Porter tough on sport drugs (but pink elephants are OK)
By JIM KERNAGHAN -- Free Press Sports Columnist
SYDNEY -- Singles-sculling medal threat Derek Porter is pretty blunt about the use of performance-enhancing substances at the Olympics.
"I'm sure if they catch one, two get through the net," he said Thursday.
Porter, a gold-medal winner in eights at Barcelona in 1992 and a silver medallist in the single sculls at Atlanta in 1996, knows there are cheaters but doesn't think rowing is as rife with illegal substances as other sports.
"It's not too pervasive," the Victoria, B.C., chiropractor said. "There are cases, obviously -- one from Belarus and the Chinese.
"But I think they were isolated cases."
No rower has ever tested positive at an Olympics or a world championship, although Canada's Silken Laumann was punished for the inadvertent use of a cold medicine containing a banned stimulant at the 1995 Pan American Games.
Porter's own boost is a mild one. He has a pink elephant.
"I keep it in my tool kit and it's never far away," he said of the tiny plastic toy.
"A young Czech woman working at the venue for the 1993 worlds gave it to me as a good-luck charm and I've had it in my kit since."
The 32-year-old Porter says he's sculling better than he was a year ago and proved it in July during a terrific duel with New Zealand's Rob Waddell at the World Cup regatta in Lucerne.
Waddell won in six minutes, 53.13 seconds. Porter, the bronze medallist at the world championships in St. Catharines last year, was just 1.02 seconds behind at Lucerne.
Waddell, known as The Machine in rowing circles, and Xeno Mueller of Switzerland are almost certain to hook up in the final next week.
"It'll be a tough three-way battle," Porter said. "We haven't lined up together this year yet."
The rowing draw is tonight and it can have a huge impact on placements in the final.
Everyone wants to win their heat and advance to the final on a preferred inner lane. If the water gets choppy, outside rowers are at a distinct disadvantage.
"I just want to go out to win my heat and go for the best lane," Porter said.
He still doesn't speak to men's head coach Diethelm Maxrath, with whom he had a celebrated blowup last year.
"I wish him well," Porter said.