SPORTS

Doping issue is far from over

The issue of doping has not died down with the voluntary withdrawal of Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou from the Olympic Games. The media is bracing for the next scandal to erupt and this anticipation gives rise to all sorts of rumors. The announcement yesterday morning that five weightlifters – three men and two women – had failed doping tests, without specifying the detected substance, set off a flurry of speculation. Early in the afternoon, during a press conference by the two head coaches of the United States’ track-and-field team, members of the press were speculating among themselves that the substance detected in at least some of the lifters was human growth hormone (HGH). After all, Dick Pound, an IOC member and chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had announced, just before the Games began, that HGH could now be detected. «If that is true, many from our track team will withdraw from the Games,» a veteran US journalist commented. In the end, the International Weightlifting Federation revealed at an evening press conference, that the five – Wafa Ammouri of Morocco, India’s Pratima Kumari, Turkey’s Sule Sahbaz, Moldova’s Victor Chistean and Hungary’s Zoltan Kecskes – had tested positive for steroids. All had been found before having a chance to compete. The US head track-and-field coaches, George Williams and Sue Humphrey, would rather discuss their athletes’ condition and chances to win a medal. Instead, journalists, almost all of them fellow Americans, wanted to know whether Marion Jones was isolated from her teammates or not. No, she is not, replied Williams; she trains for the high jump with her teammates on the 4×100 relay team and there are no complaints from her teammates. One representative of a major Greek channel asked about the whereabouts of Maurice Greene, the sprinter, and whether he had taken a doping test in Crete, where the US track-and-field team has been training. Greene actually checked into the Olympic Village yesterday and gave a urine and blood sample on August 12, in Rethymnon. The same journalist has been seen giving interviews himself to various foreign channels and asking, in each of them, «Where is Mr Greene?» Apparently he had not bothered to ask recently, for Greene has maintained high visibility, giving interviews to various publications. But when you are a member of the small, and dwindling, «patriotic front» that views Kenteris and Thanou as victims of an international conspiracy, you do not let such small matters get in the way of your conclusions. A US Olympic Committee (USOC) spokesperson said that all US athletes asked to take doping tests had willingly done so, «even at very inconvenient times.» As for the purely sporting side, the US expects about 17-20 medals in track and field. «Anything more than 20 medals would be fantastic,» the USOC representative said.