Copyright 2000 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
July 23, 2000, Sunday, FIVE STAR LIFT EDITION
SECTION: NEWS, Pg. A11
LENGTH: 753 words
HEADLINE: CHEATERS KNOW HOW TO THWART DOPING TESTS, EXPERTS SAY; THOSE WHO GET CAUGHT ARE "CARELESS OR STUPID PEOPLE"; DODGES HAVE GROWN SOPHISTICATED
BYLINE: Andrew A. Skolnick; Special To The Post-DispatchDRUG ABUSE; OLYMPIC ATHLETES; PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES; OUTSMARTING TESTS; MASKING USAGE
BODY: As the science of drug testing becomes more sophisticated, so does the cheating.
doper's method of not getting caught may be as crude as substituting
"clean" urine for his or her own during a drug test. Because the urine
collection must be observed by an official, some athletes resort to
hiding a bag of "clean" urine in their rectum or vagina. Some even risk
dangerous infection by filling their own bladder with another person's
urine through a catheter.
Among the more
sophisticated strategies is the use of other drugs that interfere with
the effectiveness of urine tests. That practice led to the addition of
these masking drugs to the growing list of banned substances.
strategy requires athletes to carefully medicate themselves while
periodically testing their urine to make sure that the level of banned
substance in their urine stays below the limit.
official limits for some drugs such as muscle building testosterone are
high enough to allow many athletes to build themselves up without
getting caught, anti-doping experts say.
the relatively few athletes who get caught are "careless or stupid
people," said doping expert Charles Yesalis, a professor at
Pennsylvania State University.
It's so easy to get away with doping, it's surprising when someone does get caught, Yesalis said.
old method of "blood doping" - in which the athlete stores his or her
own blood and then reinfuses it before competition - is hard to detect.
And so is the latest method of blood doping using the drug
Many elite athletes
have been taking this blood cell growth factor to increase their
endurance by packing their blood with oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
Because EPO is normally found in blood and urine, developing a reliable
test has been difficult.
tests have been developed, and one is already being used to eliminate
possible cheaters at the almost-completed Tour de France (three suspect
cyclists were sent home during the qualifying race), the International
Olympic Committee is reluctant to approve their use. The International
Committee still hasn't agreed to use EPO testing in Sydney in September.
growth hormone (hGH) is another new, naturally occurring doping agent.
Because no test is even on the horizon to catch athletes who are
pumping themselves up with this drug, it has become a popular, but
expensive, doping agent.
"Athletes are a
walking laboratory, and the Olympics have become a proving ground for
scientists, chemists and unethical doctors," said Dr. Robert Voy,
director of the U.S. Olympic Committee's anti-doping program from 1983
to 1989. "The testers know that the drug gurus are smarter than they
are. They know how to get in under the radar."
doping industry has become a big business, which caters to athletes
from Olympians down to grade-schoolers. Said Yesalis: "Experts are
being paid to make sure that athletes don't get caught."
industry employs black-market manufacturers and suppliers of steroids,
human growth hormone, EPO and other banned substances, and physicians
willing to provide them. It also employs researchers who continue to
develop chemical variations of banned substances that still will boost
performance but not be prohibited - at least until their use becomes a
And, of course, there are the many coaches, lawyers and others who work to defend the athletes who get caught.
year, Texas legislators enacted a law making it illegal for
grade-school coaches or other school employees to sell or provide
performance- enhancing drugs or supplements to schoolchildren.
law doesn't apply to college athletes. "My university buys (the body
building food supplement) creatinine by the tub load for its athletes,"
said John Hoberman, professor of Germanic studies at the University of
Texas at Austin and an authority on sports doping.
now, thanks to the power of genetic engineering, the specter of Aldous
Huxley's "Brave New World" - where superathletes are conceived in test
tubes - is looming on the horizon. Many experts say we are losing this
drug war and that sports as we've known them are not going to survive.
is a cancer for all sports," says Dr. Don Catlin, who runs the
drug-testing lab at the University of California at Los Angeles - one
of the two U.S. testing labs approved by the International Olympic
Committee. "However, I'm convinced that science can develop the means
to defeat it."