Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Farce At The Olympics

After a series of dubious jury decisions, now there is a dubious "doping case" - and it is highly on-topic on my blog, because the international press is repeating stuff without checking again.

I mean the case of Hungarian discus gold medal winner Róbert Fazekas. Headlines are that he doped, or that he tried to give someone else's urine sample, or that he refused to give an urine sample - each of these is not only untrue, but contrary to what stands in the committee decision stripping him from his gold medal.

He was stripped from his gold medal for refusing further cooperation after pissing 25 ml, while proscribed are 75 ml. No attempt at a fake sample, neither a lack of sample, nor a positive sample. The big issue missing from the reports (and the main basis for a coming protest by the Hungarian sports federation) is that the doping committee made its decision on the basis of only a rules violation, and omitted the testing of the sample - which they could have done: for while 75 ml are proscribed, the testing method only needs 5 ml.

This is fact.

What is only testimony is the story of the other side: why and how Fazekas refused further cooperation. His defense and a Hungarian doctor who was eyewitness told that he waited for four hours, and then two men came to witness his pissing, contrary to the one prescribed in regulations, and as he began pissing, they touched his penis (presumably looking for a hidden pipe), rather than just looking at it as prescribed in the regulations. But this wasn't yet when he left: he protested he wants to rest and not be molested, so he was offered to go to the Olympic hospital under supervision - which he first accepted. But then it turned out this is not an offer of taking a rest, but of supervised sitting around until he can piss again, supervised by the same two gentlemen who fondled his penis. At this point Fazekas had enough, and left. Certainly a rules violation, but - especially if the above account is true and there were rules violations on the controller's side - no reason to strip him from his medal.

UPDATE 26/08: The reason for the special attention to Fazekas was an anonymous letter received by authorities, describing a method used by certain (named) Hungarian heavy athletes. Yesterday morning I knew no details, but now German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung brings the story of a German trainer, who claims he received a similar letter from Hungarian rivals of Fazekas two years ago. The claimed method: at a time when athletes didn't have to fully undress, the athlete would hide a bag behind his back, with a transparent tube leading to his penis. The author of the article accepts the charges without questioning (and proof), but there is unintentional irony in the last paragraph (my translation):

On Wendesday afternoon, it spread across the news that German discus thrower Lars Riedel reported to his functionaries about Fazekas's tricks just like the trainer. This time one year ago. "All fine and good," commented the trainer, "then how did it happen that he was exposed only now? Why did our functionaries not pursue the case when nothing happened?"

Well, maybe because...

On the other hand, Fazekas might yet have been doping. The most suspicious moment is that he left for home hours before the committee decision stripping him from his medal. This may be because A) since the anonymous letter was written, he invented some improved method to hide the sack on his nacked body and from controllers watching from two directions; or because B) the controllers were not nearly as thorough as the Hungarian doctor claimed or as one would expect from readers of the anonymous letter; or because C) that untested 25 ml probe is positive.

A further development and further point of suspicion is that the friend of Fazekas, hammer throwing gold medal winner Adrián Annus, who was on the list but who cooperated fully and had a negative post-competition doping probe, was ordered to submit himself to a second test until Sunday - or else his medal will be taken away, too. In his first public response, he displayed outrage, but didn't say whether he will go to the test.

UPDATE 26/08 II: Annus now declared there is a campaign against him and he believes his second sample could be manipulated, so he won't take a second test. Well, this sounds like an admission - from this point, my cursiousity is focused on how he could fool the doctors the first time.

UPDATE 27/08: It turns out Annus also had a blood test - I'm not sure how that could have been faked, with controllers expecting manipulation. However, as a B test can be made at an independent laboratory, if he fails to give a probe by midday today he is almost certainly guilty. On the other hand, Lars Riedel named the Hungarian rival of Fazekas who supposedly gave him the anonymous mail, but that athlete denied it and said he considers suing, while Fazekas already decided to sue Riedel. In the meantime, the number of Hungarian weightlifters who were either tested positive or broke off the test like Fazekas climbed to three. In the latest case - unlike the first -, officials doubted the results and hope the B prove will be negative - tough, I heard so much contradictory blather from these inept Hungarian officials that I don't think they ever talk in good faith. One of the issues they made contradictory statements about was the time Fazekas left for home - some said at midday (the decision on him was at 16 o'clock), others claimed he is still there in the evening. He himself claims he left for home just after hearing the decision.

Western readers might say that these cases (if true) are examples of the poor man's doping, while US or German or even Chinese atheletes can use design doping their chemical industry developed to be undetectable, but I don't think that is an excuse: it is still unfair to honest sporters, even if the stake for them is only qualification to the Olympics, not winning.


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