Beijing Olympics

2008 Olympics, doping, drug testing
Mark J. Terrill/AP
American swimmer Jessica Hardy was banned by the IOC after failing a drug test.

Amid More Suspensions, Olympic Committee Struggles to Eradicate Doping

August 05, 2008 07:00 AM
by Denis Cummings
The lead-up to the 2008 Olympics has been marked by the suspension of athletes for drug use, suggesting that the games will once again be scandal-ridden.

30-Second Summary

Seventeen athletes have been banned from the Beijing Games during pre-Olympic drug testing and more are sure to follow. Additionally, several athletes have dropped appeals from past drug tests and withdrawn from the games.

Doping has taken center stage at the past two Summer Olympics, and the scandals continue to grow. The United States 4 x 400m relay team was recently stripped of its 2000 medals after a team member admitted to doping.

The commonness of doping has fans questioning the credibility of many sports. “Any time an athlete does something extraordinary anymore, it’s, ‘How can that be?’” said psychology professor Daniel Wann.

The International Olympic Committee, together with the World Anti-Doping Agency, hopes to stamp out doping this year and plans to increase the number of blood and urine tests by 25 percent from 2004. However, it still might not be enough.

“The IOC has seldom been more in need of a clean Games but the uncomfortable truth is that it will not get one, regardless of how many samples are collected,” writes The Guardian’s Paul Kelso.

Antidoping efforts continue to lag behind doping technology, as authorities search for effective tests for performance-enhancing drugs like EPO and HGH.

“Every year, we think the labs and the testing are getting better, but then along come the Olympics and we find things we never expected,” said Don Catlin of the Anti-Doping Authority.

IOC Bans 17 Dopers

The IOC has caught 17 dopers in the lead-up to the Games, including seven Russian track-and-field athletes, Italian fencer Andrea Baldini and American swimmer Jessica Hardy. Reuters reports that IOC President Jacques Rogge was pleased with the results: “This is the result of a deliberate strategy and policy. These are 17 cheats who will not falsify the competition.”

Reactions: Fans are skeptical

Many fans have become cynical toward athletes and refuse to become emotionally attached to winners like they were with Marion Jones or Ben Johnson. In previous years, an athlete like Dara Torres—a 41-year-old swimmer who gave birth two years ago—would be an inspiration to all. Now, many suspect her as a drug cheat only because she has exceeded expectations. “Any time an athlete does something extraordinary anymore, it’s, ‘How can that be?’” said Daniel Wann, a psychology professor. “Because it’s happened so many times. The heroes keep crumbling under the weight of scandals.”
A recent USA Today/Gallup Poll showed that one-third of Americans are suspicious that a runner who sets a world record used drugs, while one-fifth are suspicious of world-record setting swimmers.

Opinion: How will doping affect Olympics?

Paul Kelso of The Guardian believes that, despite the massive antidoping campaign, drug users will still be able to win medals. “The dopers gathering in Beijing have the dice loaded in their favour and anyone who gets caught by a random test can probably count themselves stupid or unlucky,” he writes.
Craig Mattern, professor of Physical Education and Sport at SUNY Brockport, believes that drug scandals do not diminish the credibility of the games, but show that the drug tests are effective. “Our initial reaction to learning that an athlete has tested positive for a banned substance is disappointment,” he writes. “However, without positive tests and subsequent stringent sanctions, there will be no reform. A positive test means that our drug-testing procedures are working.”

Analysis: Doping and antidoping efforts

Historical Context: Doping at the Summer Olympics


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