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Tuesday, September 12, 2000
Canadian athletes tested extensively

By SHI DAVIDI -- Canadian Press

 About three-quarters of Canada's 309 Olympians were tested for drugs by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports prior to their arrival in Sydney.

 While that may seem lax compared with the 100 per cent screening policies announced by Britain, France and Australia, CCES head Victor Lachance said Tuesday that those countries are setting themselves up for failure.

 "No amount of screening is going to guarantee that there won't be an infraction at the Games," Lachance said emphatically. "It's like saying that because you set up a fire department in your neighbourhood, that's a guarantee your house isn't going to burn down."

 Athletes can take a stimulant after the test, Lachance said, or they might inadvertently use a banned medicine, like Canadian rower Silken Laumann did at the 1995 Pan American Games when she used an over-the-counter cold medication.

 The most effective means of testing, he argues, is random, no-notice, year-round testing.

 "The only way to prevent doping is to test year-round," said Lachance. "The best deterrent is not at the Games, the best deterrent is year-round unannounced testing. We know this."

 About 80 per cent of the centre's tests are conducted without prior notice.

 "If dopers know, then they'll manage that like they manage everything else," said Lachance. "(If you test only) before the Games, athletes might eliminate their use then, but you won't eliminate it beforehand."

 And to prevent that from happening, Canadian athletes face more testing than ever.

 The centre conducts about 2000 tests annually. This year, 100 more were done in the six months prior to the Olympics.

 Athletes are chosen randomly from a pool, with athletes in high-risk sports more likely to be tested than athletes in medium- or low-risk sports.

 Track and field, swimming and weightlifting are considered high-risk Olympic sports because those athletes have more to gain by using performance-enhancing drugs than, say, a table tennis player.

 The end result means between 80 and 90 per cent of athletes in those three high-risk sports will get tested, compared with 30 to 50 per cent of the fencing team.

 The testing doesn't end there.

 The world anti-doping agency, which opened in March and began testing in June, will conduct 2,000 tests worldwide this year. Lachance estimates about 200 Canadians will be included in that number.

 Then there are the international bodies of the various sports which also test as part of their anti-doping measures. These would include the International Amateur Athletic Federation (track and field) and FINA, the swimming body.

 On top of that, there are tests conducted by the International Olympic Committee itself, which expanded its anti-doping measures this year.

 Normally, the IOC conducts 1,000 tests during the Olympics. But this year, it did 400 pre-Olympic tests and will do up to 1,500 during the Games.

 Despite all the anti-doping measures, Lachance admits that glory and money still tempt some athletes to cheat. But he feels the system Canada has in place is an effective one.

 "Canada is recognized as having one of, if not the best, program because it has the most independent elements from beginning to end.

 "The program is independent right from the selection of the athlete (for testing) to what is and isn't a doping infraction and the protection of athletes' rights through appeals. And that is better than any other country."
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