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Sporting World Shaken By Claims Of Doping Crime Ring

24.02.2013 15:21

A doctor, who has admitted to helping countless top athletes from many disciplines take performance-enhancing drugs, says that his work extends far beyond his home country of Spain -- just when 16 athletes from Turkey's U-23 national...

The problem is exacerbated by the broad scope of sporting events around the world, as well as the massive amounts of money and prestige at stake, which naturally makes things like doping and rigging more attractive



A doctor, who has admitted to helping countless top athletes from many disciplines take performance-enhancing drugs, says that his work extends far beyond his home country of Spain -- just when 16 athletes from Turkey's U-23 national weightlifting team have been accused of doping, making for the beginning of a huge doping crisis in Turkey and beyond.



The weightlifters were recently tested, and a banned substance called Stanozolol was found in their systems. Full details are yet to be released.



"It wouldn't be right to release the names of the athletes at this time. We are going to start an investigation," said Zeki Türkeş, who is acting head of the Turkish Weightlifting Federation after the resignation of Hasan Akkuş. "If they deny the claims, they will refer to sample B and the process will be monitored closely," he said. Five U-23 Turkish lifters were also busted for banned substances last November at the European U-23 Weightlifting Championship in Israel.



At this point, doping in sports may overtake match-fixing in football, which also garnered lots of attention after Europol announced that it had found evidence of a vast network of rigging in virtually every high-profile football competition in Europe and beyond. The doping investigation is beginning to find evidence that individual cases may be related and part of a much greater network of organized crime. This may bring recent local cases, such as the match-fixing investigation and the U-23 weightlifters' testing, into a much greater arena.



The international doping investigation, Operation Puerto, has implicated Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, who says that he has treated "cyclists, soccer players, whole soccer teams -- even boxers. I treated them all." So it seems that doping is much more common than previously thought, spanning all manner of sports from around the world.



Dupers and dopers



This case rings some bells. International cycling legend Lance Armstrong recently admitted to doping. The cyclist has been staunchly fending off such allegations for the greater part of his prolific career. However, in January, Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs to win a record seven consecutive Tour de France events.



A more local case for Turkey is that of Hidayet Türkoğlu, better known as simply Hedo, a Turkish national who plays for Orlando Magic in the American National Basketball Association (NBA). A recent blood test showed that Hedo had methenolone in his system. His punishment is a 20-match ban, the longest ever given for doping in the NBA, which has punished eight athletes for use of prohibited substances.



This particular case may be less sinister. "The drugs that came up in my blood are just some medicine for the pain in my shoulder. My only mistake here is not doing enough research on the medicine and that is how I got myself into this situation," Hidayet insisted. The 33-year-old power forward claims that a Turkish doctor gave him the medicine for his shoulder injury and that is where the problem lies.



The problem is that such claims have been made by athletes -- such as Armstrong -- for years, so there is really no way to tell whether they are being truthful or not, unless authorities such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) can catch them red-handed and chemically compromised.



Crime and punishment



That proves difficult, of course. As Armstrong once claimed that he was the world's most tested athlete, and they were still unable to nail him for many years.



The problem is exacerbated by the broad scope of sporting events around the world, as well as the massive amounts of money and prestige at stake, which naturally makes things like doping and rigging more attractive. And, at a certain point, so many people are caught up in corruption that even an athlete who does want to play clean cannot compete with those who are shooting up and paying people off.



It is also possible the athlete has no say in the matter. "I couldn't confront them," former cyclist Jesus Manzano, a witness in the Operation Puerto doping investigation said, adding: "If you even questioned these methods, you'd be out on the street. They'd fire you from the team."



What if the same is true for Turkey's young athletes? This possibility should not be overlooked. If that is the case, then the young weightlifters would be victims, rather than criminals, especially since using performance-enhancing drugs often compromises the athlete's health permanently. This problem is much more widespread than previously understood, which makes it all the more imperative that we get to the bottom of it, and ensure that the actual perpetrators are punished. (Cihan/Sundays Zaman)



 
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