When is it doping and when is it not?
Many Russian athletes quite openly inhaled Xenon gas during the Sochi Olympic Games, a German TV network reported, and they have got off scot-free.
And, the WDR added, it can prove Russian athletes have been using Xenon at least since the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004. In fact, the WDR report says, documents created (allegedly) by Russian Ministries of sports and defence (in and of itself a couple of strange bedfellows) have been recommending the use of Xenon specifically to “enhance athletes’ performance.”
The fact that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has ignored its use helped, too.
A bit of basic information: Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. It is a colourless, heavy, odourless noble gas, that occurs in the Earth’s atmosphere in trace amounts. Although generally unreactive, xenon can undergo a few chemical reactions such as the formation of xenon hexafluoroplatinate, the first noble gas compound to be synthesized.
Naturally occurring xenon consists of eight stable isotopes. There are also over 40 unstable isotopes that undergo radioactive decay. The isotope ratios of xenon are an important tool for studying the early history of the Solar System. Radioactive xenon-135 is produced from iodine-135 as a result of nuclear fission, and it acts as the most significant neutron absorber in nuclear reactors.
Xenon is used in flash lamps and arc lamps, and as a general anesthetic.
Thus basic information from Google and Wikipedia. So far so good, right?
Except: xenon just happens to enhance the creation of the erythropoietin hormone in human bodies. Too much Latin? How does the abbreviation EPO strike you? Does the name Ben Johnson ring a bell?
As we have been reliably informed by WADA years ago, EPO is a no-no.
Except, Mario Thevis of the doping-control lab in Koln in Germany told WDR, their scientists couldn’t test for xenon because they don’t know how.
Of course, Thevis added, there have been scientific tests made on animals, to see how xenon impacted them.
Here’s a verbatim translation of a verbatim quote: “Within one day, 24 hours, that is, creation of EPO increased from 1.6 to 160 per cent. That is a significant increase.”
Would the result in people be similar? Quite possibly, Thevis said.
WADA President, Craig Reedie of Scotland, said his office is going to check this information. “Our commision that deals with the banned substances list, will look into this issue very soon. We will be debating the issue of gas inhalations at the very next post-Olympic meeting.”
What will WADA debate?
“We have to know for sure whether this is doping,” former WADA boss Dick Pound was quoted as saying. “We have to establish whether it would or would not be possible to say during a potential investigation that the rules are unclear on this.”
And his personal take?
“This method was developed exclusively to enhance performance. So far as I am concerned, that constitutes doping.”
Thus Dick Pound.
Another case of the anti-doping crowd playing catch-up.
Of course, these guys have been playing catch-up all along. Logical in most cases, terribly illogical in the case of Swedish hockey star Nicklas Bäckström.
Just about two hours before the opening faceoff in Team Sweden’s gold medal game against Team Canada, Bäckström was pulled off the roster: an anti-doping test found traces of pseudoephedrine in his urine. They had known about it for some two days, and it took the anti-doping crowd all that time to inform the Team Sweden management about their findings.
Here’s the basic scoop on the dope, ooops, medication (courtesy drugs.com): Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant that shrinks blood vessels in the nasal passages. Dilated blood vessels can cause nasal congestion (stuffy nose).
Pseudoephedrine is used to treat nasal and sinus congestion, or congestion of the tubes that drain fluid from your inner ears, called the eustachian tubes.
Having read that, one can easily believe that all that Bäckström did was take a Sudafed or a Claritine or any of the usual over-the-counter medications to unstuff his nose.
Bäckström would not be the first hockey player to suffer severe allergies. One guy, in fact, had to quit hockey altogether, even though on the path to become a useful NHL player. His name is Jan Vopat. The combination of sweat and hockey gear caused swelling all over his body that wouldn’t go away for days on end.
Bäckström has been using the anti-allergic medication for years. His Team Sweden’s physician saw no issues with it. Bäckström had played in a number of international games for Team Sweden during that time, using the anti-allergic medication whenever he needed to be able to breathe, without any complaints or issues raised by anybody.
When the word came down from the mount, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be sensible. So has the NHL. No use: when these guys dig their heels in, that marks the end of the story.
No wonder that the Swedes are now livid about the IOC.
“They ruined our fans’ greatest dream,” said Team Sweden’s GM Tommy Boustedt.
It’s not only the verdict itself but its timing, too, that makes him see red.
“This was crazy! I think it was a political decision. If we knew two days earlier, it wouldn’t have been that terrible, but they evidently wanted to make a bomb out of it.”
So far as Team Sweden’s management is concerned, the IOC’s stuffed shirts wanted to show how hard they fight doping. The future is going to be interesting: Team Sweden’s management is considering a lawsuit against the IOC. Not that anything would overturn the verdict on ice, the Swedes themselves said Team Canada was too good on that particular day, but they want to teach the IOC a lesson.
Former Team Sweden star Ulf Nilsson told aftonbladet.se: “Yes, one has to accept responsibility for what one is doing, but I don’t think you’re using this medication as doping. It would be funny to see the IOC’s stupidity if it wasn’t that tragic.”
Nilsson knows whereof he speaketh: he was found guilty of using ephedrin durting the 1974 world championships in Helsinki. All that because he used an over-the-counter cough sirup.
Not all is black or white, said a former Swedish high jumper, himself an Olympic winner in 2004, Stefan Holm: “We couldn’t let Bäckström play until all the results were in. We got them Sunday afternoon. Yes,” he conceded, “that did take too long, and we have to find out why, but it’s a tough job.”
Funny how quickly he turned from an athlete to a stuffed shirt of a bureaucrat.
If anyone has ever seen hockey players coming to their arenas before their games, most of them are clutching coffee mugs, sipping frantically. An informal statistic: most players consume anywhere between a half of a dozen to a full dozen cups of coffee every day.
Talk about stimulation!
Another proof the Olympic Games is as hypocritical as any event can get. Shameless, to boot. And it keeps getting away with it.
Tagged: 1974 world championships, aftonbladet.se, anti-doping, Claritine, Craig Reedie, Dick Pound, Germany, Helsinki, IIHF, IOC, Koln, NHL, Nicklas Bäckström, Olympic Games, pseudoephedrine, Scotland, Stefan Holm, Sudafed, Tommy Boustedt, Ulf Nilsson, WADA, WDR TV, Xenon