Some athletes face a ban for failed drug tests while others never even made it to London due to failing past tests, showing that doping is not going anyway anytime soon.
The London Olympics are finally here, and along with all the pomp and circumstance, the national pride, and the sheer determination of athletes pushing their bodies beyond what seems possible, there is always the drug issue. As athletes get faster and faster, putting pressure on up-and-comers to exceed past records, drug testing has been forced to go high tech.
In London, as preparations for the games were getting underway, several athletes were already banned for failed test results. IOC President Jacques Rogge saw the questionable test results as good news, seeing it as a sign that the system works. “We are catching people, and it is better to weed them out early,” he said.
The Olympic officials hope their new drug testing laboratory with Kings College and GlaxoKlineSmith is ensuring clean athletes the best possible chance of a level playing field.
Some didn’t even make it to the games to begin with. Moroccan middle-distance runner Mariem Alaoui Selsouli, who was ranked No. 1 in the world going into the games, faces a lifetime ban after her latest drug test showed traces of the forbidden furosemide (a diuretic used in the treatment of congestive heart failure and edema). It’s not the first time the runner has gotten into trouble. She served a two-year ban for erythropoietin (EPO) in 2009. World 1500 meter leader Alaoui Selsouli will also miss the Olympics after testing positive at the Paris DL.
In the days before the opening ceremony, the Olympic Committee has also been scrambling to investigate five suspect test results that have emerged from re-tests of samples in storage dating back to the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. No names were announced prior to confirming the positive results.
The IOC medical commissioner, Dr. Arne Ljungqvist, told Telegraph Sport the latest suspect samples emerged from increased sophistication of the detection methods. Considering the Athens testing was thought to be very sophisticated, this just shows how detailed the science has become.
The re-testing of the samples was not conducted across all 3,500 samples from the Athens Olympics that are currently stored in Switzerland, but rather were targeted on the basis of continuing results of certain athletes within high-risk sports and intelligence gathering.
In this day and age of such sophisticated screenings, why would any athlete take the risk? It’s hard to imagine, but many of these athletes have focused on nothing else for years or even decades. They have sacrificed their social lives, endured endless hours of high level training (often at the expense of parents and other family members) and dealt with ongoing injuries, all in the quest for Olympic glory. Aside from the achievement itself, today’s athletes know a medal can mean millions in lucrative endorsement deals. The Olympic committee knows that these pressures can get to an athlete, and that’s why they are constantly refining and improving their drug testing efforts.
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