Pros have it easy compared to amateurs

ALISON KORN -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:35 PM ET

What a joke.

The Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball may have been historic yesterday, but it's nothing compared to the anti-doping policies already in place for amateurs.

The Mitchell report suggests new anti-doping program guidelines for baseball that are reminiscent of those devised in Canada almost 20 years ago, as a result of the 1988 Ben Johnson steroid scandal.

Thanks to those policies, athletes aiming for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are held to a much higher anti-doping standard than any player in pro baseball, football, hockey or basketball.

For example, under the World Anti-Doping Code (WADA), to which Canada is a signatory, amateur athletes who flunk a drug test for steroids are banned for two years. A second steroid infraction results in a lifetime ban. (That's what Johnson is serving now.)

By contrast, baseball's current penalty for steroid use is the "three strikes, you're out" policy that applies a 50-game suspension for a first offence, 100 games for a second offence and a lifetime ban for a third offence. That's a whole lot of forgiveness, in my opinion.

WADA has become so strict that athletes can even incur a doping infraction just by being repeatedly unavailable for testing. This is to eliminate the tactic of going to far-flung training camps where the athlete becomes unreachable for, conveniently, the entire time they're on a steroid cycle.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which administers all drug testing of this country's amateur athletes, announced that sledge hockey athlete Gregory Westlake committed an anti-doping rule violation. Westlake didn't test positive for anything -- he simply "failed to provide his whereabouts information."

According to the centre, the whereabouts program facilitates out-of-competition testing by gathering athletes' schedule and location details. Athletes in the registered testing pool are required to provide this information on a quarterly basis, and keep it up to date.

Failure to do so three times in an 18-month period results in an anti-doping infraction. When informed of his infraction, Westlake waived his right to a hearing and accepted a sanction of three months ineligibility. And that's just for being unavailable!

If baseball and other pro sports really are serious about fighting doping, they would look to the best programs -- the WADA drug testing policy already as applied to amateurs -- instead of adopting a diluted version of it.

GYMNASTS GO WEST

Nearly 200 gymnasts in eight age categories, including top-ranked Olympic contender Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs of Toronto will compete this weekend at the 2007 Elite Canada competition in Abbotsford, B.C.

Highlighting the women's senior event are Hopfner-Hibbs, and three of Canada's brightest young stars competing for the first time at the senior level -- Peng Peng Lee of Toronto, and Charlotte Mackie and Brittany Rogers, both of Coquitlam, B.C.

Hopfner-Hibbs has the inside track on one of two Olympic berths up for grabs on the women's team. Others in the running include Kristina Vaculik of Whitby and Nansy Damianova of Montreal.

As for Lee, Mackie and Rogers, they're too young to compete in Beijing, but will be in the Elite Canada spotlight as rising stars being groomed for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Although still eligible to compete as juniors, all three will make their much-anticipated senior debut in Abbotsford.

ATTENTION, ARTISTS

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) is seeking proposals from artists -- both from Canada and around the world -- interested in designing inspiring, timeless medals for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The design process will involve five phases and is expected to take up to eight months. In addition to the medals, designs also are required for the accompanying ribbon and medal containers.

The Royal Canadian Mint will produce a total of 867 competition medals for the 2010 Winter Games. Of these, 549 will be produced for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games: 183 each of gold, silver and bronze.

For the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, 318 competition medals will be produced: 106 each of gold, silver and bronze.


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