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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Do Olympic rules need changing?
British skier Alain Baxter loses an appeal to try to retain his Olympic bronze medal.
Has Baxter been treated fairly?
Baxter was forced to hand back his medal to the International Olympic Committee after failing a drugs test.
Baxter argued in his appeal in London last month that he had not taken the performance-enhancing drug.
His sample contained lev-methamphetamine, which is a decongestant and was present in an American version Vicks inhaler he used.
The IOC does not run a test which differentiates between the two isomers.
Should the IOC review it's rules?
I feel sympathy for Alain - it was a bit petty really. All I will say is that the IOC must be consistent with their rulings, and perhaps review their regulations to incorporate issues such as this.
As good as his run was for him it was others failure that helped him to his medal and not a nose inhaler that improved his time by leaps and bounds.
The only winner in this mess is Vicks! I've got an inhaler plugged into each nostril right now and I typed this comment in 2.5 milliseconds. Can't stop - I'm going to run down to the pharmacy at record-breaking speed and buy a third!!
How on earth was Alain Baxter going to enhance his performance with a Vicks inhaler? It's pathetic. Kim Collins was allowed to keep his 100m gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. What's the difference? Give the man back his medal.
Baxter has been treated the same as everyone else. There's only a storm of protest because he's British.
As a Phd Organic Chemist as well as a county-level athlete, I have very strong feelings with regards this issue. I feel that the IOC rules are right with regards to the fact that if the substance is in your body, then you are guilty.
Sports people of the calibre of Baxter have national sports doctors who are paid to give them the green light with regards to any substances they might need to take! And after all, it's the entire livelihood of the athlete if he/she fails to make that phone call to get advice from the doctor.
I really feel for Alain Baxter. His performance in the Winter Olympics was superb and a huge boost for British winter sport in general. In no way did a Vicks inhaler enhance his performance. It's quite pathetic.
There also seems to be a huge contradiction in that Alain's medal has been taken from him, yet the three month ban has been lifted. On one hand the IOC is saying that he is a drug cheat and in the next breath the IOC is saying that he is not.
The athlete must be responsible for whatever chemicals are in his body. Ignorance of the US version of a UK drug is no excuse. If you have a food allergy, you look at the ingredients of a product to make sure you are not at risk. You are always extra vigilant when you go abroad, to the point of avoiding if unsure. I see no reason why this approach is not equally valid, especially when the risks (career, maybe life) are so great.
Who would want to be a professional sports person now? Where do they draw the line? Is a Vicks inhaler really performance enhancing compared to a favourable draw in a heat or lane?
The IOC are hopelessly out of touch with reality and more concerned with chemical compositions not necessarily on labels. Remember the ice skating medals and the comments at the ladies skeleton?
The crazy rules that punish sick athletes for just visiting a chemist must be changed immediately! Taking over-the-counter medication for a genuine ailment must be allowed. The real drug cheats can still be caught and punished.
The IOC drug testing procedure is severely flawed on one principal. It is right that every athlete should be responsible for what is in their bodies but the IOC must test to find out exactly what is in their bodies.
Alain has been punished for having a banned 'performance enhancing' drug even though the IOC refuses to conduct a test to confirm this. Alain's claim that the drug is not performance enhancing has been supported the drug company who made the inhaler.
Since the IOC rescinded their ban on Alain Baxter they should have also reinstated his medal. When they dropped the ban it was an admission that he did not cheat, why then should he still be penalised as a cheat by the removal of his medal?
Surely as an athlete you would check thoroughly before taking drugs - in any form. The IOC has to be hard; otherwise they'll be made a mockery of. Sorry Alain but in your shoes I would have passed on the inhaler.
An unfortunate outcome from what was simply an honest mistake. The IOC needs to look at itself and decide if this decision was made in the true spirit of sportsmanship! I also wander if the IOC were watching the same race as I, given that the medal seemed to be gained from good fortune rather than as a result of using performance improving drugs.
As a skier and a chemist I find the ruling an absolute disgrace. The product used is fine in the UK but not in the US. The substance in the US brand is the lev-isomer of metamphetamine, which is not performance enhancing.
In this day and age the analytical techniques used should be able to differentiate the lev-isomer from the performance enhancing isomer. It is time for the IOC to hold up their hands and admit they have got their testing procedures wrong.
Isomers and racemisation of isomers is a huge problem in terms of biological activity. Just remember that the horrendous problems of thalidomide were the direct result of the different biological activities of the two stereoisomers of the drug.
It really is a sorry state of affairs when someone is cleared of drugs charges but can not get recognition for their sporting achievement. Also, what confidence does it give anyone in routine drug testing if a major laboratory can't get it right! As a Scot, I can only imagine what Alan's win would have given a rather sagging tourist industry.
More double standards yet again. What about the sprinter at the Commonwealth Games who tested positive and got away with it. You cannot have one rule for one and one rule for the rest.
Baxter seems to have paid the price for the IOC's ignorance of a fact known to scientists since Pasteur: that some molecules come in two varieties (left and right-handed), and can have radically different effects.
It's time these bozos took a few lessons in 19th century chemistry before they sit in judgement on others.
Fairness doesn't come into this decision. Baxter took the banned substance unwittingly and it did not improve his performance. He therefore did not cheat and none of his fellow competitors were disadvantaged.
There is no reason on earth for him to have lost his medal and, medal or not, everyone knows he was third best on that day, ahead of the guy who has now undeservedly been given the accolade.
Drug rules were brought in to deal with cheats. Now they are just being enforced blindly for their own sake.
This was an honest mistake which had no impact on the race results. The Olympic ideal is built on fairness in sport, so if the IoC rules are so inflexible that they cannot distinguish between a cheat and a competitor who makes a simple mistake then they need to change the rules. This decision is not a fair one, and seems to run counter to natural justice. The IoC shoud be ashamed.
issues like this make a mockery of sport and in this instance the IOC. We all know that 'real' cheats are going undetected and when a matter like this arises common sense should prevail. I am so disappointed for Alain Baxter because one of the proudest moments in his career and probably his life has been ruined by a bureaucratic governing body that often fails to pursue the real cheats in sport.
In the high-tech world of the 21st century that we live in, the drug tests carried out should be of the highest standard. The fact the IOC test does not differentiate between the two isomers is ridiculous.
Alain's achievement should not have been stained by stripping him of his medal, especially since they have overturned the ski ban. Let's hope Alain is even more fired up to go for gold next time!
Alain knew in his heart of hearts that the IOC, known for sticking to its guns, was never going to reverse its decision. Sadly, because of the cheating few, everyone else has to be oh so careful. We all know who finished third in that race, medal or no medal.
Ian S, UK
I think it is a sad state of affairs when a man who has worked hard to achieve third place is stripped of the medal because of a Vicks inhaler.
The rules and regulations should be updated regularly to cover all of the modern medicines available over the counter.
The rules have been in place for some time, and these people know that they have to check for any possible problems with the items bought over the counter. There have been many cases where people have (accidentally) ingested drugs that are on the list. If they are not checking for substances, then I say they deserve whatever they get. With a bit of luck others will learn by this mistake.
In the battle against drugs in sport, it is vital that the authorities send an unequivocal message - any trace of banned substances, and you're out.
Having said that, I have every sympathy with Baxter, who genuinely appears to be the victim of this extreme inflexibility on behalf of the IOC. Even the IOC themselves seem to acknowledge that they don't believe he was trying to gain unfair advantage, as they have cancelled his ban from competition.
I'm so pleased justice has been done. You can't have different rules just because he's a Brit. Maradona was kicked out of the World Cup in 1990 for taking a cough mixture, and there have been other cases in the Olympics. Baxter is no different; just because he's British people forget the rules.
The rules say 'No drugs'. Is that not enough? It is the liberal left-wing who keep raising the subject, does that mean they should be listened to?
It is about time the official body acknowledged that the procedure for drugs testing is flawed. If there are two varieties of a drug, one legal, the other not, it seems only common sense that a drugs test should be able to tell the difference.
I understand that we have to take a firm line on drug taking within sport, but that does not mean that we have to ignore the obvious and convict an innocent man in order to save face. Alain is, in my opinion, the true bronze medallist from the Winter Olympics and this ruling certainly doesn't change my mind.
As a scientist and avid sports fan I truly understand the need for strict measures when dealing with drugs cheats. I also know that most positive tests found are followed up with a rapid response of 'I'm not guilty'. We hear this all the time. But when the most idealistic sports governing body in the world (the IOC) does not and will not test for discrepancies of some drugs something is flawed.
Differing properties of such levo & dexo substances have been known for many years. They can and should be tested to keep sport clean.
Alain Baxter is an unfortunate victim of the system. Rules are rules, and the IOC has to apply them fairly and consistently, so in that sense Alain Baxter should have lost his medal.
However, the testing procedure is blatantly inadequate for the job, and given the harsh repercussions on an athlete's reputation and ability to earn a living if they are found guilty of a doping offence, this is simply not good enough.
Unlucky for Baxter, but hopefully the IOC will revise their testing procedures so that other athlete's get a fairer deal.
All athletes should be held responsible for the medication they take. Although in this case the rules seem a little unfair due to the difference in chemical content between the British and American Vic Inhalers.
The IOC need to enforce their rules without exception, so they are technically correct. However, this debacle shows the rules to be lacking in terms of real-world value.
I suggest that the real issue is the lack of clear labelling on products such as the Vick inhaler. The IOC should set up an international convention on sport-banned products. Manufacturers could then label their products as being unsuitable for sportsmen on account of the banned substances contained in their ingredients.
I can't help but feel sorry for Alain, but he will have his day.
The rules are fine the way they are. A Romanian gymnast lost a medal for taking a cold cure. The problem is that Britons always have innocent explanations for big performance increases but claim everyone else, especially the East Europeans, are on drugs. Baxter is either a fool or a cheat.
It's s disgrace that Alain has lost that medal. That was an historic skiing moment for Scotland. To ruin it because of an honest mistake is criminal. How can a decongestant be an illegal performance enhancer? Sort it out IOC, try using a bit of common sense.
I can't understand the IOC's position on doping on sport. They have to make some absolutely clear guidelines, and perform all the possible tests available to them to ensure a fair and transparent system. For starters they ban far too many drugs and then fail to properly test for those drugs?!? Unless something changes every world record set or great performance will be undermined.
Any athlete that fails a drug test in both samples should be banned from competing for life - even if they are professional sportsmen. A two year ban does not show to the rest of the sportsmen and general public that the abuse of drugs can kill. Cheats should not profit from their cheating.
It's just pure bad luck. My heart goes out to him, but in the end, he's a professional sportsman, and he should have been more careful. The rules can't be changed to take account of carelessness.
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