Friday, August 1, 2008

Dope Days of Summer

Ahh, the doping news continues. A big group of top-level Russian track-and-field athletes were just banned from the Olympics (and other elite competitions) for apparently substituting other people's urine for their own samples. Interesting, but not surprising, given the history of Russian athletics. A recent New York Times article on the reconstruction of Russia's athletics infrastructure and organizations didn't mention the heritage of doping.

The big bust of Russians occurs, of course, just a few weeks after an otherwise-exciting Tour de France was marred again by dopers. Italian climber Riccardo Riccò - an avowed fan of the late, disgraced climber Marco Pantani - was the biggest name caught in the doping controls, right after a seemingly - then actually - unbelievable attack and stage win in the Pyrennees. He and others on his Saunier Duval team were caught after the World Anti-Doping Agency found them to be using a sophisticated new form of EPO. The new drug's maker may or may not have helped WADA devise a test for the drug, which Ricco thought was undetectable but has now admitted taking. Good on you, Riccardo. Way to be a man. I mean, you're as small as an elf, but way to be a good elf-man.

But enough about dryland sports! What about skiing? Happily, there's been only one drug bust lately, of a decidedly comic sort. According to no less a source than Swedish skier Anders Soedergren, the French sprinter Roddy Darragon - who won a surprising silver medal at the Torino games - was caught with good old marijuana in his luggage when he tried to enter Norway to attend the summertime "Blink" ski festival last month. (original Swedish-language blog post - English translation here)

To which I say, "Come on, Norway! Your cuisine gives everybody else nausea - are you gonna fault a guy for trying to keep his stomach calm before a big rollerski race?"