Drug team's work not done

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 6:39 AM ET

Richard McLaren will be going to the next Olympic Games hoping his team will not see as much action as in the last Games in Athens.

The London lawyer and Western law professor is a veteran member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), an international body that rules on sports disputes.

Team CAS got plenty of action last summer in Greece.

In fact, the dozen or so medals that were taken back from athletes surpassed the number of medals seized in all previous Olympics, which more likely is a commentary on improved detection of performance-enhancing substances than on their increased use.

"In Sydney (2000), there was just one medal taken back," McLaren said.

He and the ad hoc committee will be in Turin, Italy, 10 days in advance of the Games, not to prepare for drug disputes but to rule on late participants. Some nations don't fill all slots available and the last-minute availability always opens up a field of aspirants.

But drugs remain the most pressing issue in major international competitions. Yesterday, the fight against cheating took a bit of a beating.

McLaren's pal, World Anti-Drug Agency chief and International Olympics executive Dick Pound, is livid over the plea bargain that set the war on cheats back on its heels. The deal reached between U.S. prosecutors and supplier Victor Conte not only got him a light sentence but also got a lot of high-profile athletes he supplied with performance-enhancing drugs off the hook.

We might never know their identities for certain.

There are hard-core drugs -- mainly steroids and human growth hormones -- and there are less serious ones that can be just as grave it they result in a two-year ban.

Ask London triathlete Kelly Guest, a Commonwealth Games medal hope, who was called back just before competing because a small amount of the steroid nandralone was found in his system.

McLaren didn't say it, but you get the sense he feels Guest got a bad rap.

"It was initially thought the human body did not produce nandralone," he said, bringing to the fore another side of scientific advances.

Then it was determined the human body could produce trace amounts -- no more than one part per billion -- and the threshold was placed at two (nanograms per billion).

Later, it was found that the human body could produce more under certain conditions, such as heat, and that level of nandralone could actually increase in the test samples of urine during transport.

While testing has put a dent in the cheaters, it also has enforced some accuracy on who has or hasn't taken illegal substances.

The marriage of law and sport invariably brings in chemistry, too. McLaren wasn't directly involved in the first celebrated case of drugs in a winter sport but remembers it well.

McLaren's first Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, gave rise to the Ross Rebagliati case, in which the snowboarder was found to have traces of cannabis in his system after winning the gold medal, which was taken back by the International Olympic Committee.

Rebagliati said it was in his system as a result of second-hand smoke.

In the end, the CAS had an easy ruling. There was nothing in the rules precluding marijuana (it was banned shortly after) and Rebagliati got his medal back.

Recently, an old name resurfaced in the sports dispute business. Cuban-born diver Arturo Miranda, who unsuccessfully sought to represent Canada at the Sydney Olympics, was banned from the current world aquatic championships in Montreal by a Diving Canada disciplinary panel.

The 34-year-old is alleged to have had sex with a 15-year-old girl he coached. The ban was lifted by a Diving Canada appeals panel. The Sport Dispute Resolution Centre, of which McLaren is a member, will review the matter by summer's end.


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