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Friday, Sept. 5, 2003
IAAF should make example out of White
The end of the World Championships on Sunday marked the passing of the third straight major athletics event where there were no world records (outside of race walking) set.
Just as in the Summer Games in Sydney in 2000 and the last worlds in Edmonton in 2001, there were many stellar performances in Saint-Denis, but none of the world-record variety.
It makes me think that after so many years of talk about getting tough on drug cheats, that we are finally seeing some results -- because of the lack of results.
The advent of tougher rules since Sydney has clearly had an effect, which is good. The closer we get to having the athletes 'clean' the better.
It is amazing though, that with the time and technology available to top-class competitors for training these days, not one was able to set a new standard.
What does that say?
Does it mean that we are currently in an era of mediocrity in athletics, where the top competitors can't stand up to their predecessors?
Or has this crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs truly made a difference?
I think it is the latter.
I must say that it was startling to watch the winner of the men's 100-meter final (Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, 10.07) not be able to break 10 seconds and the winner of the men's 200-meter final (John Capel of the United States, 20.30) not be able to crack 20 seconds.
Capel's time was nearly a full second off Michael Johnson's 200-meter world record of 19.32
The winning times in both events were pretty pedestrian numbers compared to years past.
American Maurice Greene won the 100 in Edmonton in 9.82 seconds, while Konstadinos Kederis of Greece won the 200 in 20.04 seconds.
The effort to clean up athletics appears to be working, yet we still couldn't get through the World Championships without a least two drug controversies -- both involving Americans.
The major case was that of sprinter Kelli White, winner of both the women's 100 and 200 meters, who tested positive for the drug Modafinil, a stimulant that is not on the banned list of IAAF (track's world governing body), but is covered by the phrase "and related substances."
White claims she was taking the drug for narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder which has run in her family.
The IAAF experts are studying Modafinil and trying to determine whether to classify it as a stimulant or amphetamine. If it is the former, White will lose both medals and more than $120,000 in prize money.
The IAAF announced Wednesday that White won't be banned from any future meets (she could been suspended for up to two years over the violation), but could still lose her medals and prize money.
The key point here, is that White was required to list any medications she was taking on a form submitted to the IAAF before the worlds, and didn't do it. That makes it pretty hard to have any sympathy for her.
At this important moment in history, when a real effort is being made to wipe out drugs in the sport, a lame excuse like not listing a medication on the form because it wasn't on the 'banned list' is weak.
The form clearly states that all medications being taken are to be listed.
If it were up to me, White's medals and money would both be gone.
The second drug controversy in Saint-Denis revolved around Jerome Young, the winner of the men's 400 meters. Shortly after his victory, it was reported that he had failed a drug test prior to the Sydney Games, but was still allowed to participate by USA Track & Field.
Young was a part of the team that won the gold medal in the 4x400-meter relay in Sydney.
Previously it had been reported that an unnamed U.S. athlete had failed a drug test, was acquitted on appeal by the USATF, and went on to win a gold medal in Sydney. But the name wasn't revealed until last week when Young won the 400.
Canadian Dick Pound, who is the chief executive of the World Anti-Doping Agency, has called for the IAAF to reinvestigate Young's case and possibly strip the U.S. team of its gold medal.
I'm not sure it will do much good to turn the clock back three years and try to overturn those race results, but I think now is the time for the IAAF to make a stand, and an example out of White.
Some may say that is harsh, but zero tolerance on drugs is exactly what the sport needs.