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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympic Anti-Doping News

Remember when Fani Halkia came out of nowhere to win the Athens Olympic 400-meter hurdles gold? Those cynics among us found it a bit suspicious. Well, now we're proven right:
Greece's defending Olympic women's 400 meters hurdles champion Fani Halkia has failed a drugs test and could face immediate sanction from the IOC.

"Halkia tested positive for drugs," one official told Reuters on Sunday on condition of anonymity.
The IOC said on Sunday it could take action against Halkia even before her B sample was tested.
The Greek hurdler saw her A sample test positive for methyltrienolone, better known as M3, a banned steroid, and said she was shocked by the news, denying any wrongdoing.
Of course she denies it. U.S. Rep. William Jefferson said he was innocent, too.

In other news, Daniela Yordanova got busted back in June and won't be in Beijing.

Here's a thought that's been running around my mind. Usually, the host nation of an Olympics or Worlds gets a boost in the T&F medal standings. You can chalk it up to familiar surroundings, lack of jet lag, etc. But when an expected also-ran comes up for a medal, it's got to be something else.

Is it possible that the international bigwigs are less than aggressive in enforcing anti-doping measures against the home team? (Or maybe I should say were, because things appear a little different in the era of Rogge, Diack and especially WADA.) Why would they do this? I can easily see a purely business argument being made that if the host nation exceeds expectations and gets a win or two, it would increase the fan base for all of track & field there.

We know that at Rome's 1987 Worlds, they just flat-out cheated to get a long jump medal, and Vyv Simpson suggests the order came from none other than Primo Nebiolo.

There's one major exception to the home-country boost: Canada did not win a single gold in Montreal '76, Calgary '88, or Edmonton '01. Canadians, being a weak sister both in the Commonwealth and to neighbors USA & Russia, have developed a strong sense of fair play not through inherently superior ethics but through nearly-always inferior might. (Remember, they were the only country that agressively investigated its own doped athletes until BALCO came along.) Of all major nations, they're the least likely to take advantage of a free pass.

Let me say that this is only idle speculation, and the Thanou/Kenteris episode in Athens indicates that if it ever was the case it is no longer. But it's something to think about.

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