Volume 95, Issue 67

Thursday, January 31, 2002

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A media frenzy, a security nightmare

Snowboarding: there's more to it than toques and marijuana

The Olympians the media ignores

Jocks: are they bug-eyed druggies?

Jocks: are they bug-eyed druggies?

By Lauren Starr
Gazette Staff

A new world record! 8.24 seconds in the 100m dash! But, was it the athlete or their Sudafed?

Tony Cogliano, primary care physician at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic at Western, said steroids, as well as banned stimulants like ephedrine, are the most frequent performance-enhancing substances used by athletes.

"Ephedrine is a form of adrenaline – it gets an athlete up for a competition," he said, adding certain drugs can act as masking agents that hide positive tests.

Peter Cox, a former certified doping control officer and current associate professor at Western, said the intense pressure placed upon athletes is the key motivation for drug use. "An athlete may be an amateur, but winning a gold medal is a ticket to almost anything," he said.

The penalties for being caught with a substance are stiff, but are also dependent upon the type of drug used, Cox said. Two urine samples are taken for testing immediately after an Olympic competition. If both samples test positive for steroids, the athlete is stripped of their medal and they receive a four-year ban from competition, Cox explained.

According to Paul Melia, the chief operating officer for the Canadian Centre of Ethics in Sport, the CCES handles drug testing for all amateur and Olympic Canadian athletes.

There is a six-month window of pre-Olympic testing for all athletes on the Canadian team, he said. "We've tested around 90-95 per cent of the team in the last six months, but that's no guarantee an athlete will not test positive [at the Games]."

Melia said the CCES functions as both a detector and a deterrent. "We want to create the impression an athlete can be tested anytime, anywhere." The national testing program involves random, year-round, no-notice testing of over 2,000 athletes from coast to coast, he explained.

"Out of all the athletes we test in the course of a year, only two per cent test positive for illegal substances," he added.

The CCES also focuses on education for all Canadian athletes, with an emphasis on the numerous health risks involved with some banned substances, Melia said.

Whether a substance is illegal or simply banned from a particular sport, it is up to the athlete to take the proper precautions, Cogliano explained. However, when it comes to illegal drugs, doctors should also be made accountable for their prescriptions, he said.

According to Marg McGregor, chief executive officer of Canadian Interuniversity Sport, all Canadian sports organizations, including varsity athletics, are subject to the same CCES drug programming.

While education programs are well supported at the university level, more needs to be done, Cogliano said. "High schools and grade schools have no concept of testing and a lot of people have prefixed ideas of what's good and bad by the time they get to university," he added.

–with files from Chris Lackner

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