olympicThe inimitable Malcolm Gladwell, he of The Tipping Point, wrote an expose last year of the epidemic of illegal drug use in sport, and how athletes, coaches and laboratories are able to stay one step ahead of the testers, and reap gold medals and competitive advantage over clean athletes as a result. Gladwell’s work, and several other exposes, make it clear that the IOC and the USOC are not only incapable of policing drug use in sport, but are quietly involved in covering it up. Clearly, if amateur sport were suddenly cleaned up, there would be very few new world records for a long while, the integrity of all the existing records and recent medals would be suspect, and the Olympic movement might never recover.

Now there’s a new report that suggests that, just maybe, anti-drug forces might be able to get sport cleaned up even without Olympic authority support. The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), acting on an anonymous tip from an American coach, has just released an announcement (requires Acrobat reader — click on ‘USADA Statement’ from this press release page to launch the file) that they have developed a test for a steroid that is closely related chemically and in effect to banned steroids, but was previously unknown and undetected. The new steroid, called THG, was developed by a California laboratory. It has now been chemically identified, and in a first set of tests 350 American athletes tested positive for the drug. This was just from samples taken from athletes participating in June’s US Championships. If confirmed, all of these athletes would be banned from participating in IAAF events for two years, including the 2004 Athens Olympics. They would probably have to forfeit any medals they won in the World Championships in Paris that were held shortly after the June event.

What’s even worse for this apparently huge ring of cheaters, THG is an inert substance whose presence stays in urine samples for years, and testers could now go back and re-test samples of past Olympic winners, and possibly strip hundreds of them of their medals and world records.

And it doesn’t stop at American athletes or even amateur sport. The laboratory that developed THG, Bay Area Laboratories (BALCO), also represents such global sports luminaries as Ivan Lendl, Barry Bonds & John Elway, supplying them with performance-enhancing “nutritional products”.

This is a huge scandal, and could lead to the decimation of teams for next year’s Olympics, or even a cancellation of the event. Stay tuned — this is gonna be big.

Update 11pm Oct.19: The above number (350 positive tests), cited in the link above,  now seems in doubt. Other ‘unnamed sources’ are saying the number of positives was only ‘up to 20’ of 450 or 550 tests. The USADA is refusing to provide any numbers whatsoever, and say that they won’t discuss numbers until the grand jury investigating the scandal has finished its work. More updates as/if additional information becomes available.

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  1. Susan says:

    It would be kind of cool to see some impoverished little country that can’t afford steroids to win the olympics, though :)

  2. Adrian says:

    I sure hope it doesn’t lead to cancellation of the Olympics! Greece has invested an enormous amount of money in these Games, is hugely in the red, and would be devastated economically and politically if they don’t go ahead as scheduled.

  3. Doug Alder says:

    I commend them and hope they expose every athlete that has cheated, strip them of their medals, and expose thedirty underside of amateur sports. I say amateur because I don’t really believe it is anyone’s business what a professional athlete takes to get to the performance level they want. Then again maybe they should just give up and say use whatever you want.

  4. O RLY YA RLY says:

    After the scandals in the Tour de France a couple of years ago, some people suggested splitting it up in two tours; a “Tour de Dopage” and a “Tour Naturel”.

  5. Philip says:

    Dave you really need to check your statistics. 350 athletes were tested they did not all test positive. As far as I can tell no names have been released nor has there been a number released, only that it will be the “biggest” doping scandal ever.BALCO did invent a nutritional supplement that is not a steroid or steroid like. This supplement is now made by many manufacturers and used by many athletes. Also BALCO stretches its’ association with many athletes and may no longer have a relationship with athletes it claims are users of its product. This is bad but it isn’t 350. Please feel free to correct your entry.

  6. Philip says:

    The number I am seeing is “several” which may represent 2-3% of the 350 athletes tested from the US Championships plus an unspecified number of samples from 100 other competition.Your link does not indicate this but there are plenty of links which do provide a more clear picture of what is going on. The BBC is running this is a copy of the USADA statement

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Well, Philip, I’m not sure what the numbers are. the Sky Sport news article I cited above has an unambiguous headline “350 Athletes Test Positive For New Drug”. Two television reports on Friday said the same thing. Admittedly your BBC statement, and a number of other reports in the press, all using similar wording, suggest the number is ‘up to 20’ out of either 450 or 550. None of the sources mentioning numbers cite a specific source for the numbers. Most (over 1/2) of the media reports provide no numbers, saying either ‘several’, or ‘an indeterminate number’, or just saying ‘one of the biggest drug scandals in sport history’. None of the official USADA pronouncements mention any specific numbers. The USADA told ESPN today categorically that they have not and will not identify how many positive tests have occurred, because of the ongoing grand jury investigation. So at this stage all of the numbers are from unnamed and unsubstantiated sources, so it’s anyone’s guess. I’ll mention the uncertainty as an addendum to my entry.

  8. Phil says:

    Check out’m not sure there’s a floor to this story yet.

  9. Philip says:

    The Seattle PI story has nothing to do with the doping story it shows drug use in a particular college program not doping per se.There is no doubt that there were 350 samples TESTED from the US Championships in June. That would represent a lare percentage of all participating athletes and all winners of all events.40 athletes from amatuer and professional sports have been supoenaed to testify before a grand jury. Those supoenaed may or may not be implicated. This is NOT 350 positives.The story is terrible for sports but for 350 positives to come out of the US Championships would mean everyone was doping and that just isn’t the case. If it turns out to be 5% of all the samples I will be surprised.5% is a tragedy but not unbelievable. I dare say more than 5% of almost any demographic that resembles that of the athletes use illicit drugs this is not an excuse just an observation.I am only applying my bullsh*t meter to the story and crunching some numbers. 350 positives is just plain incorrect. I can see how a sloppy journalist could change 350 samples tested into 350 positives.

  10. O RLY YA RLY says:

    Whatever the number, I think it’s sood something is finally done. American doping controls have always been very reluctant and lax. Causing many doubts about all the olympic medals won.

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