First 2008 Paralympic Games Doping Scandal
Just when I was getting ready to start my write-up of doping scandals at the Beijing Olympics, along comes a new one, this time involving a Pakistani powerlifter with the unfortunate surname Butt at the Paralympic Games. Butt tested positive for metabolites of the steroid methandienone, according to Agence France Presse, two days before the opening ceremonies.
“In accordance with the IPC anti-doping code, and after a hearing of the IPC anti-doping committee, the IPC ratified the decision to disqualify Butt,” the [International Paralympic Committee] said in a statement, adding that a two-year ban had been imposed.
IPC medical and scientific director Peter Van de Vliet told reporters that despite the disappointment of a positive test, the incident highlighted the committee’s efforts to run a fair Games.
No mention is made in the AFP article, published on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website, of whether or not IPC rules require a B sample to confirm the initial results, or whether Butt admitted to using the steroid. Meanwhile, other athletes are having success at Beijing’s Paralympic Games. Oscar Pistorius has already won a gold medal in the 100-meter sprint.
And the United Kingdom is doing well in the overall medal count, leading all other countries (according to the AFP story, that is).
Canadian Jeff Adams will be racing the 1500-meter wheelchair events, as I mentioned in the previous post. Jeff sent me an email shortly after I published my last article, giving me the times when the heats of the 1500 will be run, and when you can watch them. Here are the dates and times:
Sep-14Â Â 19:02 Â 20:02Â Â 20:32Â Â MÂ Â T53/54Â Â 1,500 Quarter 1
Sep-14 Â 19:09Â Â 20:09Â Â 20:39Â Â M Â T53/54Â Â 1,500 Quarter 2
Sep-14Â Â 19:22 Â 20:22Â Â 20:52Â Â MÂ Â T53/54 Â 1,500 Quarter 3
Sep-14Â Â 19:29 Â 20:29Â Â 20:59Â Â MÂ Â T53/54 Â 1,500 Quarter 4
Sep-14Â Â 19:42Â Â 20:42Â Â 21:12Â Â MÂ Â T53/54 Â 1,500 Quarter 5
Sep-15Â Â 7:53 Â 8:53 Â 9:23Â Â MÂ Â T54Â Â 1,500 Semi 1
Sep-15Â Â 8:00Â Â 9:00Â Â 9:30Â Â MÂ Â T54 Â 1,500 Semi 2
Sep-15Â Â 8:07Â Â 9:07Â Â 9:37Â Â MÂ Â T54Â Â 1,500 Semi 3
Sep-16Â Â 19:40Â Â 20:40 Â 21:10Â Â MÂ Â T53/54Â Â 1,500 Final
Sep-16Â Â 21:40Â Â MÂ Â T53/54Â Â 1,500 Â Victory Ceremony
I’m not sure what time zone these times are for, but my hunch is that these are the times in Beijing. I could be wrong on that, and the ParalympicSport.tv web site is not much help in showing the schedule of events. Still, it’s worth taking a look. And by Friday, perhaps I’ll have figured out the timing better.
Update: After doing a bit of checking, I’m pretty sure these times the local time in Beijing. Where multiple times are listed (like the quarter finals), my guess is the earliest time listed is the time in Beijing. For those who live in Europe (except the British Isles), subtract 6 hours from the times listed above to get your local time. For the UK and Ireland, subtract 7 hours. If you live in the Eastern time zone of North America, subtract 12 hours. Central time, minus 13. Mountain time, minus 14, and Pacific time, minus 15.
Lance Launches A Comeback
When I saw the articles surfacing yesterday on VeloNews and other places suggesting that Lance Armstrong would take up professional cycling again, I was a tad bit skeptical. Rumor had it that an exclusive interview, to be published in Vanity Fair, would give all the gory details. I couldn’t imagine why Lance would want to get back into the game. It’s a gutsy move. He has almost nothing to gain and much to lose by taking up the bike again. I thought, this has to be wishful thinking on someone’s part.
And then, this afternoon, I had a few free moments to click on over to Vanity Fair’s web site, and sure enough, the article — an interview with journalist/historian/literary executor of Hunter S Thompson’s estate, Douglas Brinkley (no relation to TV journalist David Brinkley) — was right there, just begging to be read. And so I did.
Armstrong is going all in, and he’s sparing no expense, including purchasing a house in downtown Aspen (I’m jealous, if I could afford to live in the Aspen area, I would move there in a heartbeat), so he can train at altitude. That’s some altitude he’s been training at. Aspen lies at almost 8000 feet above sea level. Roughly as high as a number of the passes and mountain-top finishes in the Tour. By the time he does his runs up Independence Pass, he’ll be at 12,000 feet, give or take a few. Way higher than he’ll ever have to go next summer. Assuming he has a team. No confirmation that Astana will be his team, yet. But let’s just say it wouldn’t surprise me any if that turns out to be the case.
And it sounds, by Brinkley’s description, that Armstrong has quite the workout routine going already. We’ll see if he can pull it off. Of any athlete out there, Lance Armstrong is definitely someone I wouldn’t bet against. But at the same time, there are risks to making this comeback. First, what if he doesn’t do as well as before? No doubt certain tongues will be wagging, saying that it’s proof he was doping all along. It wouldn’t be proof of any such thing, but that wouldn’t stop some from suggesting otherwise.
At the same time, he’s saying he’ll make all his test results public. Well, that’s a bold move. And, even if the results show he’s racing clean in 2009, by the same token, they won’t prove anything about his previous years of competition. Some will take it as proof he’s been clean all along, and others will say, “well, yeah, this year he is, but back in the day …”
The biggest risk of all is the one thing that no athlete wants to hear. The words “you tested positive for … ” For many, if such a scenario befalls Armstrong, it will serve as proof that he was doping all along. And, with the way the anti-doping system works, and the way the mainstream media would glom on to the story, Armstrong’s reputation would be completely decimated should that occur.
So the safe move would be to keep doing cancer advocacy. But that’s not what Lance is doing. He’s going to use the upcoming season (racing without pay, even) to draw attention to the need for more cancer research and treatment programs.
As Doug Ulman, the head of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, said in an email to the foundation’s donors and supporters:
So, once again, Lance is changing the game. Today, it’s still not about the bike. It’s about people, their families and friends fighting the greatest fight of their lives â€“ both in the U.S. and around the world. It’s about straight and open talk about cancer, breaking the silence and eliminating the stigma and discrimination survivors experience. It’s about a moral obligation to fight this disease no matter who or where it strikes with everything we’ve got.
Best of luck to Lance Armstrong. He’s certainly taking on a big challenge. I hope his re-entry into cycling goes better than certain other athletes who just didn’t know when to quit.
A couple of days ago, The New York Times ran an article about funding for paralympic athletes in the US. Turns out, American paralympians don’t get nearly the financial support that athletes in Canada, the UK and other countries do. As writer Alan Schwarz notes;
The U.S.O.C. contends that equitable support to Paralympic athletes is unrealistic because the agency receives almost no government assistance, and Paralympic success does not generate enough increased revenue.
Darryl Seibel, the U.S.O.C.’s chief communications officer, also emphasized that the agency’s support for Paralympic athletes has grown markedly: to $11.4 million this year from $3 million in 2004, in contrast with a relatively modest bump in Olympic funding.
“I see $3 million going up to $11 million and say that’s not too bad — that’s a good direction,” Seibel said. “We care more about the Paralympics than we ever have before.”
He added, “We’re much closer to the beginning of our support and involvement in the Paralympic movement than we are to being a finished product.”
At least one coach has jumped ship and started working elsewhere because of his frustrations with the current level of support for American paralympic athletes, according to the article.
One prominent American coach did switch affiliations — Peter Eriksson, now a consultant for Canada’s Paralympic track and field program, said he resigned as coach of the United States Paralympic track and field team two years ago because, “I couldn’t do my job,” he said.
“In the United States, the athletes are as determined, but they can’t access the services they need to compete at the elite level,” Eriksson said. “A lot of their athletes never developed out of the gate. They had humungous potential, and it just evaporated.”
And others note that the decrease in the performance of US athletes at the Paralympic Games is a result of the lower level of support those athletes receive from the USOC.
Liz Nicholl, Britain’s director of elite sport, said that the manner in which the United States supported its disabled athletes was a top cause of the decrease [in American results at the Paralympic Games]. “I would say that this a nation that is choosing to underperform,” she said.
The British wheelchair racing champion David Weir said competitions were marred by the United States’s approach. “It’s the sort of thing you’d expect from a third-world country in Africa — I think it’s quite disgusting, actually,” Weir said. “They’ve got talented athletes coming from there that could bring back medals from Beijing and London, and it looks like they don’t really care.”
Take the time to read the whole article. And for that matter, check out The New York Times website for coverage of the Beijing Paralympic Games. Kudos to them for giving more than a cursory mention in the sports pages.