By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
SYDNEY -- Members of the Canadian track and field team are exasperated and annoyed with the drug-testing procedures at the Olympic Games.
Some even feel they are being harassed by overzealous drug testers.
Sprint star Donovan Bailey, for instance, was roused from a deep sleep shortly after an exhausting 30-hour flight to Australia last week and forced to yield a urine sample.
"He was peeved off and I don't blame him," Brent McFarlane, the team's head coach, said yesterday. "I asked (the testers) if they could wait until tomorrow, because he was so tired. But they wouldn't."
McFarlane said the testers should have asked the defending Olympic 100-metre champion to give a sample when he arrived at Brisbane airport, which is normal procedure at many major events. Instead, they waited until he had gone to sleep.
The Canadian track team arrived at Runaway Bay, near Brisbane on Australia's Gold Coast, in three waves over the course of a couple of weeks. When the first group touched down just under a month ago, the testers were waiting for them when they walked into their residence. Welcome to Australia. Drop your pants.
"They told us they wanted to test 15 athletes right away, and we only had 21 with us," McFarlane said. "We were just trying to settle in and get our bearings, so I asked if we could do this tomorrow. On that occasion, they said okay."
When the second group arrived about a week later, McFarlane had scheduled a team meeting, a team picture and a media conference for that morning. The drug testers, however, wanted urine samples immediately. McFarlane asked if they could do it in the afternoon, but the testers refused, taking urine samples from the athletes between photos and interviews.
Some Canadian athletes have been tested three times since arriving in Australia, and McFarlane said most also were tested before leaving home. Unlike most of the other athletes competing here, Canadian athletes are subjected to testing by three anti-doping bodies -- the World Anti-Doping Agency, which essentially is run by the International Olympic Committee, the Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which has a testing agreement with the Australian body.
That's a lot of requests for pee.
"The problem is, everybody seems to be going crazy with testing right now," McFarlane said.
Sydney Olympic authorities have warned athletes they will be subject to tests any time during the Games, not just after their events. Still, many observers feel the testing is a sham, even though the IOC recently claimed another victory in the war against drug use, namely the implementation of testing for the hormone EPO, which previously had been undetectable. But news last week that organizers would be using a test that detects EPO use only within a couple of days sent rage through the "clean" sports community.
"They might as well throw the EPO tests out the window because, basically, if anyone had taken it, it would have been weeks ago, in training, not days ago," said Mark Block, an agent for both Bailey and fellow Canadian sprinter Bruny Surin. "So the sophisticated cheaters are not getting caught."
There still is no test for human-growth hormone, which provides benefits for athletes in all strength sports, and has athletes and officials deriding announcements by the IOC that it is winning the war against doping.