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Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Drug tests: Hurtful hypocrisy

  "The drug testers have a vested interest. They want to pick out sacrificial lambs and screw them while everyone else walks free -- even though they're all dirty."

 -- Charlie Francis, in a recent interview with Testosterone Magazine

 SYDNEY -- In what should have been the week of her life, the great Marion Jones has been found guilty by association.

 No matter how fast she runs, no matter how many medals she wins, she cannot outrun the suspicion and accusations. The questions will linger, the way they always do amid the hypocrisy that is track and field.

 Is she or isn't she? Odds are, we'll never know.

 And it's getting to the point where you have to wonder whether it's even worth caring anymore.

 What we do know is that her husband, shot putter C.J. Hunter, has been caught with enough testosterone in his system to to keep all of Fort Lauderdale satisfied during spring break.

 He cheated -- but did she? And how could she not have been aware of what her husband was doing. Can't you just see them in the morning, over breakfast? "Honey, pass the nandrolone?"

 Supposedly, C.J. Hunter missed the Olympic Games with a knee injury. That was the story being peddled by the holier-than-thou -- "our athletes don't take drugs" -- United States Track and Field Association. The association knew of the positive drug test but said nothing about it because, first and foremost, they're in the business of not getting sued. What those great civil libertarians from the track world will tell you is they are protecting the rights of the athletes.

 And they are, as Charlie Francis, the one-time coach of Ben Johnson, insists, protecting their phony baloney jobs, not to mention their backsides.

 The three rules of doping in sport have not changed over the years. They remain, deny, deny, deny. And, if all that fails, litigate.

 No doubt, when Marion Jones is asked about the use of performance enhancing drugs -- and she will be asked over and over -- she will say what they all say: They are clean; they have been tested time and again; they support drug-free sport.

 "No one is tested more often than American athletes," said Craig Masback, the CEO of American track.

 Funny, Charlie Francis used to say exactly the same thing about Ben Johnson. No one was tested more. Back then, being caught was a shock.

 It is not a shock to find out that anyone in track and field, any of the hundreds of competitors at the Olympics, is juicing. Just as it's not a shock to see a track and field couple where the male shot putter has the big breasts and the female runner has the better moustache.

 The mantra is you have to compete -- no matter what it takes. So, why all the righteous indignation? Especially from North Americans, who don't get track and field anyhow and don't really care to?

 You can take performance enhancing drugs if you play in the NBA or the NHL or Major League Baseball. They don't test for it. They don't want to. Anytime the subject is even discussed with the players unions, all talk stops immediately.

 Mark McGwire broke Babe Ruth's home run record while taking androstendione. He was considered a hero for it.

 Why vilify C.J. Hunter for getting caught? Why care whether Marion Jones is clean or not if she's the fastest runner in the world, maybe the greatest female athlete of modern times?

 Why the hypocrisy of applauding professionals from team sports while denigrating professionals from track who mysteriously call themselves amateurs?

 To compete at the world level in track and field you need a break of some kind. Ben Johnson and the Dubin Inquiry taught us that much. The levels of contradiction that encompass the track world are vast and widespread.

 The number of drug tests covered up over the years is proof enough of that. There is even a suspicion of coverups here, although considering the way these Games have gone, that seems unlikely.

 As Charlie Francis says, it's a lot of vigilant talk but not much action. "If they cleaned it up," said Francis, "they'd be out of work. And they're making a lot of money."