SPORTS

The steroid scandal

A drug inquiry hears dramatic evidence

DAN BURKE February 20 1989
SPORTS

The steroid scandal

A drug inquiry hears dramatic evidence

DAN BURKE February 20 1989

The steroid scandal

SPORTS

A drug inquiry hears dramatic evidence

They are among the world’s strongest men. But as competitors in a sport notorious for its use of banned drugs, the members of Canada’s national weightlifting team had a tragic weakness for muscle-building anabolic steroids. A former Canadian Olympic team trainer described last week how he was fired before last year’s Summer Olympics in Seoul, for complaining about steroid use among Canadian weight lifters—three of whom were disqualified only weeks before the Seoul Games began. That was only one of the dramatic revelations made during public hearings in Montreal by the federally appointed Dubin inquiry, which was set up to investigate drug use in amateur sports after tests in Seoul last September showed that Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson’s urine contained evidence of steroid use. Testified Pierre Roy, the fired coach: “Competition is like war. We ended up using the means we felt justified to win the war.”

Those means clearly disturbed Mr. Justice Charles Dubin, the Ontario Supreme Court judge who is chairing the inquiry. For the most

part, Dubin, 67, has presided over the hearings with a sympathetic hand. But he rebuked one witness, Louis Payer, 25, of Montreal, who said that he had to take steroids to maintain his position in world weightlifting rankings and to remain eligible for a monthly Sports Canada allowance of $450. Said Dubin: “You are taking

the money taxpayers give _

you to buy drugs.”

Despite Payer’s admitted use of steroids—drugs that enhance muscle development through a synthetic version of the male hormone testosterone—he failed to make the Olympic team and subsequently retired from competition, a move that may have spared him from the ignominy suffered by such former teammates as Jacques Demers of St-Hubert, Que., and Richard Bolduc of Montreal. Demers stunned the inquiry by disclosing that he

had the urine of another person—who had not used steroids—injected into his bladder through a catheter in his penis in an effort to pass a drug test only four days before his scheduled departure for Seoul. Said Dubin of the urine swap: “I practically fainted when I heard about it.”

But according to Denis Garon, who placed sixth overall in the 100-kg category at the Seoul Olympics, his former teammate’s steroid use should never have been detected. While on the witness stand, Garon produced a bottle containing 10 so-called masking capsules, which he said are used to temporarily hide steroid traces in a user’s urine. Garon, who also used steroids, explained that he took the pills to pass his pre-Seoul test.

Garon told the inquiry that the Czechoslovakian national team coach, Emil Brzoska, who ran training camps for the Canadian team in Czechoslovakia, provided the pills. Several witnesses testified that the five-week training camps were arranged so that Canadian team members could use steroids without submitting to weekly random drug tests by the Canadian Weightlifting Association.

Roy testified that he complained to Canadian team coach Andrzej Kulesza last spring. Roy added that the Canadian weight lifters’ performances were improving abnormally as a result of training in Czechoslovakia, making it obvious that the athletes were using drugs. “Performance improvements of 10 per cent in five weeks are impossible,” Roy said. “One guy might do it, but not four or five.” Roy said Kulesza denied his athletes were using steroids and terminated Roy’s contract on July 2.

Later this month, the inquiry is scheduled to move to Toronto for testimony from track-andfield athletes. Johnson, who lost his gold medal for the 100-m event in Seoul after he tested positive for steroids, is expected to testify. In the meantime, the evidence of widespread steroid use among Canada’s weight lifters appeared to have put Kulesza’s future as a coach in doubt. As witnesses testified that he was aware all along of his athletes’ steroid use, Kulesza at one point told Maclean’s, “What they are saying about me is lies.” However, on the witness stand, Kulesza admitted that he learned on four occasions since 1983 that some athletes were on steroids. He also said that he had been in a Vancouver hotel room when a

_ plan to inject weight lifters

with clean urine was raised. But he denied knowing that his athletes had gone through with it. Said Kulesza: “I disapproved. Somebody mentioned a catheter and I thought,‘This is crazy,’ and I left the room.” Still, Kulesza said that he has no desire to continue coaching because the testimony against him was too painful. “It is time to retire,” said Kulesza, whose career has become another victim of the steroid scandal.

DAN BURKE