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Scott Russell - Tuesday Nov. 5, 2013 20:09

Field of Play: Taking aim at doping ahead of Sochi

Canada launches campaign against 'cheaters'

Doping tests
Alexxa Albrecht, left, and Jean-Francois Naud prepare samples for testing at the Doping Control Laboratory at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games on February 9, 2010. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s gotten to the point where doping is so rampant in sport that those determined to curb it are resorting to subterfuge and intelligence gathering.

It sounds more like a spy novel but then again, so be it.

Many will applaud the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), the Government of Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), for escalating the war on cheaters.

A million more dollars into the pot, biological passports, the “Report Doping Hotline,” and the admission by the powers that be that the informed, anonymous, insider’s scoop on steroid users, is an increasingly effective way to catch those who continue to pillage our faith in fair play is welcome news indeed.

Go get them, we should shout to anyone willing to listen. 

And do whatever it takes to expose them for what they are. 

They are liars and thieves who rip off the fans who believe in them.

“We don’t want to see a Canadian athlete win a gold medal on Friday only to have it taken away on Saturday,” said Paul Melia, the CCES head referring to the national embarrassment we all hope to avoid at the Sochi Olympics.

“We lived that once and we don’t want to live it again.”

Never-ending battle

While disgraced 100-metre gold medalist Ben Johnson was the one who got caught at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, we now know he wasn’t the only cheater. 

Add the recent revelation concerning cyclist Ryder Hesjedal, who amazed so many by winning the Giro d’Italia two summers ago only to now admit steroid use in his deep past thus casting doubt on the veracity of his accomplishments.

It’s troubling and it strikes too close to the heart of the matter particularly when bandits like cycling “legend” Lance Armstrong and baseball “God” Alex Rodriguez turn out to be fakes.

“With more intelligence we can test the right athlete at the right time and for the right substance,” said Melia. “Clean sport is an objective we all share.”

This is what has given rise to the beefed up Report Doping Hotline, which promises anonymity to athletes, coaches and trainers who have first-hand knowledge of the illegalities that take place around them. Make no mistake, clean athletes are being encouraged to expose their brothers and sisters who ravage the integrity of sport.

“Organizations like the police and the CIA use the word intelligence,” said Olympic gold medal kayaker Adam van Koeverden, who chairs the COC’s Athlete’s Commission. “Intelligence is just another word for information about the enemy and the enemies, in this case, are the people using illegal drugs to enhance performance.”

It’s clear that Canada is again attempting to take the high road when it comes to this issue. This country did the same thing through the Dubin Inquiry following the Ben Johnson affair, the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and the crusade for clean sport led by cross country skier Beckie Scott, which exposed the blood doping Russian athletes who finished ahead of her in Salt Lake City in 2002. It took two years for Scott to be awarded a gold medal which was rightfully hers in the first place.

“We’ve got to be a world leader,” said van Koeverden. “We’ve got to show we’re totally committed to drug-free sport and that we want to be part of the solution.”

By his very words van Koeverden acknowledges that cheaters in other countries don’t get the same scrutiny they do in Canada. He knows that means Canadian athletes are often at a competitive disadvantage. He refuses to accept that as an excuse for not intensifying the fight.

“I worry about the youth,” he said. “The more doping is in the news, the more young people think it’s the norm. I hope we’re educating our youth that to be a champion you don’t have to dope.”

Even if that means encouraging an atmosphere where athletes are becoming informants providing the central agency, the CCES, with the straight goods on their fellow competitors?

“I trust them,” van Koeverden said of the anti-doping authorities in Canada. “They are very reasonable and if your sources aren't willing to stand by their information then it’s not intelligence.”

It seems evident that the clean athletes in Canada are behind this latest attempt at an anti-doping crusade one hundred percent. While it’s all well and good that Canada is taking the lead, we should all understand that it might mean lower expectations at upcoming Olympics as less enlightened countries on this matter continue to rake in unscrupulous medals.

So be it.

It’s the price you have to pay to be a leader in ridding the field of play of an enemy who threatens to destroy you.

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