made public within 10 days.

There is no rush in cases of athletes under investigation who did not qualify for their Olympic teams, McLaren said.

"We're prepared," the dispute resolution expert said. "Along with (doping cases) there are the regular ones relating to nationality/ eligibility, such as the Miranda case in Sydney."

That involved Arturo Miranda, a diver from Cuba who retired, was permitted to emigrate to Canada and made a comeback with the Canadian diving team. Under Olympic rules, he could not dive for Canada because he hadn't the required three years' citizenship of his new country.

There will no doubt be controversies. At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, there was much debate over a substance known as bromantan used by Russian athletes. Eventually, four Russians and a Lithuanian were banned. Two had to return bronze medals.

You would think like-minded members of CAS would easily deal with the issues that come before them, since all are lawyers in the business of resolving sports disputes and work in tidy panels of three. Not so, says McLaren.

"We have to be unanimous in our decision and sometimes it takes a bit of persuading," he said. "We're all independently minded and don't necessarily look at the facts in the same way. We're trained in different legal systems."

In the end, McLaren and company make their decisions based on the facts in hand. Doping is relatively cut-and-dried. It is up to the scientific community within sports, not the arbitrators, to decide what is a banned substance or the derivative of one.

Presumably, the cheaters have done all they can to beat the system. The Olympic scientists await with test tubes at the ready.

And guys like Richard McLaren are prepared to weigh the evidence.



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

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