Banned substances keep finding their way into the bodies of top-level athletes whether through accidental ingestion or on-purpose injection.
The ISU released their Anti-Doping Procedures for this season. I don’t believe their sanctions are strict enough.
Whereas the MLB bans a two-time offender, under the ISU, a second infraction might garner a four-year suspension. It’s not until the third violation when a skater might face a lifetime ban.
The two-year sanction can also be decreased. If all tests return positive or the skater admits to use and they can explain how the drugs entered their body, the otherwise two-year ban on a first offence is reduced to just 18-months.
In 2007, Russian pair skater, Yuri Larionov tested positive for Furosemide, a masking agent, in out-of-competition testing. He waived his right to have his B-sample tested. Larionov explained that before the doping test, he experienced a headache. His father gave Larionov a medication called Lasix. As a result of the explanation, he received an 18-month ban.
The most recent case involved an ice dancer from the Ukraine. Anastasia Galyeta tested positive for Furosemide after the 2011 ISU Grand Prix Final in Quebec City. She received an 18-month ban from competition.
Galyeta stated her face was swollen from the large amount of water she drank because she had a cold and sore throat. She consulted her pharmacist about the swelling, who told her to take Furosemide and told her it wasn’t a “doping substance.”
Inadvertent or not, I believe the two-year ban should stand. I’m not saying every athlete who tests positive is trying to cheat. Maybe they legitimately have a cold, a headache, a sore muscle or worse. However, a positive is a positive.
Unless the B-sample clears the skater, there shouldn’t be an exception.
In 1991, World champion ice dancer Marina Klimova faced a two-year ban after a test revealed an elevated testosterone/epitestosterone ratio. Klimova’s B-sample was re-tested, which showed no elevation. After she was cleared, she and partner Sergei Ponomarenko went on to win the 1992 Olympics in Albertville.
This case changed how the ISU tested for banned substances. The lab they used for the A-sample – located in Sofia, Bulgaria – was not accredited.
Warning athletes about side-effects is the same as plastering cigarette packages with grotesque photos. They usually don’t work. If an athlete isn’t worried about out-of-competition drug testing in two weeks, they aren’t going to concern themselves with liver damage, erectile dysfunction, kidney failure and cardiovascular disease in ten years.
Besides possibility winning, the cheating athlete has little to gain by doping. Endorsements ride on one urine test, as does public admiration.
Doping isn’t hard to figure out from a physical stand-point, however, it can be difficult to prove in a lab. Just because an athlete passed a drug test doesn’t mean they are clean.
Gone are the days of strychnine and brandy – enter CERA, Hematide and gene doping.
Some believe since doping is out of control it should be allowed in sports. We should just wave the white flag.
I think this would be irresponsible. In the last week, three Olympic medallists tested positive for banned substances: Tyson Gay, Sherone Simpson and Asafa Powell.
Sometimes it’s not quantity, it’s quality.
If we stop testing, the message to the cheating athlete would be “You win, and we won’t chase you.”
At least we can say “We are trying,”
“And we will catch you.”
[Originally published on the Edmonton Journal website]