How can doping be controlled further?
Guardian Sports Editor
Published: Aug 21, 2013
With the region taking a major hit as far as doping in athletics is concerned, the question has been asked in many circles during the 14th International Association of Athletic Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships which wrapped up this past weekend, what can further be done to protect our athletes against the dangers of banned substances and performance-enhancing drugs.
Former executive in the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) Kermit Taylor said that not only should local federations be more stringent in the testing of their athletes, but in conjunction with anti-doping and government agencies, they should also look at putting the proper procedures in place, in terms of prevention, as well.
During the world championships in Moscow, Russia, two prominent athletes from Trinidad & Tobago were sent home for positive doping tests, one of whom was a medalist from two years ago in Daegu, South Korea, and one of the world’s top female sprinters.
In addition to that, there were top flight Jamaican sprinters Veronica Campbell-Brown, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, who all failed
doping tests leading up to the world championships. Even a Bahamian sprinter was left off the national squad for reportedly failing a doping test, and probably the biggest impactful hit to the sport came via the positive out-of-competition test result for American Tyson Gay, the fastest man in the world for 2013 up to that point.
“I think it’s definitely taking its toll on the sport,” said Taylor. “When you look at what happened to Tyson Gay, the world was looking forward to that showdown between him and Usain Bolt. This was the year that a lot of people picked Tyson to beat Bolt, because of the times he was putting down. A lot of people were very excited about that. Even with Veronica, there were a lot of strong comments made about her coming out of these world championships. A lot of people were very disturbed, and felt like they were let down.
“I think it’s all about educating our athletes more. There should be an ongoing program spearheaded by the BAAA and the Bahamas Anti-Doping Commission (BAAA) to keep our athletes current with new drugs on the market. The key is for athletes to stay educated, because for the most part, I feel that they are unknowingly taking substances. Supplements these days are mandatory for athletes to maintain fitness and be competitive, but they have to know what they are putting in their systems.”
Taylor said that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) should play its part as well.
“I think that WADA should make it mandatory, WADA certified, in terms of drugs and supplements that are marketed. They should be given their stamp of approval, so that athletes could know for sure if certain drugs and supplements are okay to be taken.
“Doping is a year round procedure. Athletes are tested in and out of season, so there really isn’t any room for error. We see with Tyson Gay, he had an out-of-competition positive test. In addition, I think that every federation should do their own evaluation separate from the IAAF.”
Taylor said that he does believe that track and field leads the way, in terms of sporting disciplines testing its athletes on a regular basis, but whether it be the athletes themselves, coaches, agents or trainers, there is still that loophole, allowing illegal substances to get through the cracks. He said that as far as track and field is concerned, hopefully the IAAF could introduce more sophisticated methods of testing to prevent drug cheats from damaging the sport.
“Well, I think that we saw a step in the right direction these past world championships with the IAAF engaging in blood testing, and basically creating individual passports for the athletes,” said Taylor. “Track and field is leading the way, but there is always room for improvement. Doping is a worldwide problem. With our athletes, it goes right back to education. The national sports academies that the government is talking about introducing, I think that could go a long way to alleviate the problem here in The Bahamas. That way, seminars could be held on nutrition, the science of the sport, doping and what ingredients to look out for – basically just the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of professional sports, what to take and what not to take. We can’t just put the onus on the athletes – we have to take a more aggressive approach on educating them on what’s out there.”
During the 49th Congress of the IAAF, just prior to that start of the 14th biennial world championships in Moscow, the board looked at implementing stiffer penalties as far as first-time offenders of doping are concerned.
It has been reported that a ban of four years has been agreed upon for first-time offenders.
“I think the penalties should reflect the banned substance that was revealed. There should be a complete evaluation of the products used in testing positive,” said Taylor. “Sometimes there are over-the-counter drugs that have banned substances in them. The IAAF knows the ones that are for growth hormones, and testosterone-like. Even those ones, I think first-time offenders should be given a year or two. I think that it should be a maximum of two years, even if it is growth hormone,” he added.
Apparently, under the new IAAF rule, first-time offenders will receive that four-year ban, and second-time offenders would receive a lifetime ban. Taylor said that whatever the measures are that are in place, it shows that the IAAF is making an attempt to clean up the sport, and that’s the important thing.