King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Marion Jones tests positive: Drug cops aren't catching up. Cheats have gotten sloppy. Plus: Notre Dame's violation; Tigers catch eye of the Neifi!


Salon Staff
August 21, 2006 8:00PM (UTC)

Floyd Landis, Justin Gatlin, Marion Jones. Raise your hand if you had three in the Prominent American Athletes in International Sports Testing Positive for Performance-Enhancing Drugs This Summer pool.

Congratulations. You really thought it would only be three? You beautiful optimist, you.

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Jones jetted home to North Carolina Friday, skipping out on a meet in Zurich when word came that a drug test from the U.S. championships in June had come back positive for erythropoietin, a performance-enhancing blood booster better known as EPO. Jones, in an epic comeback from a disastrous 2005, had won the women's 100 meters at the U.S. championships in Indianapolis, alongside Gatlin, who won the men's 100 meters.

Gatlin, it was later revealed, had tested positive for testosterone at a meet in April in Kansas.

So we're now in the familiar cockamamie explanation phase of the Jones test, with her coach, Steve Riddick, saying on the one hand, "I don't know anything about it, I just coach her," and then on the other, "I smell a rat. It is virtually impossible for Marion Jones to take EPO and run in the nationals."

Right, Steve. So as long as we're clear here -- pardon the word "clear": What you're saying is you don't know anything about it, but you know she's not guilty. Well, I don't know anything about contradictory statements, but I know those statements are contradictory.

The National Weather Service has a Web page where you can track the progression of Jones' explanations for the positive test. The forecast calls for increasing conspiracy theories overnight, turning to a 70 percent chance of suddenly recalling mysterious B-12 shots tomorrow.

Jones is not considered to have failed her drug test until the so-called B sample comes back to confirm the A sample that turned up the EPO.

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If Jones is holding out hope that the B sample test will exonerate her, well, let's just say she's a beautiful optimist too. Those results are expected in the next two weeks.

The interesting thing here is that EPO was always considered an endurance drug until the BALCO case. But sprinter Kelli White, who cooperated with authorities, revealed that sprinters did indeed take it. And, she said, they didn't have to worry about getting caught because investigators didn't check for it in runners who ran races shorter than 400 meters.

Now they do.

So given that information and the nabbing of three prominent American alleged drug cheats, it looks like the drug cops are finally catching up to the felonry. Don't be fooled.

As Dr. Gary Wadler, the NYU associate professor of medicine and noted anti-doping expert, has pointed out, these positive tests aren't coming back for exotic new drugs nobody knew about, drugs such as THG, known as "the clear," which only came to light because a disgruntled coach sent a dirty needle to investigators, leading to the BALCO case.

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"We're talking EPO and testosterone, bread-and-butter doping agents," Wadler told the New York Times.

Wadler says he thinks these positive tests are a sign that athletes are growing bolder, that they've adopted a mindset that they can't be caught.

I don't think that's quite it. I think the athletes have been bold all along, and what's happening lately is that the drug cops have indeed caught up with the cheaters just enough so that the most overconfident get caught in the net. Remember, Jones didn't apparently test positive after Landis and Gatlin did. Her positive A sample is from June, before the Tour de France or the revelation of Gatlin's positive.

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The elite athletes will recalibrate their regimens, stay away from the substances they know the testers are on to, and the wave of positive tests will subside.

And then of course the drug cops will take credit for cleaning things up. It'd be funny if it weren't so dreary.

The drug cops making hay from Kelli White's information makes me think that what's needed is a truth-telling commission. Declare an amnesty for any athlete, coach or other enabler who comes clean about doping, clues investigators in on what's really happening in all those clinics, gyms, trainer's rooms and bathroom stalls.

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It probably wouldn't do much more than shorten the time between these moments when the cops momentarily catch up to the cheaters, but as long as we're stuck in a doomed law-enforcement approach, that's better than nothing.

The cheaters will always try to cheat, and the cops will always lag behind them because there will always be smart people who like money, and there's more money in helping cheaters than in helping cops.

Me, I'm just trying to figure out a way to game the Prominent American Athletes in International Sports Testing Positive for Performance-Enhancing Drugs This Summer pool, because I've got six, and Labor Day's only two weeks away.

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NCAA on the case! [PERMALINK]

Fear not, good citizens worried about rampant corruption in college athletics. The NCAA is on it.

Notre Dame is investigating itself to determine whether Fighting Irish football and basketball players violated NCAA rules by taping "bumps" for a sports talk show on local TV. Bumps are those little taped segments, a few seconds long, leading into or coming out of a commercial, in which someone says something like, in this case, "You're watching 'Sports Dogz' on WSBT-TV."

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The Z at the end of "Sports Dogz," by the way, indicates that the show is young, hip, irreverent. It's not the Man's sports show, in other words. You're not going to catch Tim Russert hosting a show called "Meet Tha Press," after all.

Anyway, Notre Dame's senior associate athletics director, John Heisler, says he was made aware of the possible violation Friday night by a reporter from the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Ind. He says it's unclear the players have committed a violation, but the school's looking into it.

Then USC quarterback Matt Leinart was slapped on the wrist last year for doing a promotional spot for ESPN, a violation the NCAA decided was "unintentional and inadvertent." That was a violation because the spots were essentially a commercial for a show. Since these bumps don't promote "Sports Dogz" but are a part of the show, they're not necessarily a violation.

I think we just need to let the wheels of justice turn in this case, confident in the NCAA's ability to ensure that no one profits from the work, talent and fame of collegiate athletes except the NCAA.

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In other news, Bosox land fourth straight loss [PERMALINK]

Funny headline on Yahoo Sports' baseball front page and on MLB.com: "Tigers land Neifi Perez."

Land? How about "have to settle for"? How about "with no other apparent options, acquire"? Maybe "curse the fates, issue uniform to"?

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Landing Neifi Perez is like landing the flu.

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