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Tue, August 17, 2004
Olympics hijacked by money and egos
By -- London Free Press

You can spend billions of dollars putting on an event.

You can wave flags, beat the drum of nationalism and attempt to mask the obvious with excess.

The hope is that the magnitude of the Olympic Summer Games will overcome the stench that so often emanates from this event.

No amount of puffy features and perfumed language by television commentators, major corporate sponsors or International Olympic Committee members can make it smell any better.

After a while all the assertions that the Olympic Games are the best thing that can happen to a country bring nothing more than wry smiles.

The Olympics have been hijacked by money, egos and bureaucrats who have become experts at wallowing at the Olympic Games trough and ignoring the very rules they've established.

The biggest news leading into the Games focused on doping and American swimmer Michael Phelps' goal of winning eight gold medals.

Cheating and greed, new Olympic mottos.

Phelps would have made millions, which is why breaking Mark Spitz's record of seven golds became the goal pushed by his sponsors and agent. Now they have put him in a position of being called a failure chasing a record that was at best a long shot.

This is what the Olympics have become.

So consider it appropriate that these Olympics opened with something truly representative of the Games. It opened with a scandal that prevented Kosta Kenteris from lighting the Olympic flame.

Kenteris, a gold medallist at the 2000 Games, and his training partner, silver medallist Katerina Thanou, missed a drug test before the Games opened. They knew about the tests but when medical personnel came to collect the goods, the two were nowhere in sight.

Later in the day, they were apparently involved in a mysterious motorcycle accident that caused scrapes and bruising. They've been in hospital for five days. Must be a big scrape.

The IOC has granted the sprinters two days before meeting them to get their story? What's up, no visiting hours at the hospital? Besides, what better place to do a drug test?

The Greek Olympic Committee suspended the athletes on Saturday pending a final decision by the IOC.

The sprinters' lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, has indicated he will fight any attempt to keep them out of the Olympics.

It seems no athlete is complete without trainers, massage therapists, psychologists and lawyers.

The IOC wins the gold medal for feet dragging. One would believe that after the numerous and embarrassing revelations of the past few years, especially the special treatment given U.S. athletes caught with illegal substances in their systems in previous Olympics, dragging their feet would be the last thing they'd want to do.

The rules they so often adhere to are simple.

A missed drug test is akin to a positive drug test.

Ask Rio Ferdinand, an international-calibre soccer player with Manchester United who failed to take a drug test. He claimed to have forgotten.

He turned in a negative urine sample within days and has never previously tested positive in his career.

Ferdinand was been banned for eight months and fined around $150,000 by the English Football Association after being found guilty of missing the test. Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, felt he should have received a stiffer sentence.

Of course Pound comes under attack often from national track associations, especially the United States Track and Field Association, and IOC members for his harsh stance on dopers. They would prefer to do what they do best: delay, give in to money and hide what they can.

The Greek sprinters missed a drug test. The rules are clear on what happens when a test is missed, whether an athlete is clean or not. What makes this even more embarrassing is these sprinters have done nothing to rectify the problem.

Anyone who was serious about improving the image of the Olympics would have acted quickly, decisively and publicly. Until the IOC acts in that fashion, the five Olympic rings will represent nothing more than an expanded three-ring circus.




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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