By JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press
The forces of righteousness are winning the day, says new drug deputy Frank Shorter.
The bad guys (and gals) fuelled by pharmaceutical assists will be leaving town soon. Can't help it. There are new guns in town.
Shorter, who will be forever known as Shorter In The Long Run, is a former gold medal-winning miler now chairing the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Shorter piggy-backed a news conference confirming details of a probe into American track and field drug testing with his own message.
That message is that the days of the artificially hyped athlete are over, the USADA chief said.
"Drug tests are beating the maskers," he said. "The time of the clean athlete worrying about the guy next to him (being) on something has become reversed.
"(Before) you'd have that concern about somebody getting an edge due to some (performance-enhancing drug). Now that concern is by the athlete who is using something.
"It's important at that level that any little thing, any little concern, can be the difference. Now, the concern is with the person on something."
All told, more than 50 athletes have been caught in the Olympic drug net. Eight have been nailed in Sydney, up about 400 per cent from the last Olympics, the rest by their national associations before coming.
Indications are that in this murky business, athletes are not using chemical assists more than ever, but that more are being caught.
This is music to the ears of Shorter, who sees the problem in a larger context. It isn't just the elite athletes, it's young people who ingest stuff like steroids as an easy way to get muscles.
"I agree with Dick Pound (Canadian vice-president of the International Olympics Committee)," Shorter said. "If you have it in your body, you must be disqualified. Dick was totally right. If it wasn't for him, EPO (endurance-enhancing agent) tests wouldn't be in."
No fool, Shorter turned up where a crowd of influential media gathered to hear details of an independent probe into allegations the U.S. Track and Field Association is systematically suppressing positive results of drug tests involving its athletes.
University of Western Ontario law professor Richard McLaren chairs the investigating committee and said his group will spend at least 90 days on the half-million-dollar study and is operating completely at arm's-length from the USTFA.
The study, he said, will take in the period of Jan. 1, 1999 until the present, but could reach further back if the investigation leads there. The 90 days could stretch longer.
"We intend to speak to anyone and everyone who can provide us with information," McLaren said.
The track body, one of the oldest and strongest sports organizations in the U.S., has been accused by the International Amateur Athletics Federation of hiding results of positive drug tests by its athletes.
USTFA boss Craig Masback has consistently countered that due process and confidentiality restrictions under association rules and U.S. law relating to positive test results are the reasons for the silence so troubling to the media and public.
He promised to provide the committee with complete documentation and assistance in any other way.
The guessing is the investigating committee, whatever else it determines, will recommend a change in the track association's rules to require that those testing positive for steroids, etc. be identified once they get to the appeal process.
Shorter, meantime, was there to tell the world drug cheats beware and that he has President Bill Clinton's government money behind him.
He said the testers are catching up to those who try to mask drug use and that storage of samples could one day mean medals could be retrieved when future breakthroughs indicate illegal drug use.