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Wrong Line/Right Line On Doping

Jul 22, 2010  - Craig Lord

Here's a tale of experience from another sport that shows why swimming is best left to tend to its own affairs rather than seek to follow the paths taken by others. The Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has until the end of July to pay $350,000 so that its lighters can compete at a home Commonwealth Games in New Delhi come October. 

The reason for the fine: several of its top lifters failed drugs tests. The fee can be paid in installments, the world lifting body says. In swimming, the penalty faced by federations whose athletes continually offend (since the days of shame we lived through with China in the wake of years of inaction over the GDR) is to remove nations from the competitive arena for a time. In other sports, pay your money and walk back into the arena.

Six Indian lifters tested positive for banned performance-enhancing drugs last year. Money was paid and Indian lifters continued to have access to international competitions. Now, the Indian Olympic Committee has been asked to bail the lifting federation out. And the answer: no way. A spokesman for the IOA told Insidethegames: "If the IOA were to pay the fine, it would convey the message that we are aiding and abetting doping in sport. They [IWF] will have to look for other means to pay off the dues to the international body."

Meanwhile, over in track and field, US sprinter Justin Gatlin, shamed after testing positive for steroids, is just about to make a comeback but is finding it hard to find a welcoming smile. The directors of the major European meets, we read, have moved to bar athletes who have served drug suspensions of at least two years, forcing them to seek lower-tier invitational meets there. A form of life ban, in the absence of such a thing in the WADA Code for those who blatantly break the rules first time up - and many will cheer. Says Gatlin to agency reporters pitifully: "I've served my time. That wasn't part of my punishment. What's the whole point of serving your time for four years if you're still going to be banned?" Not banned Justin - just not welcome.

Doping remains a serious issue in international sport and swimming is no exception. Among the many areas where problems remain, one was highlighted by head USA coach Mark Schubert this week: supplements. The bottom line: eat and drink properly, and don't touch supplements.

Below is the letter from Schubert to his troops in full, one that needs no further explanation, the tragedy referred to being the case of Jessica Hardy (which is not over yet), and one that is relevant to swimmers from any nation in the world signed up to the WADA Code as all who wish to race in international waters. 

The letter:

Dear Swimmers and Coaches:

It is extremely important that you pay attention to my message. 

The National Team has had some recent serious challenges with drug testing. We are aware that some athletes have been taking a supplement known as Jack3d. This supplement contains an ingredient called 1, 3 Dimethylamylamine (Geranium [stem]). This ingredient will cause you to test positive in competition! 

Please know that the National Team Division has been and will be target testing any athlete that we believe has a chance to represent the USA in International competition. This is done to prevent the tragedy that occurred at the 2008 Olympic Trials from a positive test. You will be tested. Testing positive will most likely result in a two-year ban and a suspension from the next Olympics in London. 

USA Swimming has been criticized by athletes and coaches for not providing "nutritional supplement recommendations". This is exactly, exactly, why we don't and won't do this. 

If you take the risk, you may pay the price! I hold coaches of World Class athletes responsible for constant education and communication regarding this subject with their athletes. 

This reflects on YOU, your athletes, your nation, and your sport. 

Athletes are expected to: 

  • 1) Keep your schedule current at all times. There is no exception to this rule. 
  • 2) Update your schedule prior to travel. There is no excuse for forgetting to update. 
  • 3) Find a system to remind yourself to update. Implement that system. 
  • 4) File paperwork prior to the established deadline. You receive reminders. Heed them. 
  • 5) Check the status of all medications (OTC and Prescription) before you take them. 
  • 6) Know the rules, the 2010 prohibited list, and your resources. 
  • 7) Accept that Supplements are "Take at Your Own Risk". 
  • 8) Acknowledge that taking a supplement is a risk to reputation, health, career and team. 
  • 9) Be an educated consumer if you elect to take that risk but know that you can't eliminate it. 
  • 10) Check the ingredients on all labels ("nutrition facts" and "supplement facts") with USADA. 
  • 11) Recognize that USADA has indicated that you cannot rely on "nutrition facts" labels. 
  • 12) Remember that ingredients may be included that are not listed on the label. 
  • 13) Realize that companies may say their product is ‘verified' or ‘approved" without it being true. 
  • 14) Know key words to look for and avoid: "andro", "stimulant", "energy booster", "metabolism booster", "weight loss", "reduce water retention" and "increase testosterone". 
  • 15) Beware of these substances: 1, 3 Dimethylamylamine, Methylhexaneamine, Dimethylpentylamine, Geranamine, Geranium oil, or DMAA. 

USA Swimming is the BEST swimming nation in the world. It is up to you to keep it the cleanest! 

Mark E. Schubert, Head Coach and General Manager, USA National Swimming Team