With each passing day, and after every new WADA reform, the dope cheats are getting uneasy. Scrutiny of hair follicles — a test that can detect a banned substance taken by an athlete even six months back — is a major step towards cleaning the much-maligned track and field event.
Such new innovations, along with the retesting of old samples after every advancement in testing methods, has shown that the athletes can’t hoodwink the system as easily as they used to in the past. The dope cheats now know that medals won by illegal ways can be seized and prize money confiscated.
The International Athletics Federation (IAAF) showed last year how effective retesting of samples can be when they announced in March that five medallists from the World Championships, Helsinki, in 2005 had tested positive when their samples collected eight years ago were retested.
Though in such cases justice is delayed, eventually those athletes who played by the rules get their due. Like in the case of India’s Anju Bobby George whose silver at the World Athletics Finals in Monte Carlo, held after the World Championships, was upgraded to gold after nine years because Russian winner Tatyana Kotova was found to be among those who had cheated in Helsinki.
Encouraged by revelations of the new testing methods, the IOC is now potentially gunning for cheats who participated in Turin Winter Olympics of 2006 by spending $500,000 on retesting with the latest editions of the Games in Sochi just around the corner.
Previous results of retests exposed some of sports’ fairytale stories. Fresh scrutiny of samples collected at the Beijing Games resulted in Bahrain’s first-ever Olympic medalist Rashid Ramzi being punished for competing in the 1,500 metres after taking a drugs that increases the number of red-blood cells.
If retesting existed in the 90s — samples are now kept for a maximum of eight years — then allegations of doping against the American sprint queen, the late Florence Griffith Joyner, who never tested positive during her time, could have been put to the test.
Nihal is a senior assistant editor based in New Delhi