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Sport: Politics Of Doping Scandals

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Doping is the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs by athletes or soccer competitors. Some of these drugs include anabolic steroids, strychnine, stanozolol,   testosterone,   furazabol,   cocaine,   amphetamine,Modafinil   and ephedrine. The use of any of these drugs by athletes or footballers to enhance their performance   is   considered   unethical   and   therefore   prohi-bited   by   all   sports organisations, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is on this ground that the IOC wrote to inform Team Nigeria 2016, through the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), that it had upgraded the country’s bronze medal won in the women’s 4×100-metre relay at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing to silver. The IOC stripped Russia of the gold medal the country won in the women’s 4×100-metres relay after an alleged widespread doping scandal wreaked havoc for the Russian athletes.

Doping has been part and parcel of the Olympic Games. Tyson Gay, at 31, is the fastest American Sprinter in history but tested positive for   a   banned   substance.   The   American   Governing   body   for   track   and   field (USATF) punished him with a two-year ban from competition and his sponsorship deals were of course terminated. The   1988  Seoul  Olympic  confronted  the  world  with  Canadian   Ben.  Johnson’s victory in the 100m race in 9.79 seconds. He subsequently failed the drug test when stanozolol was found in his urine. . Johnson was immediately stripped of his title and Carl Lewis who had run 9.92 seconds was   therefore   recognized   as   the   new   record   holder. But 15 years later. Wade Exum, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) director of Drug Control Administration from 1991 to  2000,  revealed  that  some  100 American  athletes who   failed drug  tests and should have been prevented from competing in the Olympics were nevertheless cleared to compete. Among those athletes was Carl Lewis. The   2016   Rio   Olympics   reportedly   hosted   at   least   120   athletes   who   were previously suspended for doping. At least 63 of the 205 countries in that Olympics had such athletes. The United States had the second highest number with seven after Ukraine which had eight. One of the most prominent Americans  in this group was the sprinter, Justin Gatlin, the 2016 Silver medalist in the 100 metres. He has been twice suspended for doping, once for four years. The anti-doping effort at Rio was reportedly branded the “worst” in the games history on the ground that the process of blood and urine sample collection was compromised due to staff shortages. With barely half the volunteers recruited to help run the event reporting for duty, and several doping control officers drafted in from overseas walking out after being pushed to breaking point trying to fill the void, it was a field day for unclean athletes. Doping has  from  time been part of  international  sports. This is why many are appalled at the continuing  targeting of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) over the lifting of the three-year suspension on the Russian Anti-Doping Agency in September last year over state-sponsored doping of its athletes. Travis Tygart, chief executive of U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), accused WADA of being “played” by the Russians” and branded the decision “a total joke” after it confirmed it had not retrieved or   received   crucial   doping   data   from   Moscow   laboratory   by   its   December   31 deadline.

International athletes told WADA that public confidence in the organisation is at an all-time low with the backing of 17 national anti-doping agencies who promised to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the athletes to “transform WADA so that it respects your rights and makes decisions in the interests of clean sport. The British gold medal-winning cyclist, Callum Skinner, reportedly backed a petition started by   the   Paralympian  powerlifter,   Al   Jawad,   saying   athletes   were   appalled   by WADA’s decision to  readmit  the   Russian anti-doping body and criticising WADA’s governance structure as “not fit for purpose”.

Tygart also called or RUSADA to be immediately suspended again which would stop Russia   hosting   major   events   and   also   get   the   country’s   athletes   to   face   other possible   sanctions.   A   statement   by   the   UK   anti-doping   agency’s   athlete commission, which joined USADA in calling for Russia to again be declared non-compliant, said the Russian government had clearly not fulfilled its promise and needs to prove unequivocally that they learned from the biggest doping scandal under WADA’S watch, and that they will from this date forward be committed to a drug-free   transparent   regime   across   international   sport,   otherwise   the   WADA compliance   review   committee   must   now   immediately   declare   RUSADA   non-compliant.

Jonathan  Taylor,  chairman of  WADA’s  compliance  review  committee said  he understood the frustration of those who felt Russia didn’t show enough contrition and  “say  there  should  have  been  a  greater  meaculpa. But  we  do  have  explicit acknowledgment  from   the  Russians”.

With  the  heat   on   WADA,  observers   are alarmed   that   the   coming   conference   in   London   on   par-tnership   for   clean competition   from   April  16-18  this year  would  be used   by USADA  to  deploy misinterpreted facts on the Russian doping scandal to run down WADA and the IOC and misinform the world about the true goals of the organisations. The tension between athletes and sport officials, especially those connected to the IOC which had pushed Russia’s reinstatement, has been growing for some time. This tension is being exploited by USADA to promote the interests of America’s sports pharmaceuticals. All efforts by USADA seem now to be aimed at redistribution of powers in the fight against doping and illicit drugs in sport at the global level in favour of the agency and to the competitive advantage of American athletes.

Mark Adams, chief spokesman of the IOC, said in a statement that the athletes on its commission, who are elected by their peers, were the ones that best represent the WADA athlete commission. The dirty politics over doping in international sports should force African countries to   stand   against   the   possible   strengthening   of   the   roleof   USADA   in   sports. Observers of world sports believe that all sports officials, in the light of the ongoing   finger-pointing   on   doping   by   international   athletes,  should   bo-cott   the London conference due to the bias of the organisers and their parochial goals.

It is clear USADA plans to turn a conference on fair, honest sport into a battlefield for the political and economic interests of the United States as against African principles and traditions. The  World   Anti-doping   Agency   should   stand   firm   against   politically-tainted criticism and  continue to contribute to the advancement  of clean sport through scientific research and education and outreach initiatives focused on awareness and prevention.

Kristy Coventry, a former swimmer, who is also the chairwoman of the IOC’.s Athletes commission, said, “I believe our mandate is to protect all clean athletes, and I believe there are clean Russian athletes”.

 

– Sam Gyer wrote in from Abuja.

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