SPORTS

Saying no to the IOC

Tough drug-testing proposals get watered down

JOHN NICOL February 15 1999
SPORTS

Saying no to the IOC

Tough drug-testing proposals get watered down

JOHN NICOL February 15 1999

Saying no to the IOC

SPORTS

Tough drug-testing proposals get watered down

Kayaker Renn Crichlow paddled in three Olympics for Canada, but he never made it to an Olympic podium until last week in Switzerland. There were no medals to be won—Crichlow was instead representing Canadian athletes at the International Olympic Committee’s World Conference on Doping in Lausanne. But the 29-year-old from Nepean, Ont., now in his final year at Harvard medical school, nevertheless won the attention of the 600 athletes, politicians and IOC members who gathered in the wood-panelled Beaulieu convention hall, including the man presiding over the head table, IOC boss Juan Antonio Samaranch. Articulate and impassioned, Crichlow argued that the Salt Lake City bribery scandal had stripped the IOC of the moral authority needed to administer a proposed international doping commission. If the IOC goes ahead with a plan that doesn’t address athletes’ concerns, he added, “the cynicism, the skepticism and the mistrust will grow.” Those comments drew rousing applause from athletes and many other delegates—few others had spoken so plainly in front of Samaranch. “Maybe the people involved are used to the political arena,” Crichlow told Maclean’s. “In my nâiveté and my honesty, I sort of broke the rules.”

It was a grim week for Samaranch. The long-planned doping conference was convened in hopes of getting the world’s sports federations to agree to establish a new antidrug agency with standardized testing procedures and a minimum two-year ban for athletes caught using performance-enhancing drugs. By the conference’s end, however, delegates only agreed to a watereddown proposal because the powerful soccer and cycling lobbies refused to accept twoyear bans. That, in turn, caused Canada and most European nations to withhold their support. As well, several non-IOC delegates to the conference questioned the IOC’s bid to control the new agency, saying it should be run independently of any sport bodies.

Samaranch’s position was further undercut by the latest revelations in the votesfor-favours scandal: last week, a Japanese newspaper revealed that Sapporo gave four IOC members $3,000 each in its bid to host the 1968 Winter Games.

Bristling at the suggestion that they were unworthy of running a doping agency, both Samaranch and IOC vice-president Richard Pound shot back at American critics. It was U.S. authorities, they pointed out, who last year excused sprinter Dennis Mitchell’s positive drug test by blaming high testosterone levels on an excessive amount of sex and beer the night before the test. And Pound questioned how a country that adored baseball slugger Mark McGwire, who openly used the steroid androstenedione on his way to a record 70-home-run season, could suddenly be so holier-thanthou. The further away Americans are from the Olympic movement, Pound said, the

less they care about doping in sports. “All of a sudden you are in Mark McGwireland,” he added, “and this is a national hero, all souped up.”

Pound, a Montreal tax lawyer who headed the IOC’s in-house investigation into the Salt Lake bid, was himself the target of critics who suggested that all senior Olympic members should step down in the wake of the scandal. “It’s impossible for the IOC to bring about the necessary reforms without a whole new leadership,” said Norman Seagram, a member of Toronto’s bid committee for the 1996 Summer Games. He added: “The arrogance of Mr. Samaranch proposing that his new doping committee report to him—they don’t get it.”

To date, 13 IOC members have been implicated in the Salt Lake scandal. Four have already stepped down, five have been asked for their resignations and four others are still under investigation. The inquiry into other bids, which may turn up many more incidents of wrongdoing, will be conducted by the IOC’s newly formed ethics panel composed mainly of outside legal authorities, Pound says.

There is no shortage of allegations. A volunteer on the Falun, Sweden, committee bidding for the 1992 Winter Games accused an IOC member of sexually assaulting one of the committee’s hostesses and demanding sex from two other hostesses in exchange for his vote. Another IOC member allegedly tried to extort $20,000 from the Manchester, England, bid committee for the 1996

Games by fraudulently claiming

his wife’s jewelry had been stolen from their hotel room and demanding compensation. When contacted by Maclean’s last week, the alleged offenders in both cases denied any wrongdoing and claimed no one ever investigated the charges. IOC officials say there were no investigations because neither the Manchester nor Falun bid committees named names.

Back in Lausanne, Crichlow hoped his strong comments helped promote a truly independent drug agency for sports. ‘Whether anything will be done about it,” he said, “at least it’s on the record.” As for the IOC, he said he hopes the reform prompted by the scandal will someday reignite the Olympic torch, the one that stands for the highest ideals. In a week in which critics turned up the heat on the IOC leadership, the kayaker was not paddling alone.

JOHN NICOL