Juan Antonio Samaranch, the President of the International Olympic Committee, stunned the international press when he told the Spanish daily El Mundo on July 26, "Anything which does not affect the athlete's health, in my view, isn't doping. The current list of banned substances should be drastically reduced."
The President has now put into words what we have known all along....that the IOC has absolutely no interest in cleaning up sport. That they endorse cheaters. That commercialism and financial gain are the ends justifying the means.
The mind boggles.
How can the IOC President, the one who rules over international sport, make such an outrageous statement?
What about all his grandiose talk of "winning the war against drugs?" To even suggest that drugs that merely enhance performance should be allowed, is to undermine the pursuit of honest sportsmanship. A slap in the face to all clean players. An unforgivable offence.
Samaranch went on to point out the need for "an exact and concrete definition of what constitutes doping."
Apparently the alarming frequency of doping headlines in the press is making the IOC uncomfortable. The deluge of doping in the Tour de France, the trial of East German dopers in Berlin, and the ever lengthening list of positives from Chinese athletes. it's all just becoming a bit much. They need an easy way out, so why not just change the definitions? And while we're on the subject, what determines if a drug is dangerous to an athlete's health? Just how dangerous does it have to be? Is it "dangerous" for a woman to turn into a man? Can we tolerate a little excess hair growth, a little acne, a deeper voice? Do we draw the line at sterility or death?
A drastic reduction in the number of banned products widens the holes in the already gaping net, allowing the already booming illegal drug industry to proliferate with no holds barred. Samaranch insisted that he saw no avalanche of doping around the corner, pointing to the fact that no players tested positive at the recent soccer World Cup. He went so far as to say that sport was in the midst of a "golden age," with governments backing sporting organizations' efforts to keep sport clean. Given his take on the issue, why should governments even bother?
Germany's IOC member Thomas Bach tried lamely to retract the President's statements saying, "He has merely stated his personal opinion. A serious fight against doping is not endangered by a personal opinion. The Medical Code is in no way impaired."
A poor response indeed. Since when has a leader's personal opinion not coloured his politics?
Meanwhile International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) boss Primo Nebiolo, in a press release dated July 27, called for a world conference on doping to come up with a strategy to deal with "this delicate problem."
This from the same Nebiolo who reduced the first-time doping offences in track and field from four years to two years.
It is precisely under the leadership of such sports officials as Samaranch and Nebiolo that an atmosphere has been created where many athletes believe drug use is condoned in the pursuit of more sponsor funds.
We can only be grateful for the customs agents in Australia, and France who have done more to expose rampant cheating in sport than 30 years of IOC drug testing.