Russian Doping Scandal

What do they call it in football when a ball carrier takes a fearful tackle? Oh, right, “He had his bell rung.” Well, the same applies to journalism! Yesterday, in my holier-than-thou piece on Russia being found guilty of systematic doping, I mentioned that the USA’s Shirley Babashoff was robbed of several gold medals in the 1976 Olympics by doped-up East German swimmers. I was right on that but I got feedback, in a hurry, from Italian readers: “Boy, or you have a faulty memory, or you are poorly informed or you are a total, nationalistic hypocrite.” That’s getting your bell rung!

He said, “I inform you that, from the 1960s forward, modern doping had its beginnings in three places: Finland, the Eastern Bloc (East Germany and the USSR) and the USA. To be fair, include Italy, with the later scandal involving the athletes under Dr. Francesco Conconi. In your USA, there was a deregulization of doping. No, not like the state-run factories in the Eastern Bloc, but individual groups, doctors, clinics, teams, chemists. Do you remember Florence Griffith dying at age 37? What about those later, like Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong?”

He went on: “We won’t even talk about your WWE Wrestling, where athletes die like flies before the age of 50, where there is no real federation and no regulation … and those athletes, sorry to say, are the idols of many youngsters. Where do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone bulked up? What about the Balco scandal? Do you remember Toni Kukoc going to the NBA and coming back with 12 kg of muscle? Here is the reality in that: The ‘maestros’ of the Soviets and East Germans were the Finns and the Americans.”

He ended with this: “On TV, you often say you don’t know of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the NBA. Are you sure about that? What? They have all sorts of problems with this in Major League Baseball and the NFL, but not in the NBA? I could list dozens of NBA players that tweak my suspicions about that. Then, what about Baseball: Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire? Why do your NFL players have so much trouble with off-the-field Domestic Violence? Take a new look at this.” So, in the interests of telling it like it is, this is the … rest of the story.