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Monday, June 12, 2006

Anti-Doping News

For some time now, law enforcement has been the weapon of choice in the anti-doping arsenal. It really started with the Festina affair at the 1998 Tour de France, where French police caught a masseur at the border in a car loaded with EPO and other blood-doping paraphernalia. The BALCO affair began when a couple of FBI agents who worked out at the same gym as Barry Bonds got suspicious and started poking around. Last year the DEA knocked out the majority of the US steroids supply in a giant bust called "Operation Gear Grinder" (arrests and charges continue to be made).

And it has gone on. This year Spanish officials got the goods on a huge operation run out of a Madrid apartment, which apparently did blood doping the old fashioned way (since it is actually more difficult to spot in tests). Initial reports say that as many as 150 cyclists could be implicated, not all Spaniards, which would have a giant impact not only on the Tour de France but the entirety of professional cycling.

The FBI got journeyman pitcher Jason Grimsley to tell them what he knew about steroid and HGH use in the major leagues, and got in (more) trouble when he got cold feet and stopped talking. Among those who may be implicated is current darling Albert Pujols.

Track has always seemed to be on the outskirts of this. A lot of track people went down with BALCO, but it was never really about them in the first place. The baseball-HGH thing may turn out to have track connections, but again they're collateral damage in the fight to clean up baseball. Now we might have some big-time news; the Spanish cycling saga appears to have some connection to Jos Hermans, the manager of Haile Gebreselassie and Kenenisa Bekele. There's nothing that even suggests Hermans-managed athletes may have used prohibited blood-manipulating techniques, but the mind does wander.

Even drug-testing guru Dr. Don Caitlin says the testing system is woefully inadequate. But if the po-po can start scaring the bejesus out of people, even great testing might become only the second line of defense.

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