Thursday, November 11, 2010

Elite Athletes on Drugs?

Runner's World has an article that is somewhat troubling even at its simplest: one-time elite marathoner Eddy Hellebuyck has admitted that he enhanced his performance toward the end of his career by taking erythropoietin (EPO). His career ended when he tested positive for this substance, but he had always denied taking it until now.

More troubling:

Hellebuyck's wife Shawn: "I think it's important to point out that he is hardly the only American runner of his caliber to use drugs. [Eddy] got caught because he wasn't part of a well-organized, well-financed, medically supervised system. He was just an individual athlete who decided to dabble and paid the price. The fact is, EPO really works when it's used in combination with HGH [human growth hormone] and other drugs over a closely monitored three-month training cycle, and that takes money. The athletes who have the money and power are the ones who are getting away with murder on this stuff. That's who you should be writing a story about."

The writer says: "Shawn may be right. But until at least one other distance runner steps forward to break the code of silence, we can never know for sure."

So the big teams of runners with corporate sponsors may well be using in a more sophisticated way.

There is a side-bar story which I can't find on line: "The Drug War." For U.S. athletes, "Doping-control officials will visit athletes and collect blood or urine samples, often at athletes' homes or training camps. By comparison, in such running-dominant countries as Kenya, Ethiopia, and Russia, testing is less rigorous and authoritative."

So the elite athletes may be growing up in a world where using drugs is taken for granted. We have seen the mighty fall after years of denials; there are probably more such cases to come.

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