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Doping remains chronical problem at Games but IOC seeks to change
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21:13, August 12, 2008

The on-going Beijing Olympic Games already saw the 85th doping case in summer Olympics' history with more scandals expected under the toughest cracking down on drug cheats in any Olympics.

Spanish cyclist Maria Isabel Moreno Monday became the first athlete to be tested positive during the official Olympic doping control period when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) uncovered the case and expelled her out of the Games.

The 27-year-old was tested positive for EPO, a hormone helping enhance muscles, making her the 85th doping offender since the IOC introduced doping tests in the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

The practice of enhancing performance through foreign substances or other artificial means, however, is as old as competitive sport itself.

Ancient Greek athletes are known to have used special diets and stimulating potions to fortify themselves. Strychnine, caffeine, cocaine, and alcohol were often used by cyclists and other endurance athletes in the 19th century. Thomas Hicks ran to victory in the Olympic marathon of 1904 in Saint Louis with the help of raw egg, injections of strychnine, and doses of brandy administered to him during the race.

By the 1920s it had become evident that restrictions regarding drug use in sports were necessary. The urgency of anti-doping work was highlighted by another tragic death, that of cyclist Tom Simpson during the Tour de France after taking drugs in 1967.

The IOC set up its medical commission in the same year and introduced doping tests in Mexico Games. But the fight against doping remained split in sports world until the IOC took the initiative and convened the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Lausanne in February 1999 and established the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on November 10, 1999.

WADA set unified standards for anti-doping work with the Anti-Doping Code and coordinate the efforts of sports organizations and public authorities.

All international sports federations have signed on the Anti-Doping Code and unified efforts in doping control have been built among countries in the past four years, which pleased WADA chief John Fahey.

"The road from Athens to Beijing has been marked with many successes starting with adoption of the Code," he said during the Beijing Olympic Games.

"Wada will be naive to expect that there will be no doping during the Games but we can be sure that through all the progress in the past four years, that cheating stands a greater chance of being caught. Looking beyond Beijing, Wada will continue to press for further progress in ridding out doping," he said.

The IOC pledged to make the Beijing Games a "clean" one and planned a historic-high 4,500 tests through the Olympic period which started on July 27 and will run through to August 24. It is a 25 percent increase from the 3,600 tests in Athens where 26 doping cases were reported.

For the first time at a Games, athletes must provide whereabouts information for where they are residing, training and competing from July 27 to August 24. And an athlete can be tested twice a day.

A new test kit that can better track the trace of human growth hormone (HGH) was introduced into the Games, which experts expected to finally discover HGH users.

Harsh punishments posed as a bigger deterrence to those who intend to cheat.

The IOC decided that as of July 1 this year, anyone banned for a doping offence for more than six months may not participate in any capacity at the summer or winter Games immediately following the date of expiry of such suspension. The revised World Anti-Doping Code extended the ban for the first-time offender from two years to four years.

"The IOC means business in stamping out for those who are not playing by the rules," said IOC spokesperson Giselle Davies.

All these tough measures raised the awareness, leading to large scale pre-Games tests in many countries and effectively help clean the Games.

"The program run by the IOC is an effective one. Many countries have learned it better to ensure their athletes who are cheating do not come to Beijing rather than have them caught in Beijing," WADA director general David Howman said. "That's a very good momentum we hope to continue to the future."

India withdrew weightlifter Monika Devi from the Games on Wednesday after seven top Russian female track and field athletes were accused of manipulating their urine samples. The IAAF provisionally suspended them on July 31.

Bulgarian weightlifting association confirmed on July 30 that eleven top weighlifters withdrew from the Games after positive tests.

Eleven members of the Greek national team tested positive in March for the anabolic steroid methyltrienolone and banned for two years before another one was caught in July. Swimmer Yiannis Drymonakos and rower Yiannis Tsamis also were forced out of the Olympic team for doping offences.

Source: Xinhua

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