Fri, September 20, 2013

Controversy piles up at Olympics

By BOB MACKIN and PATRICK MALONEY, QMI Agency


Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee member and former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, estimates as many as 90% of athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs are still getting away with it. (JIM WELLS/QMI Agency file photo)

A week into the London Olympics and only two athletes, an Albanian weightlifter and a gymnast from Uzbekistan, have been caught doping.

That, however, offers little comfort to Dick Pound, the renowned anti-doping crusader who estimates as many as 90% of athletes who take performance-enhancing drugs are still getting away with it.

But at the London Games, even beyond doping questions, there’s been no shortage of controversy as the International Olympic Committee takes heat over the conduct of several Olympians, most notably the eight badminton players from Asian nations who were banished for throwing matches.

Britain’s Philip Hindes, who won a cycling gold, has also admitted he deliberately crashed his bike in a preliminary race to gain a restart. The IOC isn’t revoking the medal.

“In the badminton case ... that clearly crossed the line,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “What I think we could say here (in the cycling) is that people were not deprived of a competition, the race took place and I believe we could clearly say that best efforts were made in that competition by the British team.”

Uneven competition was evident Thursday when the U.S. men’s basketball team embarrassed Nigeria, 156-73.

The International Boxing Association has reversed the result of a Wednesday bout between Japanese bantamweight Satoshi Shimizu and Azerbaijan’s Magomed Abdulhamidov.

Shimizu originally lost despite knocking down Abdulhamidov six times. The decision was overturned on appeal and referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan was booted from London.

While there’s been no major doping scandal in London, Pound, a 1960 Olympic swimmer for Canada who helped establish the World Anti-Doping Agency, is not surprised.

Every athlete obviously knows the date of the Games in advance — and therefore knows the date of the Olympic drug tests, he said.

“Most sophisticated countries know that if they bring athletes who have had doping programs and there’s still traces of that in their system and they do well (at the Games), they know they’re going to get tested,” he said.

“If you know the date of a test (and) you get caught, you fail not only a drug test, but an IQ test, too.”

Pound, though, has few illusions about the level of doping among amateur athletes like those competing here.

Based on, among other things, anonymous surveys of athletes, he estimates at least 10% have taken performance-enhancing drugs — yet only 1-2% of tests by WADA and other bodies come up positive.

The obvious conclusion for Pound? As many as 90% of cheating athletes still get away with it.

“It makes one more determined to get to the root cause of that. Why are we not catching more people?”

Another early-Games controversy was the eye-popping performance of Ye Shiwen, the teenage Chinese swimmer whose partial time in one race actually beat that of U.S. star — and grown man — Ryan Lochte.

But without a positive test, Pound says Shiwen deserves the benefit of the doubt.

“That’s a terrible commentary on what sport is coming to,” he said. “You say ‘that was really spectacular, but I wonder.’”