Not so high on steroids

ALISON KORN -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Actually, no, not all athletes are on drugs.

Of the tiny numbers of Canadian athletes who test positive, it's more likely to be for cannabis than anything truly sinister.

Just two weeks after Canadian cyclist Genevieve Jeanson admitted to using the banned drug erythropoietin, U.S. sprinter Marion Jones told the world last week that she too had cheated, with steroids.

The notion of Jones surrendering her Olympic medals is enough to provoke a cynical kind of Olympic ennui in even the most dedicated fans, especially as it's not clear who now will get that 100-metre gold, with other runners in the field also under suspicion.

But like an innocent child still living in a wholesome bubble, Canadian athletes are more likely to test positive for cannabis than anything truly sinister. Yes, you read that correctly: Pot. Weed.

Statistics from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport show that out of more than 3,000 doping control tests from April 2006 to June 2007, 15 of the 26 anti-doping rule violations were for cannabis. In July, the centre announced that two more athletes, in canoe kayak and wheelchair basketball, had tested positive for pot.

"That's not intentional doping from our perspective," said Paul Melia, president and CEO of the centre." We've spent a lot of time and effort trying to educate particularly the university and college students, who seem to be the ones we test and catch most often."

It has gotten to the point where Canada has repeatedly asked the World Anti-Doping Agency to take cannabis off the banned list. So far to no avail.

"The time and effort that's required on our part to follow up on the adverse analytical findings for cannabis divert more valuable resources from the more serious substances," Melia said. "In our view there isn't science to support its benefit in performance enhancing."

Canada has been a leader in the anti-doping field since the Dubin Inquiry that followed Ben Johnson's 1988 steroid scandal, so the bulk of our athletes are too terrified to try anything, even if they wanted to. The U.S. only created a domestic anti-doping agency in 1999.

"In the 1990s our athletes felt disadvantaged in the world because other countries weren't subject to the same rigorous program," Melia said. "Now other countries are testing. I think that the message to the public would be that we're not so naive to think there's no doping going on in Canadian sport, but we certainly would make the statement that the vast majority of Canadian athletes are clean."

As for Jones, who won Olympic golds in the 100 metres, 200 metres and the 4x400 relay in Sydney in 2000, as well as bronzes in the 4x100 metre relay and long jump, it's lovely that she's now purged her conscience. But consider how she forever affected the lives of her competitors.

"Think of the kid who couldn't make the Olympic final because Marion Jones was there," said Swimming Canada's head coach Pierre Lafontaine. "Think of someone who finished fourth and could've gone home with a bronze medal. To me, that's where this is horrible for sports, for the kids that get hurt by it.'

Jones is no better than a thief.

ROWER RETIRES

Olympic silver medallist Barney Williams announced yesterday he is retiring from the Canadian National Rowing Team to spend more time with his family and pursue sports broadcasting.

The outspoken Williams, 30, is best known for his Olympic silver medal as part of the men's four in Athens in 2004, a race that was lost to the British by only .08 of a second. He also won world championship gold in that same event in 2003.

But personality clashes with coach Mike Spracklen and some team members, along with the rising standard of the men's team, meant Williams was highly unlikely to row in a gold medal crew at the 2008 Olympics, he said.

Williams, most recent result was 14th at the 2007 worlds in August.

He is married to National Team rower Buffy Williams, an Olympic bronze medallist.


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