The IOC vs... cold remedies?

This has me heated up. I don’t know why; perhaps it’s just the whole cosmic stupidity of the thing.

For those who haven’t heard by now, the women’s (girls’?) all-around gymnastics champion was stripped of her gold medal after testing positive for drugs.

The drug for which she tested positive was pseudoephedrine. This drug is most commonly found in Sudafed.

That’s right. An Olympian has been stripped of a medal, and a team doctor banned, because of Sudafed. Next thing you know, the IOC will have banned Tylenol and Advil. Hey, they alleviate pain, right? Therefore they enhance performance… sheesh. Gimme a break.

Anyone else annoyed by this?


Annoyed? Sure.

I don’t believe they are stripping her of her medal - but they are holding the doctor responsible. He’s a flaming idiot.

The thing about Pseudoephedrine (>25 mcg/ml) is that it’s extremely prevalent - it’s in Actifed, Claritin D, Co-Tylenol, Formula 44M Multi Symptom Cough, Mini Thins, Sudafed, and Sine-Off.

It’s everywhere - but any good doctor who’s involved with athletes who are subject to USOC testing knows about it.

As for the little girl, I am a USOC athlete and I quote from the USOC Guide: (by the way this is just for your information, I am completely against this - she’s sixteen and the freaking doctor gave her some medicine so she took it)

“Ignorance is never an excuse. It is the personal responsibility of each athlete to ensure that he or she does not allow and Prohibited Substance to enter his or her system or use or allow the use of any Prohibited substance.”

Ridiculous huh?

If you want to get really mad - I think it was in weightlifting where two guys from the same country tested positive for a banned substance and they were going to kick the whole team out, but the country they were from (i forgot which one sorry) coughed up $50,000 to the USOC to allow the rest of the team who rightfully earned their way there and didn’t test positive to still be able to compete.

Peter Wiggen

Let me get this all out and then we can look at it together… I’m not sure what I think yet:

It seems to me that Olympic competition is all about performing in the moment. For example, gymnasts who got frazzled because of the position of the vault were allowed to re-vault, but their lousy performances on other apperatus had to remain.

In diving, when Laura Whatshername did so well in the second-to-last round on the 10m platforn, everyone else got so freaked that they screwed up dives they knew they could do well.

In other words, it seems like everyone is so freakin’ good at what they do, we need to add psychological pressure in order to seperate the “men” from the “boys.” It’s like, yeah, we know you can do the dive, but can you do it with 54 cameras in your face, 200 million people watching, and the knowledge that you only get one chance in your whole life to do it?

That’s tremendous pressure.

Looking away from the Olympics for a moment, health is an issue in all sorts of performance arenas. Ever hung outside a stage door after a Broadway play? When the big stars come out, they are wrapped, from head to toe. Opera singers never speak outdoors if they can help it. These people understand that their health is their livlihood (?) - if they get sick, they are out of work.

So, returning to the Olympics, I do think I think that Sudafed should be banned. Not because it contains a proscribed ingredient, but because there should be no medication allowed. If an athelete gets sick, too bad. That’s how the Games work. Everyone perfoms at the same time, under the same circumstances. You get sick? Tough luck.

What do we think of that?

Yes, they are. Her medal is history. It’s already been given to someone else. She gets to keep the ones she won earlier.

The reason the IOC bans drugs like this is primarily because the substances found can either be found in REAL performance-enhancing drugs or can be used to mask performance-enhancing drugs (that’s why diuretics are banned.)

The Romanian coach should be shot; it was his stupidity.

No, it isn’t ridiculous at all. The IOC has no room for maneuvre here. If you concede “Well, she wasn’t really trying to cheat,” that becomes the mantra of every cheating weasel who comes down the pike. “What, I had a diuretic in my blood? It was for (insert phony ailment here.) My team doctor will attest to it!”

Sigh. No, that is exactly the opposite of what happened.

The Bulgarian weightlifting team failed two drug tests at the Olympics. Combined with a previous failure, this counts towards team disqualification under International Weightlifting Federation rules. The IWF DOES allow a one-time $50,000 fine to be paid to allow reinstatement. They refused to accept the payment. The IWF would not take the money, stating publicly that they felt it would be inappropriate to do so at the Olympics and that the problem was too severe to allow it. The Bulgarian weightlifting team has been sent home and all their medals stripped.

Refer to the story at

You would think that since she didn’t test postive in all her other drug tests, it was most likely from the cold medicine. Since don’t normally athletes take the drugs way in advance so they can get settled in their systems so they can work? I would find it hard to believe that the gymnast had doped herself on purpose right before the one competition.

Also, maybe it is a hint-if you perform at Olympic level competition, don’t take any medication! Cough phlegm out on the vault, since you don’t want that aspirin to boost your performances.

You know, having your feet stick up in the Luge competition adds to your drag and slows you down. Should we ban athletes from the Luge who have sawed their own feet off to improve their performance?

This argument seems to be right up there with Pete Rose betting on baseball.

EVERYBODY KNOWS THE RULES. If you take something anyway, however “innocent” your reason, do you really think they won’t bust you? Oh sorry, Svetlana, YOUR ephedrine was for a cold, and the OTHER girl’s was contained in a performance enhancer. Gee, of course your coach is an honest man and would NEVER dope an athlete knowingly…

Sorry guys, no sympathy. She knew better, and if she didn’t then her coaching staff did.

The Olympics seem a little lame lately anyway. I have had little interest since we started sending pro athletes instead of amateurs. Yes, there are a few countries that give their athletes money and every advantage. But there are dozens where athletes don’t even have running water in their homes or the rooms they rent & share with roaches.

Do we really have to be the best to spite everybody else? (basketball being the main offender)

I feel sorry for her. I’d expect a 16-year-old girl who was told by her teams medical expert that it was OK to take the pills, to trust him. And certainly her intent was not the same as that of someone who takes steroids to bulk up, or whatever.

So she got ripped off for trusting someone she should have been able to trust. That sucks.

The team doctor, though, is a jerk who was rightfully banned for not paying attention to something that, as a physician, should have been extemely obvious to him.

The representative from the IOC admitted that the amount of the banned substance detected was quite small, and that that amount would not have bestowed any competitive advantage.

It seems that, if they knew there wasn’t any performance enhancing effect, that they could’ve let her slide with a stern admonition.

I agree the Oly’s should be drug-free, but how about a little special dispensation if the situation warrants it?


"Not because it contains a proscribed ingredient, but because there should be no medication allowed. If an athelete gets sick, too bad. That’s how the Games work. Everyone perfoms at the same time, under the same circumstances. You get sick? Tough luck. "

i really hope you aren’t serious. what about people like Gary Hall, a type one diabetic, who uses insulin to stay alive? tough luck, you can’t compete? I’m not sure if you meant no life saving medications in your post or what, just curious.


heyjoe (chris):

No, I don’t think I was serious.

Go back up and read my post again. I prefaced it by explaining that I wasn’t sure of my feelings; I threw that entire idea out at once to let others (and myself) get a good look at it and see what we thought.

This is a toughie… I am still thinking.

On the one hand, you make an excellent point. But, on the other, the Olympics really are not about everyone competing - they are about the best competing. No?

If so, then perhaps, for this one event, we should allow only those who can compete without any assistance to do so. Is it harsh? Of course. Perhaps it is too harsh. But it does have a vicious elegance. No?

sdimbert- As soon as we take away the use of medications, we also need to get rid of clothing (think about teh advantages it can offer…swimming, especially those new body suits, gymanstics, running shoes) because they can help performance, any braces or tape used by athletes to do things such as prevent torn ACLs, etc., chalk and grips for gymnasts (meaning about 50 times as many people will break necks), unitards for the rhythmic gymnasts (allowed because many would-be competitors couldn’t compete because of religious bans on clothing like leotards)…get my point? Pretty soon, you’re going to narrow the field to the athlets that have no diseases, have never injured themselves (don’t face re-injury) and don’t care about future injury. they also must be immune to disease and have no restrictions in life based on things such as religion. I think banning just medications would seem like something of a double standard. Also, a disease like diabetes (one i have) makes training much mroe difficult, and in my eyes, makes the person a BETTER athlete for working through it.


No, I just cannot agree here. I sympathize with the girl who lost her medal, but this is a genuine slippery slope.

Everybody who gets caught has an excuse. Ben Johnson had an excuse. Michelle Smith had an excuse. C.J. Hunter has a rather lame excuse. Allowing some to get away with breaking the rules while nailing others would give the impression of favouritism and corruption in an athletic competition already reeling from this sort of thing.

Let me try to put this in the context of international athletics: The punishment meted out is exactly the same as what every athletic federation in the world, in every international sporting event anywhere in the world would hand out.

A few years ago Canadian star rower Silken Laumann lost a gold medal at the worlds because she took Sudafed. There was no appeal; she lost her medal. She admitted it was a dumb mistake and accepted the call. It’s happened to a hundred athletes at a hundred competitions. Now ask yourself; if the Olympics let people get away with what all their member federations would not, does the Olympics look like they’re serious about doping enforcement?


The purpose of the rules isn’t to take away tools to enhance performance; it’s to ensure all competitors are on a level playing field.

The Olympics have, for good reason, banned performance enhancing drugs because they’re unhealthy. How would it look for the Olympics if all their competitors dropped dead at 36 because they were so roided up?

If that’s the rule, it has to be strictly enforced. It’s perfectly fair for you to use performance-enhancing equipment within the rules of the sport (and many things ARE banned - equipment rules are very strict) because I can use the same things. The same applies to steroids and such. Either everyone should get to use them, or nobody. As long as there are rules against them, they cannot allow exceptions.

Chalk is used by gymnasts because it makes the event SAFE. Knee braces are allowed within limits to promote safety. Running shoes mack track safer. Some runners do go without shoes, at least in mid-distance events. All the things you mentioned are safety-related, except for the funny swimsuits. Drugs are not.

Allow me to add another voice to the chorus who support the IOC’s decision. The rules apply to everyone. Whether you happen to be young, cute and stupid shouldn’t factor into anything.

One question:

How the hell would being hopped up on a stimulant help you on the balance beam??? I would expect it to be more likely to induce failure in that particular event.

Give the kid her medal.

What about if they just let everyone take whatever they wanted? Then it could be a contest of who is willing to harm their body the most to win. We’d get to see some great athletic feats I bet.

Or maybe if they had two seperate Olympics. They could call the new one the Drugged Olympics. It would be cool.


Rick Jay- i agree with you. a ban on performance enhancing drugs is a good thing. i was responding to sdimbert when he suggested banning all medications (life saving ones…not performance enhancers). i understand why all those things are used, and was being somewhat sarcastic. the basic equipment i listed is used to keep athletes safe just like insulin keeps diabetics (relatively) safe. i was just trying to make a point.



Does anyone know where the DOCTOR got the stuff?

I was thinking about this. Here you have a team from a country traveling across the world, with their doctor, to a different continent even. And they all knew that whatever they took would be subject to close scrutiny.

Doesn’t it make sense that the doctor, under these circumstances would pack to take with them, any routine meds that might be needed? AND only pack stuff that wouldn’t matter?

When I was 17, I went to Romania for 3 weeks. I packed all sorts of stuff, including basic aspirin, cold meds etc, figuring that at some point, I, or some one I was with, might need such items and wouldn’t want to “wonder” what I might be able to purchase.
So, I was wondering - where did the Doc get the stuff? did he bring it with (and gee, didn’t he think "this is on the no-no list, I shouldn’t bring it?) OR did he go to the Australian equivelent of the Drugstore and look for something (in which case, given his position, shouldn’t he have REALLY looked at what he was getting?).

The New York Times wondered (I think leglitimately) if this whole issue wasn’t an issue solely because the “victim” is “a weepy 4 foot 10 inch, 82-pound pixie.” Really, if it was some 250 lb. Bulgarian shot-putter with a mustache named Lumilla, would people be as outraged? From the Times:

I don’t think that the IOC has any business looking at banned substances on a case-by-case basis – here it’s okay; here it’s not. That would just open a floodgate of athletes doping and then whining that they had legitimate reason to do so, or that they did it by mistake. The rules have been applied without mercy before: as the N.Y. Times pointed out an American swimmer lost his medal twenty-eight years ago for taking asthma medication – surely a better excuse to be taking drugs than a common cold. And one of the current Olympic swimmers (whose name escapes me) also has severe asthma; he may well be shortening his life by refraining from taking his medication when he’s competing but he does so, because he wants to compete and he knows the substances are banned.

Yes, I agree that the application of the rule in this case seems draconian, and I feel bad for the gymnast, whom I don’t think anyone (including the IOC) thinks was willfully doping. But I think the rule has to be applied the same in all cases – even to the cute, the young, and the irresponsible. I feel sorry for the girl, but I support the IOC’s decision.