30 April 2009

The Drugs Don't Work

Not for Rashid Ramzi anyway.

The Moroccan-born miler who won the 1500m at last year's Olympic Games, representing Bahrain, has recently tested positive to a banned substance known as 
Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator, or CERA. Good one.

The substance, which is a third-generation EPO, has already been found in samples from last year's Tour de France (including Bernard Kohl). Five other athletes who competed in Beijing have tested positive - cyclists David Rebellin and Stefan Schumacher, along with three others I'm waiting to hear the names of.

EPO is dangerous, people. Sure, it increases the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen to the brain and muscles, but you know what else does? Training. Seriously, what's so dishonourable about training like the rest of us? Seems to me it's a better way to go down than having your name and reputation dragged through the news. A gold medal is pretty cool, but I guess it looks a lot less exciting when it's being taken away from you after you get busted for injecting gluggy stuff into your veins.

The good news in this case? Aotearoa's finest middle distance athlete, Nicholas Willis, could well be promoted to second place for his efforts in China. His third place in the 1500m was about the biggest news of the last Olympics down here, since it's been a wee while (since like, 1976) that our fine country has produced a medal-winning performance in a track event. We loved watching Valerie Vili take apart the shot put field with her first throw, some of us saw Tom Ashley (who I've known through the now-defunct Peter Snell Institute of Sport since we were youngins) top the podium after his boardsailing victory, and a multisport-obsessed New Zealand cheered when Bevan Docherty placed third in the triathlon (although, admittedly more of us were stunned that superhuman Javier Gomez didn't win for once). Hayden Roulston battled on in the 4000m individual pursuit in the Laoshan Velodrome for an eventual and much-deserved silver, and then joined teammates Jesse Sergent, Sam Bewley and Marc Ryan for an almost surprise bronze in the team pursuit. So New Zealand had a successful Olympic Games. For us old-timers however, Nick's was a standout performance because at every Olympics, the world's finest talent assemble for what is a classic race. The winner of the Olympic men's 1500m is always instantly a hero. It's a race that has everything: speed, endurance, tactics, drama, an underdog, and a glorious finish. A medal in this race is like immortality.

Unless, I guess, you shoot up before you run, or whatever. Rashid Ramzi's B sample will be tested on June 8 of this year. In the highly unlikely case that it's negative (never happens) then I guess I'll apologise. Until then... thanks for the medal.

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