p news back
Drugs policy up in smoke
date: 15-May-2005
editorial comment editorial comment
One more example of what paraphernalia talked about elsewhere. Recreational drug takings is a "bad" thing; cheating to WIN is fine........

While Mark Lewis-Francis has lost a silver medal after traces of cannabis were found in his urine, blatant cheating over samples is left unpunished.

SOMETIMES you’ve got to laugh at the lengths to which sportsmen go to plead their innocence. Yes, we are talking drugs again — and before you turn away, listen to the latest. For over the past few days the Birmingham sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis and the American football player Onterrio Smith have been in a bit of bother.
Lewis-Francis you will remember from his anchor run when the Great Britain 4x100m team sensationally won the gold medal at the Athens Olympics. A hero then, his recent fall from grace came about because of a failed drug test at the European Indoor Championships earlier this year. Lewis-Francis tested positive for cannabis, a recreational drug with no performance-enhancing qualities for the sprinter.

Quite why cannabis is on the banned list is anybody’s guess. My own is that it reflects the sport’s determination to present the right image to its sponsors and public. Image is one thing, reality another. Has sport proved its commitment to seriously combat those who use performance-enhancing drugs to cheat? Very definitely not.

Instead, we are left with this pantomime in which Lewis-Francis must hand back the silver medal he won in the 60m at those European Championships in Madrid in March and tell us how the dastardly traces of cannabis found their way into his urine. His explanation was that he must have been in the company of somebody smoking a joint, because he himself has never inhaled the dreaded weed.

Someone from UK Athletics spoke piously about the need for athletes to be very mindful of the company they keep. Well, these days you never know who’s going to blow a positive drug test down your throat. You’ve just got to laugh, haven’t you? Though Onterrio Smith’s story is funnier, it is also much more serious. Smith plays with the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL and was minding his own business going through a security check at an airport when a snoopy official went through his belongings. Inside was a device called The Whizzinator.

You couldn’t make this up. The Whiz, as it is known among those wishing to cheat drug testers, is a fake penis that comes in a choice of five different colours and when it is strapped on looks like the real thing. It even comes with urine dust which, when mixed with water, allows the wearer to provide a proper sample of fake urine.

“Hey, Onterrio,” they said, “what’s this?”

“Oh,” he replied, “that’s for my cousin.” Perhaps a gift to mark the birth of the cousin’s first-born son, maybe a little something to help the cousin impress his girlfriend. Some NFL officials said they would be looking into the case but the strong suggestion was that Smith would be cleared. So he had it in his possession, what does that prove?

In the shops where you can buy The Whiz, they also sell Ready Clean, which is advertised as a pretty darned good masking agent. It costs $30 and, according to the manufacturers, it enables the user to pee pure urine. Do not doubt that there are athletes using this stuff and getting away with all kinds of cheating.

One of the scientists testing athletes’ urine at the Tour de France five years ago said he could find nothing because the samples were like those you might expect from a new-born baby. That is, as pure as a mountain stream. From men in the middle of a 2,000-mile race on bikes, that’s some achievement.

We are entitled to laugh at grown men strapping on The Whiz or, slightly more dignified, producing the waste of the new-born child but there is, too, a serious side to all this. How can it be that we take a medal away from a young man with traces of a recreational drug that can’t affect his athletic performance, while serious cheating goes on, relatively unchecked? We can laugh all we wish but, actually, it isn’t that funny.

back | to top | full article >>

search p news

p thoughts and notices
Black & White Black & White

p library

p links
p books


p forum
p liberty what is paraphernalia? | legal disclaimer | privacy policy | contact | site map