Figure Skating and Steroids – The ISU Needs Tougher Sanctions

Banned substances keep finding their way into the bodies of top-level athletes whether through accidental ingestion or on-purpose injection.

The ISU released their Anti-Doping Procedures for this season. I don’t believe their sanctions are strict enough.

Major League Baseball bans a two-time offender while under the ISU, a second infraction might garner a four-year suspension. Might. It’s not until the third violation when a skater might face a lifetime ban.

The two-year sanction can also be decreased. If all tests return positive or the skater admits to use and they can explain how the drugs entered their body, the otherwise two-year ban on a first offence is reduced to just 18-months.

In 2007, Russian pair skater, Yuri Larionov tested positive for Furosemide, a masking agent in out-of-competition testing. He waived his right to have his B-sample tested. Larionov explained that before the doping test, he experienced a headache. His father gave Larionov a medication called Lasix, generically known as Furosemide. As a result of the explanation, he received an 18-month ban.

Furosemide (Lasix) is a banned diuretic since it forces the body to produce more urine.

The most recent case involved an ice dancer from the Ukraine. Anastasia Galyeta tested positive for Furosemide after the 2011 ISU Grand Prix Final in Quebec City, Montreal, Canada. Galyeta She received an 18-month ban from competition.

Galyeta stated her face was swollen from the large amount of water she drank because she had a cold and sore throat. She consulted her pharmacist about the swelling, who told her to take Furosemide and told her it wasn’t a “doping substance.”

Inadvertent or not, I believe the two-year ban should stand.  I’m not saying every athlete who tests positive is trying to cheat. Maybe they legitimately have a cold, a headache, a sore muscle or worse. However, a positive is a positive. Unless the B-sample clears the skater, there shouldn’t be an exception.Marina steriods

In 1991, World champion ice dancer Marina Klimova faced a two-year ban after a test revealed an elevated testosterone/epitestosterone ratio. Klimova’s B-sample was re-tested, which showed no elevation. After she was cleared, she and partner Sergei Ponomarenko went on to win the 1992 Olympics in Albertville.

This case changed how the ISU tested for banned substances. The lab they used for the A-sample – located in Sofia, Bulgaria – was not accredited.

Warning athletes about side-effects is the same as plastering cigarette packages with grotesque photos. They usually don’t work. If an athlete isn’t worried about out-of-competition drug testing in two weeks, they aren’t going to concern themselves with liver damage, erectile dysfunction, kidney failure, and cardiovascular disease in ten years.

Besides the possibility of winning, a cheating athlete has little to gain by doping. Endorsements ride on one urine test, as does public admiration.

Doping isn’t hard to figure out from a physical stand-point, however, it can be difficult to prove in a lab. Just because a cheating athlete passed a drug test during competition doesn’t mean they are clean.

At the Olympics, urine samples are kept for 10 years for a reason. As time goes on, more medals are stripped because an athlete didn’t think ahead.

But gone are the days of strychnine and brandy – enter CERA, Hematide, and gene doping.

Some in certain camps believe since doping is out of control it should be allowed in sports. We should wave the tainted white flag.

This would be irresponsible. In the last week, three Olympic medallists tested positive for banned substances: Tyson Gay, Sherone Simpson, and Asafa Powell.

If we stop testing, the message to cheating athletes would be “You win, and we won’t chase you.”

At least we can say, “We are trying. And we will catch you.”
[Originally published on the Edmonton Journal website]

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