First it was Jan Ullrich getting popped for ecstasy. Then Gilberto Simoni was nailed for cocaine. Next, Tom Boonen tests positive for cocaine, as well. Now uber-swimming phenomenon, Michael Phelps, is taking bong hits. Of course, who could forget Ross Regabliati, the Canadian snowboarder who lost his gold medal he won in the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games after testing positive for marijuana.
Jan, Gilberto and Tom paid a pretty heavy price for their recreational drug use. Jan was suspended for six months, Gilberto was booted from a Giro he could have won and Boonen lost his ride at the Tour where he was a heavy favorite to take his second consecutive green(sprinter's) jersey. Their suspensions definitely affected their careers. I could be argued, that in the counter-culture, non-conformist world of snowboarding, Ross's dalliance may have been more of a positive for his aspirations. After all he did get his medal back. Maybe.
But, what is going to happen to Michael Phelps? He will probably lose a few endorsements, but will swimming's governing body feel a need to take action?
Yes, there are rules governing the use of recreational drugs in most sports, but is this a good thing? It can easily be argued that since most, if not all, recreational drug use is illegal there should be some sort of penalty. The penalty can take several forms. A national anti-doping agency can impose a suspension or ban. A jurisdictional body can hand down a fine or prison sentence.
What is not clear is if recreational drugs can have a positive affect on an athlete's performance. Yes, as mentioned above, an athlete is probably breaking the law by using them, but did they gain an advantage over their competition? Over fifty years ago, the drug of choice for cyclists were amphetamines. Clearly, this recreational drug could increase performance.
Much like the TV show Lost I am asking a lot more questions than providing answers. In Michael Phelps' case regardless of what the law and USA Swimming decide to do, he will lose some $$$. That seems fair to me. I can't tell him how to behave, but if he behaves in a manner which doesn't please his sponsors then he will have to answer to those sponsors.
In cycling, there appears to be a policy of zero tolerance to drug use of any kind. Not surprisingly, cycling is in the fight of it's life to try to keep and attract sponsors. Boyz will be boyz, but they better understand that everyone is watching.
Belgian uber-cyclist Tom Boonen recently tested positive for cocaine. The result came from an out-of-competition test and since cocaine is only considered to be performance enhancing during competition the Belgian Cycling Federation(BCF) won't be pursuing any sanctions against the 2008 Paris-Roubaix winner. More than likely this was a case of recreational drug use, but possession and use of cocaine is illegal in Belgium.
While the BCF will not be imposing any ban on Boonen, there is already some fallout in the cycling community. The Tour of Switzerland, which starts on June 14th, has indicated that it might not invite Boonen, who is targeting the event as preparation for the Tour de France. Speaking of the Tour, race officials decided that the winner of the green, sprinters, jersey last year will not be invited to their race, either. Citing a need to protect the integrity of the Tour, race organizers have decided to exclude the Belgian from their event.
In a sport that has been rocked by a seemingly endless string of doping scandals the finding of recreation drug use among the pro cyclists isn't all the shocking. In 2002, two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni also tested positive for cocaine and was tossed out of the Giro. He came back to win the event the following year. Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour de France winner, tested positive for the designer drug ecstasy while sidelined with a knee injury in 2002. He was suspended for six months by the German Cycling Federation.
Probably the most famous recreational drug use case took place in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics when Canadian snowboarder Ross Regabliati was stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for marijuana. His gold medal was reinstated.
Should testing positive for recreational drugs be taken as seriously as performance enhancing drugs(PED)? Is this just a case of 'boys will be boys' or is breaking the law just as serious as taking PEDs. What are your thoughts?
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