Last week we considered doping in its origins and adolescence, this weeks blog is a continuation of the story, looking slightly further down the timeline at a huge story that shook the sporting world in the mid 2000’s and started to reveal what a presence doping really had in elite sport worldwide.
Hope you enjoy the second instalment of this article guys, I think it is a fascinating topic which really sheds a bit of light on what has gone on, and probably still goes on unfortunately, within areas of sport.
‘’In February 1999, the IOC hosted a conference with the prospect of setting up an international anti-doping agency. The creation of this organisation – given the title of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) coincided with the 2000 Summer Olympics, meaning that, at these Games, almost three thousand comprehensive tests took place on athletes. Eleven positive results were found.
Along with the German Democratic Republic doping regime of the 1960s and 1970s (which is a very well documented case study), one of the most prominent cases of doping in more recent times was the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) scandal. This was a particularly disruptive incident, which led to many top level athletes being discovered as drugs cheats between 2002 and 2004. The chief protagonist behind the BALCO Company was Victor Conte, who took charge of the organisation in the late 1980s. At this time, BALCO was marketed as providing a service to athletes so they could test for mineral deficiencies, and then be provided with legal supplements to increase their health and athletic performance. However, Conte changed operations so that it became a supplier of illegal cutting edge PEDs.. Many athletes became customers of BALCO, being supplied with various drugs and information on how and when to take them, along with how to avoid detection. All this ‘help’ came at a high price though. Along with the astonishing costs of these services, any athlete who achieved a world record was forced to pay a twenty-thousand dollar bonus to BALCO. The activities of BALCO went on undetected for many years until a number of positive drug tests were found, surrounding the company in suspicion. These positive tests were all from very high level athletes – such as American baseball player Barry Bonds, the men’s 100m World Record holder Tim Montgomery, triple Olympic champion Marion Jones and British sprinter Dwain Chambers.
Following investigations, Conte was jailed for four months, and BALCO was shut down. The athletes all received various bans and all accolades were removed from their names. Looking at the case of Dwain Chambers as an example: he was initially banned for two years from all competition. And, on his return, set about trying to give the impression of being a reformed character, openly offering to aid UK Sport (then the body responsible for orchestrating testing in the UK). In his efforts to aid the drug testers, he wrote to Victor Conte asking for all the information regarding he had been taking, and how everything had worked. In May 2008, Conte’s response arrived, with a very detailed breakdown of Chambers’ personal doping regime. It listed seven banned substances – all of which had been supplied solely for Chambers’ personal use. These were: tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), testosterone/epitesterone cream, erythropoietin (EPO), human growth hormone (hGH), modafinil and liothryonine. Conte’s letter also outlined how Chambers had managed to avoid producing positive drug tests for an extended period of time.
Interestingly, this letter also revealed how many athletes had been employing the ‘duck and dive’ technique to avoid testing whilst continuing their doping regime. This technique involved an athlete using various excuses and methods of fooling the testers as to their whereabouts, and apparently not knowing the appointments made for testing to take place. This information has clearly proved very influential, with subsequent measures since being implemented to require athletes to provide details of their daily Whereabouts. Designed to ensure athletes could no longer get away with avoiding testing, this system is now concurrently employed across sports and countries on a global scale.’’
At its time of announcement the BALCO scandal was a ginormous story and really shook the ground beneath the feet of the sporting world. It brought a wealth of knowledge and scarily technical science previously unbeknown to anti-doping authorities out into the open and really showed how advanced doping had become in order to evade the drugs testers watchful eyes.
Since the time of BALCO there have been many more famous cases of athletes being caught doping, suggesting its impact was still not enough to dissuade those willing enough take the risks that come with cheating in the hope of standing on that podium with a medal round their neck and their anthems blaring in the backdrop.
Hopefully this article has been interesting and insightful to you, as ever please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, through the comments section or via facebook, if you have any questions, queries or would like to know any more about the issues outlined in the article. Be sure to check back each and every week for more info on training, nutrition, student life, sport and motivation, along with anything you guys might have requests for!