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Last Updated: Monday, 30 August, 2004, 00:34 GMT 01:34 UK
The dirtiest Games ever?
By Bryn Palmer

ATHENS' HALL OF SHAME

It started with a now infamous missed drugs test and ended with another stripped gold medal.

In between Kostas Kenteris and Adrian Annus, there were steroids, stimulants and diuretics.

So will Athens be remembered as the most drug-tarnished Olympics in history, or a watershed Games that took the fight to the cheats head on?

Statistically speaking, Athens was twice as bad as the previous worst Games for doping offences.

By the time the flame was extinguished in the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, 24 doping violations had been uncovered.

That is double the previous highest number of 12 at Los Angeles in 1984.

Prior to these Games, the last track and field gold medallist to be stripped of his gold medal was Ben Johnson in Seoul in 1988.

Never before had two been taken away at the same Games. In Athens, the count was three.

Russian shot put champion Irina Korzhanenko tested positive for stanozolol, the crude steroid Johnson had used 16 years earlier.

Hungarian discus thrower Robert Fazekas and his compatriot, hammer thrower Annus, both lost theirs for refusing to give urine samples.

Every positive test catches a cheat and protects a clean athlete
IOC president Jacques Rogge
Many lesser medals were taken away and lesser-known athletes booted out for dabbling in all manner of banned substances.

It was not what Greek officials would have wanted, particularly when two of their own stars - Kenteris and Katerina Thanou - withdrew in suspicious circumstances.

That episode threatened to cast a particularly dark cloud over the entire Games even before they had begun.

The machinations over the pair's alleged motorcycle crash and hospital stay only added to the soap opera.

But rather than tainting the 28th Olympiad, it is difficult to argue with IOC president Jacques Rogge's assessment that these Games have actually been enhanced by the exposure of more drug cheats.

More than 3,000 tests were carried out, a 25% increase on the number conducted in Sydney four years ago.

And for the first time, blood tests - previously limited to endurance sports - were mandatory across the board.

Rogge had warned beforehand these Games - the first since a global anti-doping code was initiated - would produce more positive tests than ever before, and he was not wrong.

"You have 10,500 athletes in the Olympic village, you do not have 10,500 saints," Rogge noted. "You will always have cheats."

"What counts is that we act against this evil drug use. Every positive test catches a cheat and protects a clean athlete.

It is becoming more and more difficult to cheat at the Olympics
Jacques Rogge
"Today everybody knows we mean business. We have got zero tolerance towards drug cheats."

One Greek newspaper summed up the local media's bemusement at the number of cheats uncovered with a cartoon.

It depicted a bashful youth with a gold medal round his neck, surrounded by microphones and cameras, saying: "I am only a volunteer but everyone else has tested positive".

Such depictions could be interpreted as evidence that people are now so cynical about the legality of what they are watching as to be past the point of caring.

But to Rogge's mind, those same people should be reassured by the exposure of those out to beat the system.

"We think people want to know what or who is credible at the Olympic Games," he added.

"We are making major progress against doping because it is becoming more and more difficult to cheat."

As a former surgeon himself, Rogge might point out that sometimes you have to sacrifice a limb to save a life.

And rather than sounding the death knell for the Olympics, Athens may have helped preserve the long-term health of the world's biggest sporting event.





Links to more Olympics 2004 stories


 

SEE ALSO
Doping 'not ruining Games'
25 Aug 04  |  Olympics 2004
Athens' war on drugs
11 Aug 04  |  Olympics 2004
The Olympic doping threat explained
10 Aug 04  |  Olympics 2004
Testing widened in Athens
05 Aug 04  |  Olympics 2004


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