torsdag 3 december 2009

Olympic athletes breaking drug rules should face lifetime ban: poll

OTTAWA — Olympic athletes caught taking illegal drugs should face harsh penalties such as a lifetime ban from competing in sports, according to a national poll released Tuesday.
An overwhelming majority of Canadians polled (92.8 per cent) said there should be "severe sanctions" on Olympic athletes who test positive for using performance-enhancing drugs.
The poll, done by the Ottawa-based Nanos Research, found that about one-third (32.7 per cent) wanted a lifetime ban placed on doping athletes.
Another third (33.7 per cent) want a penalty of at least four years, while the remainder (26.4 per cent) favoured a one-year suspension, according to the results.
"In essence, there is virtually zero tolerance among Canadians for athletes using performance-enhancing drugs at the Olympics," says pollster president Nik Nanos in a statement.
Only 3.2 per cent said there should not be any kind of penalty while 4.1 per cent said they were unsure about their opinion.
"I think it's a clear statement that Canadians continue to stand up for clean sport and a level playing field," added Paul Melia, CEO of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), one of the organizations involved in drug testing for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.
Melia said Olympic athletes now face a two-year ban for a first-time offence, and a lifetime ban if caught a second time.
Organizers at the upcoming Games say they plan on taking nearly 2,500 urine and blood samples from athletes during the competitions. Those tests — both random and targeted — will begin Feb. 4. Athletes will be checked to see if they have unusually high levels of testosterone or growth hormones in their bodies.
The $16.4-million drug-testing program, which includes an $8.9-million state-of-the-art lab, is the toughest stance organizers have ever taken at the Winter Olympic Games.
In 2006, organizers at the Turin Games tested only 1,200 athletes while only 800 tests were done in Salt Lake City.
Melia said the stronger anti-doping push in Vancouver is an effort to curb microdosing — using a banned substance well in advance of competition so that performance is enhanced, but the substance has cleared an athlete's body by the time of post-event testing — and to establish a larger sample database, since new technologies now allow blood samples to be stored for up to eight years.
"In Canada, we have been at it for a long time," Melia said. "Even before the world anti-doping code came into effect, we had a program that the code was based and modelled on."
Meanwhile, a quarter of the Canadians polled said they believed that drug use rates in the Olympics was still on the rise. Only one in five (19.6 per cent) believed the rates were falling.
The poll reported that Canadians had little faith in the World Anti-Doping Agency, which was developed 10 years ago to combat rampant drug use among athletes.
A spokesman with the Montreal-based agency could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Olympics have been plagued by a number of drug scandals.
In 1988, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal and world records at the 1988 Seoul Olympics after it was discovered he had been taking anabolic steroids.
Officials at the 1998 Nagano Olympics took away Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati's gold medal after he tested positive for marijuana use. The medal, the first to be won in the sport, eventually was returned to Rebagliati because marijuana was not on the banned drug list.
In 2007, U.S. track athlete Marion Jones admitted that she had taken steroids while at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Jones forfeited the five medals she had won at the Games after her confession.
The survey also found that the majority (73.8 per cent) of those polled said they will watch some of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games in February, meaning it could be among the most-watched sporting events in Canadian history.
"Another way to contextualize the research? More Canadians are likely planning to watch the opening ceremonies in Vancouver than voted in the last federal election," said Nanos.
Nearly two-thirds (66.3 per cent) said they will tune into the opening ceremony on Feb. 12, while 68.4 per cent of Canadians polled said they were likely to follow daily recaps of events. Fewer (58.6 per cent) said they would watch the Games' closing ceremony.
The poll results were taken from a random telephone survey of 1,005 adults between Nov. 7 to Nov. 10.
It is accurate within 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.


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