Editorial - What next for drugs cheat?

Last updated 07:34 15/08/2012

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Depending on how you look at it, metenolone is a powerful chemical that can turn a lesser metal into gold - or reduce gold to disqualification and disgrace. It's a banned substance for sportspeople that, had it gone undetected, would have allowed Belarusia's Nadzeya Ostapchuk to hold the Olympic women's shot-putting title for four years.

But the drug was detected, Ostapchuk has been exposed as a cheat, and Valerie Adams has been promoted to gold medal winner. New Zealand accordingly won six gold medals at the Games in London and finished up in 15th place on the medals ladder.

Announcing the drug-test findings and the revised placings for her event after the closing ceremony was not the ideal way to reward Adams for years of training and hard slog. It will be some time before she is given her medal and she was deprived of the huge personal satisfaction (the glory, too) that comes from stepping on to the winner's podium with other medal winners.

She said as much on learning of her promotion to gold medallist: her biggest regret is that she didn't get to share her gold-medal celebration with family and friends after the competition.

Nor is her gold medal likely to eliminate unhappy memories of being overlooked - with a few other Kiwi athletes - when New Zealand sports officials registered our competitors, even though she was the defending champion and a gold medal favourite. The New Zealand Olympic Committee had to plead for her to be allowed to participate. Adams was angered and stressed by this administrative blunder. It messed with her head and she threw poorly during the final, she said.

Ostapchuk, for the record, is maintaining her innocence and vows to fight against her disqualification. Maybe. But observers had raised questions about her rapid improvement and she hadn't beaten Adams in nearly two years. The test results suggest she has been taking a long-acting anabolic steroid which boosts cellular tissue in muscles and stimulates male characteristics. If her disqualification goes unchallenged, the question of the appropriate penalty is raised (and the same goes for nine other athletes who returned positive tests). Suspension for a year or two for international sports cheats is not enough.

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- Waikato

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