New anti-doping measures at Olympics yield results — official

Monday, August 13, 2012    

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LONDON, England (AFP) — The history books will show that only a handful of athletes were caught for drug offences at the London Olympics but the spectre of doping was never far from the headlines.

Since the Olympic village opened on July 16, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed eight doping cases, seven relating to pre-competition cases and one during competition.

It followed an extensive system of doping controls, including an estimated 6,000 tests, which the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had boldly declared would make London the most tested games in history.

"I'm happy about the fact that we caught athletes who cheated, both before the Games and at the Games," Rogge said yesterday.

"We had one in competition case, and seven pre-competition. Again, I think that's a sign that the system works."

Yet while the organisers breathed a sigh of relief that London avoided another Ben Johnson scandal, the Games bore witness to several controversies which reflected the enduring belief that doping is more widespread than the exhaustive in-competition testing regime indicates.

China's teenage swimmer Ye Shiwen was the most striking example of how the doping scandals of the past continue to haunt the present.

The 16-year-old was one of the stars of the swimming competition, shattering a world record to win the 400 individual medley before adding her second gold of the Games in the 200 medley a few days later.

However, Ye had barely had time to clamber out of the pool before she was confronted with claims that her performances were the product of something more than phenomenal talent aligned with years of hard work.

"Any time someone has looked like superwoman in the history of our sport they have later been found guilty of doping," veteran American swim coach John Leonard said, decrying aspects of Ye's displays as "impossible".

"If you have been around swimming you know when something has been done that just isn't right. I have heard commentators saying 'well she is 16, and at that age amazing things happen'. Well yes, but not that amazing. I am sorry."

Ye — and an array of swimming greats — angrily hit back at Leonard's remarks, insisting she should not be made to pay for the drug scandals which dogged Chinese swimming throughout the 1990s.

The Games also saw several athletes with chequered doping histories win gold medals, another embarrassment to the IOC.

The IOC had sought to bar athletes with doping suspensions lasting six months or more from competing at the Olympics following the suspension, but the policy was declared illegal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year.

Several athletes banned for doping in the bast ended up winning gold in London, including Russia's world champion hammer thrower Tatyana Lyskenko, Kazakhstan cyclist Alexander Vinokourov and Turkey's Asli Cakir Alptekin, winner of the women's 1,500m gold medal.

Alptekin, banned for two years in 2004 for doping violations, led a Turkish one-two in the final to win gold, a win which prompted a withering response from British rival Lisa Dobriskey.

"I'll probably get into trouble for saying this but I don't believe I'm competing on a level playing field," said Dobriskey, the 2009 world silver medallist, said after the 1,500m final.

"I am not pointing the finger at particular individuals, but that is how I feel," she said. "I think the blood passport is catching people but I think these Games came too soon. People will be caught eventually, I think," said Dobriskey.



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