Saturday, November 17, 2007

Barry Bonds Indictment - more of a beginning than an end

On the News Hour last evening, Brooks and Shields were discussing the recent indictment of Barry Bonds for lying to a Congressional committee about his steroid use. One of the commentators, David Brooks, said "it will lead to the end of the steroid era [in baseball]". Ha, I thought, that couldn't be further from the truth. As I've said before, the increasing and pervasive use of performance enhancing drugs will bring an end to professional and Olympic sports as we know them today. Barry Bonds is just the beginning. The lesson other athletes have learned is that performance enhancing drugs can produce major benefits, but you just need do it in a way that won't be caught.

The tour de France bicycle race has been plagued by doping scandals for many years. The 2006 winner Floyd Landis was found guilty of doping and was stripped of his title. This year (2007) rider Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping after winning one of the time trials and was disqualified. And Michael Rasmussen of Denmark, who was leading the race at the time, was removed from the race for missing random drug tests.

In the most recent of a long list of Olympic doping scandals, sprinter Marion Jones admitted to the use of banned drugs and voluntarily returned her gold medals from the 2000 Sydney Olympics ( showing some integrity on her part). Normally those gold medals would now be awarded to the 2nd place finisher. But to illustrate just how bad things have become, the International Olympic Committee is considering the unusual step of leaving the gold medal for the 200m sprint unawarded to anyone. It turns out that the 2nd place finisher, Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou was caught up in a doping scandal at the 2004 Athens Games.

The performance benefits are so great that people are risking their entire careers by using these drugs. And as new designer drugs are becoming available that are much harder to detect, I'm afraid that it will become almost impossible for an athlete to remain competitive at the highest levels without taking them. And we are only a decade or so away from the introduction of genetically modified athletes.

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