Sun | Apr 30, 2017

Doping issues remain cloudy

Published:Tuesday | September 15, 2015 | 9:00 AMDr Paul Wright, Contributor

As the 2015 athletic season winds down, the final race of the Diamond series and the World Athletics Championships did very little, in my estimation, to remove doubts about the veracity of some of the results posted.

The general reaction of the majority of the sports' true fans around the world (unrestrained and unmitigated joy) to the victory of Usain Bolt in the 100 metres race, and to a lesser extent the 200 metres, reflected a feeling of relief as athletes who had tested positive in the past seemingly competed week after week, smug in the conviction that 'having been found guilty and served my time I MUST be treated similarly to those who are not caught'.

This negative feeling was intensified by an exposÈ in The Times newspaper that revealed 'suspicious' test results when blood data from winners in past years were analysed by independent anti-doping experts. The article also revealed that there were administrators who were aware of these 'suspicious' results for years but chose (by some weird logic) to refuse to carry out (and delay) an investigation into the findings.

There is now documented evidence that the last thing anti-doping authorities want is for local champions to be caught doping as this will 'tarnish the image of athletics'. The Guardian newspaper in England reported on an e-mail sent from the head of UK Anti-Doping to the head of the British Olympic Association after the Olympic Association began exposing the problem of blood doping in sports.

 

Positive news

The e-mail firm the CEO of UK Anti-doping is quoted as saying: "We will do everything we can to ensure the focus is on positive news. The last thing we want is a story like this detracting from the one year to Rio countdown."

This caused a leading blood expert, Michael Ashenden, to wonder if the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Authority had morphed into a cheerleader for sport, anxious to quickly remove uncomfortable revelations of doping from the headlines.

The news that "Money" Mayweather received an intravenous infusion BEFORE the Manny Paquiao fight and was granted a therapeutic exemption by the United States Anti-Doping Authority (USADA) AFTER the fight further cast suspicion on the integrity of anti-doping authorities.

In Jamaica, the revelation of unusual activity at JADCO was casually explained by "lack of funds", yet we are now aware that when a party is planned for successful athletes, sums in excess of $40 million appear as if by magic.

The latest tool in the fight against the use of drugs in sports is the mandatory requirement of athletes to have a biological passport. This requires blood collected from athletes at regular intervals, unannounced, the data stored and compared with samples taken as competition nears.

The comparison of the athlete's normal blood profile with any unusual deviation before, during, or after competition will reveal evidence of doping, without the substance needing to be identified. The key here is to compare the unusual profile with the athletes' previously normal blood profile. Thus, the recognition of unusual profiles from athletes who won medals in past international Games, MUST be compared with other samples taken from the same athlete, which, over time, has established a normal profile for the athlete. The mandatory collection of samples to produce an athlete's passport began in 2009. Therefore, it is indeed wrong to name and shame athletes with unusual blood profiles after analysis of samples taken BEFORE 2009.

 

When did collection start?

The 40 million-dollar question is: When did JADCO start collecting samples from athletes in its testing pool?

The question must also include a query about a suggestion from the head of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) that some samples MUST be taken between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The fact that an island in the Caribbean with a population approaching three million inhabitants, with very limited financial resources (Jamaica) consistently produces natives whose athletic performance surpasses those who train just as hard, with far more resources and modern facilities, raises suspicion that increases as our young athletes continue world-leading performances that started as far back as 1948.

The only way to PROVE that our athletes are gifted and clean is by a comprehensive and open drug-testing programme that can withstand any criticism from jealous and non-jealous individuals.

Let us not accept the usual "no funds" excuse for a lack of a state-of-the-art drug-testing programme. Let the beginning of collection of blood samples from athletes in JADCO's testing pool be open and transparent.