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Discussion: Doping in Orienteering

in: Orienteering; General

Jun 1, 2017 3:11 PM # 
Jun 1, 2017 4:44 PM # 
At last we can claim to be an Olympic Sport.
Jun 2, 2017 12:33 AM # 
Man, that meldonium stuff must grow on trees in Russia.
Jun 2, 2017 1:03 AM # 
Sounds like it could just be something in the (Russian) water.
Jun 2, 2017 5:27 AM # 
I had to drink the whole 16 oz energy drink today, just to survive. WADA would ban me for life if they test my urine -- it is pure bio-hazard. What do the globalists have in store next for the human subjects?
Jun 2, 2017 5:40 AM # 
Jun 2, 2017 10:43 AM # 
I think previous case in women's ski O was 4 years ago
Jun 2, 2017 12:34 PM # 
I think both are standard prescription drugs in Russia, Meldonium only relatively recently banned. Although its unfashionable wrt Russian athletes nowadays, I'd go with cock-up rather than conspiracy.
Jun 2, 2017 1:10 PM # 
Banned in January 2016.

TBF the ban could easily have slipped under the radar - it's not as if there have been any highly publicised meldonium suspensions of famous athletes in the last year :(
Jun 2, 2017 1:57 PM # 
I think WADA slightly oversteps its bounds on Meldonium. IMHO, a case can be made that is serves a purpose to prevent ischemic tissue damage in the very athletes they are testing. Instead it should be monitored for levels above clinical use.
Jun 2, 2017 3:13 PM # 
hillanddale - You don't get much more high profile drug cases than Maria Sharapova's provisional ban in March 2016 for the use meldonium. According to Wiki there have been 124 WADA cases of meldonium covering most sports.

jvincent - athletes can apply for a TUE (therapeutic exemption), if there isn't an unbanned drug they could use instead.

According to the manufacturer it can take months for the drug to clear the body, but I understand the concentration has to be above a certain level to be considered a positive sample.

Talking of cock-ups, there was a recent case in the UK of a club level cyclist getting banned after competing in a £10 entry open cycling time trial event. There are 10-20 events each week, open to any club cyclist that fall within this category of "Open Event", about the equivalent of a level B orienteering event in the UK. The cyclist had been unwell a couple weeks before the event and was given a standard prescription drug. IMO, too low a level to test amateurs at.
Jun 2, 2017 4:21 PM # 
FE - that was kind of my point!
Jun 2, 2017 5:08 PM # 
Not sure what your point is. Are you claiming that, everyone knows "Mildronate" is the drug Sharapova got banned for? Or that seeing her high profile ban everyone checks on google what tradenames the banned substance has?
Nobody pays attention, not even me, but luckily I don't take currently-legal performance enhancing drugs or ride time trials. I even had to google to see if she was still Russian.
Jun 2, 2017 5:58 PM # 
graeme - point taken, I'm sad enough to read this stuff! I agree when you get down to amateur levels, I'm sure there are plenty of cock-up positives.
Jun 2, 2017 7:21 PM # 
WADA seems to think there is no such thing as a false positive. Do they ever reverse themselves?
I cannot get to the links on the IOF website. It often times out. Are they running that thing on someone's tablet?
Jun 2, 2017 9:37 PM # 
They test B samples, if that's what you mean
Jun 2, 2017 9:59 PM # 
They test the B-samples if the athlete asks, but have they* ever reversed the decision based on the B-sample result?

Most likely here she's been taking the stuff for years and didn't spot the change in the rules. B sample isn't going to help her.

For "they" not including "Martial Saugy" and result excluding "failed chain of custody".
Jun 2, 2017 10:00 PM # 
WADA decisions also can appealed be to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Sharapova got the length of her ban reduced on appeal. I understand that Sharapova said she knew she was taking meldonium, but missed the fact that it had been banned - she was caught shortly after the ban took effect.
Jun 2, 2017 10:25 PM # 
jonny crickmore:
There has been a few cases where a B sample has come back negative after a positive A sample. In this case the whole test is considered Negative. I think this happened with Lagat for instance.

If you compete in any event organised by a registered NGB (at last in the UK) then you can get tested. However amateur you believe yourself to be. I think whoever you are if you compete then you should follow the rules whether you come first or last.

There is a very searchable list on Global DRO to check your medication and if it is illegal maybe you find a legal alternative if there is one or apply for a TUE if not.
Jun 2, 2017 10:25 PM # 
Peter H:
As athletes it's our responsibility to monitor what is banned, and what goes in our bodies. It's really not that complicated. I'm glad that a doper (it's irrelevant whether she took meldonium deliberately, she still gained the advantage) has been caught and I wish the IOF would take doping more seriously and implement a much more thorough testing programme.
Jun 2, 2017 10:37 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
My doctor changed my additional (pollen season) allergy medication a few years ago, the new pills do require a TUE so I contacted the Norwegian Wada branch.

The nice lady asked me some questions about my sport and activity level, but when I told her that I was over 55 she told me that in this case I would not need a pre-approved TUE: If I was ever tested I would just have to show my prescription.

I.e. they do differentiate between elites and real amateurs!
Jun 2, 2017 10:55 PM # 
Yes - at least under Australian rules (which I think are pretty much a global standard), if you're not classified as a national-level athlete (basically national squad), you can get a TUE retrospectively if necessary.

There was a bit of testing at WMOC in New Zealand (all at the younger end of the field as far as I know). The suggestion doing the rounds was that a 70+ competitor who didn't test positive to something would be under suspicion of lying about their age :-).
Jun 2, 2017 11:03 PM # 
I recall the disqualification at the 1993 World Orienteering Championships due to routine cold medicine. An athlete had a cold, and took a common over the counter remedy per the recommendation of a coach. She listed the medicine on the form when she gave a urine sample, not hiding anything, not thinking that she had done anything wrong. Her relay team was stripped of its medals, etc. To me, the scandal in that case was the sanction not the use of ephedrine. It would be nice if I had the impression that the objective was to be fair and balanced while deterring serious doping, as opposed to sanctioning small amounts of sniffle meds to curry favour with a rather corrupt Olympics.
Jun 2, 2017 11:14 PM # 
An older relative surprised a hospital nurse by saying that she wasn't taking any meds. That was pretty rare in his experience. (Ironically, the intent of all those meds is presumably to enhance physical and/or mental state over what it would naturally be. If so many take meds, what's the "normal", baseline state that therapeutic use returns one to? Oh well, that's drifting off the topic of catching Sudafed users.)
Jun 3, 2017 9:57 AM # 
@jonny. The Lagat case which I alluded to is a bit more complicated. Basically there were storage problems with the B sample so the test was deemed invalid. Lucky man.
Jun 3, 2017 11:35 AM # 
The thing that's often missed is that the reason we ban certain drugs isn't because they give a performance advantage, it's because they're dangerous. There are plenty of things you can put into your body that help your performance that are allowed, and it's not because they're "natural" or "not drugs", it's because there's no realistic risk that you'll take too much and hurt yourself. The things that are banned are (or should be) the ones that have the potential for creating a game of chicken, where everybody is taking more than the other guy in order to be better than the other guy, until somebody overdoses or does permanent harm or whatever.

For some substances, it makes sense to use certain amounts depending on your circumstances, but setting a maximum allowable level and having everybody dancing with that limit gets pretty complicated. And there are some drugs that neither provide an advantage nor have any risk of overdose, but they mask the detection of other drugs, so they get banned as well.

For something like sudafed, it can seem like a pretty crazy thing to ban in normal over-the-counter theraputic doses. But on the other hand, pseudoephedrine is pretty much the mirror image molecule of amphetamine (which is why it's used as the precursor in meth "labs"), and when I was in college, I was friends with the musicians in a punk rock band who used to take heavy doses of it before gigs in order to be better able to play frantic music. Maybe not for orienteering, but for other sports you might have everybody munching on a box of the stuff before competition. It's routinely used by scuba divers to clear the sinuses (I think, Jim would know better than I would), but there's no advantage to taking an extra dose (and that's not a competition). If you set a limit, would some athletes be trying to see how much they could take without getting busted? I have no idea how hard it is to enforce a particular level instead of banning it outright (and it probably gets complicated by body weight, etc.)

I don't know much about meldonium, and after reading the wikipedia article, I still don't. Sounds like it's primarily for coronary artery disease, but is maybe helpful for some other conditions, and is maybe helpful for recovery. Sounds pretty questionable whether somebody would be "getting an advantage" by taking some meldonium.
Jun 3, 2017 1:06 PM # 
When I was into scuba diving, we were warned strongly against taking such drugs for sinus issues, because supposedly they metabolize faster at depth (due to pressure), leaving one with unexpected clogged sinuses for the ascent, and thus unable to equalise pressure across the eardrums. Nasty situation to be in.

I'm still sceptical about the benefit to orienteering of sanctions for minor use of Sudafed. If the sport weren't drooling about Olympic inclusion, it could instead take a sensible approach. If some athletes then take borderline doses of common stimulants, well, OK. Safe dosages tend to have a significant error margin, for safety.
Jun 3, 2017 3:54 PM # 
"have they ever reversed the decision based on the B-sample result"

It took me a while to find that example. Perhaps because most of the B samples that come back are also positive. There's (almost) no smoke without fire.

Ignorance is not an excuse. There are rules, abide by them.

It's sad to say, but my gut feeling is that there is doping at the highest levels of orienteering.
Jun 3, 2017 9:57 PM # 
A positive A/negative B sample situation wouldn't normally be publicised.

These days, pseudoephedrine is prohibited above a certain level rather than an outright ban: the advice is not to take it within 24 hours of competition. (I don't know enough about the numbers to know if "normal" use of medications would put you over the limit).
Jun 3, 2017 11:02 PM # 
My scuba comment was probably old information. It came from somebody who told me that in the early 80s.
Jun 4, 2017 5:25 PM # 
Sudafed recommends taking two pills (2x30mg=60mg) every four to six hours, or 240+mg a day. The acceptable dose for sport is 240mg. However, in tests, half the male subjects taking that dose exceeded the allowed blood concentration of the drug. So, sniffle use should be possible, with some dialing back before the race. (Of course, that leaves one a bit congested for the race.). It's good to deter dangerous drug use, but this seems likely below a dangerous dose. If it's about performance enhancement, then I wonder how many weekend warriors research how much of what cold medicines they can take, or bring printed copies of their prescriptions for everything, rather than spending their time at the local tourist attractions. My thyroid medicine doesn't appear to be an issue, but it's an annoying idea that, as someone doing a few orienteering events a year, I might theoretically be expected to tell my doctor not to prescribe his first choice for a medicine, but rather a second or third choice that isn't on some WADA list. If we really have dopers at the highest levels, then maybe it's time to get rid of the Olympic ambitions that are the most likely reason fuelling that. Or, we'll have a different, Armstrong style sport, and likely never get rid of drugs, no matter how much testing we do.
Jun 4, 2017 6:25 PM # 
Peter H:
"If we really have dopers at the highest levels, then maybe it's time to get rid of the Olympic ambitions that are the most likely reason fuelling that"

I very much doubt that Olympic ambitions have anything to do with any current elite orienteer's motivation to win, regardless of whether their methods involve doping or not.
Jun 4, 2017 9:18 PM # 
@ Poo Boy. Indeed. People make the mistake of thinking that Olympics and $ are the drivers of illegal PED use. Those help but, more generally, it's simply ego. There are some for who winning the race around the block will be enough motivation. I doubt there are any US orienteers bothering with illegal PEDs but I have little doubt of it existing in other sports I participate in. There is no tangible reward for 50+ year old guys in boats going backwards, but I have little doubt that ego and bragging rights are enough, and I'm racing against them. C'est la vie.
Jun 4, 2017 10:04 PM # 
I agree; although I have trouble imagining any US orienteers being motivated enough to do it, there is this bizarre notorious case.
Jun 4, 2017 10:13 PM # 
Peter H:
That story had another interesting development I saw:
Jun 5, 2017 1:35 AM # 
So I read in the capitalist U.S. of A. it is done in the name of individualism, to cherish one's ego, or to prove one's supremacy.
In Russia it is done for Motherland
Jun 5, 2017 2:10 AM # 
"There is no tangible reward for 50+ year old guys in boats going backwards, but I have little doubt that ego and bragging rights are enough, and I'm racing against them."

Has there been doping testing in 50+ rowing? (If there has been doping testing in sport for decades, at least now extending into the lower ranks, then ongoing doping seems to suggest that testing doesn't deter.)

I recall orienteering starting testing to remove one roadblock to getting into the Olympics.

The upshot will continue to be catching non dopers who didn't fill a form. Dopers seem to feel they'll avoid being caught.
Jun 5, 2017 12:31 PM # 
It seems from the IoF article that Frolova has not been stripped of her 2011 gold medals. How does that work? Is it because meldonium was legal then?
Jun 5, 2017 12:51 PM # 
Not sure why you would have expected her to be stripped of those - apart from the fact that meldonium was indeed legal then, doping sanctions arising from a positive test are only backdated to the date of the test. (The rash of recent 2008/2012 Olympic disqualifications comes from the retesting of stored samples; I believe storing samples for eight years is now standard Olympic practice, so that someone who thinks that what they're doing now is undetectable needs to think that it will still be undetectable with whatever technology exists in eight years' time).
Jun 5, 2017 3:11 PM # 
Well, if all medals and results backward and forward were annulled, and testing restricted to serious doping rather than marginal, questionable use of a normal medicine, it might deter more. Letting a doper back in after a few years says more about "don't get caught next time" than "don't use PED". (But that's the point, I assume.). If someone's truly doping to get an advantage (as opposed to being careless about checking routine therapeutic meds at mild doses), then why trust them again, at all? True doping (if that's what's being caught) is a pretty deliberate, planned cheating. Shrill moralising about Sudafed, but letting people resume sport competitions after a couple of years, telegraphs deflection, rather than solution. It's telling that the justification is always based on the problem, rather than the proven efficacy of the solution. The latter doesn't seem to exist, or if it does, isn't promoted very much.
Jun 5, 2017 5:04 PM # 
I'm starting to think JimBaker got busted for Sudafed

Imagine you get caught for speeding, and the punishment is a fine and maybe even losing your license. They can't retrospectively fine you for every drive you've ever been on because you may have been speeding, as there is no evidence.
Jun 5, 2017 5:53 PM # 
@blairtrewin - I didn't know that: the Lance Armstrong saga made me think DQs could be retrospective (Nixon will now tell me my ignorance is no excuse).
Sure enough, Ben Johnson and Marion Jones still are bona fide Olympic Medallist and World Champions. I didn't know that, and finding out hasn't made me happier :(
Jun 5, 2017 6:11 PM # 
All DQs are retrospective, but they are also based on evidence. If you weren't so ignorant about the Lance Armstrong saga you'd know this ;)

He lost all results from August 1998 onwards, nothing prior to this (including the 1993 World Championships)
Jun 5, 2017 6:15 PM # 
Interestingly, he didn't admit to doping during his comeback that was still within the statute of limitations... convenient.
Jun 5, 2017 7:19 PM # 
Nope, no Sudafed busts. I'm not sure I've even ever used it. But WOC93 and its sanction of a medalist for Sudafed was my first exposure to doping control in orienteering, as a spectator and minor volunteer. Looking at other sport, I'm not convinced that drug testing reduces drug use, just makes savvier athletes at covering it up. And I'm not sure that big money sport cares, as long as none of the blame comes its way. When someone does get caught, I wonder a lot whether it's someone innocently getting caught in this drug safety theater, like in WOC93, or some Armstrong. I tend to suspect more the former than latter.
Jun 5, 2017 8:04 PM # 
"Has there been doping testing in 50+ rowing?" I'm not specifically familiar with rowing, but when we went to the Asian Triathlon Champs from Hong Kong, Hong Kong competitors were told that everyone competing, whether elite or age group, could be subject to drug testing (including random testing) and we were given a handout on banned substances.

That some athletes get caught (many of which are not the innocent taking of medication type) doesn't mean current drug testing is ineffective. Women swimmers no longer look like the East Germans who dominated in the late 1970s, with many of them suffering serious medical problems afterwards. WADA's report published in 2016, covering 2014, shows 2,287 "adverse analytical findings", with 1,462 of those resulting in sanctions (152 still pending), either a reprimand or a ban. The WADA report covers both Olympic sports and non-Olympic sports (e.g., auto rallies, billiards, bridge, darts, fly fishing, lifesaving, powerboating, sumo). For orienteering, 177 samples were taken that year, of which 1 resulted in an adverse analytical finding, classified as "no case to answer", i.e., no sanctions. No case to answer includes "low-level athletes" (a recreational athlete who subsequently provides a medical justification, without having requested a therapeutic use exemption).
Jun 5, 2017 8:12 PM # 
@JimBaker "Nope, no Sudafed busts"
Tell us more!!! :)
Jun 5, 2017 10:40 PM # 
Sorry, very boring. No busts at all. No drug use, other than my prescription thyroid for mild hypothyroidism (runs in family apparently), multivitamins recommended since I have celiac, saw palmetto for prostate, and a cup or two of coffee a day. Thyroid doesn't seem to be banned. Can't find saw palmetto in the database that Crickmore linked to, which according to the site's disclaimer means​ who knows. Very occasional ibuprofen or aspirin. I don't think that enhancing my performance from Anaerobic Threshold shuffle up Red Rock Open Space would be terribly exciting (though my recent intervals on Santa Fe's rail trail were surprisingly OK, so maybe I'll have a little energy in Idaho for the national champs in M50).
Jun 6, 2017 6:56 AM # 
In the 1990s a local Western Australian female triathlete racing 'elite' was banned for 2 years through apparently inadvertently having codeine in her system from cold & 'flu medication. Other than the stigma she apparently didn't mind as she wasn't properly competitive, being of more mature years than her competition, but it was hard for her to not do a triathlon for 2 years. I think she ended up doing lots of running and riding instead.
Jun 6, 2017 9:34 AM # 
Jun 6, 2017 1:41 PM # 
It's sad to see that all the justification for the programme is The Problem, and not the efficacy of The Solution, other than one or two posts, while blithely accepting the multiple cases of cold med sanctioning that don't directly seem to serve any purpose. These aren't good signs for a programme. A similar lack of nuance to Trump's travel ban, although perhaps not so bad. The same rhetoric of fear, without bothering for careful targeting, and disinterest in its impact. There's a deep nastiness underlying such things, and, unchallenged, it undermines the character of our sport. I think that it's a good time to question such things in our society, as they're becoming popular, but ineffective, solutions in multiple countries.
Jun 6, 2017 2:49 PM # 
I am NOT excusing the athlete for her doings. Seeing she was born in Krasnoyarsk, maybe she wanted to prove something to someone at the World Champs in her home town. Sad anyway.

I wonder how long it will take the IOF to update her eventor and ranking pages to reflect the news?
Jun 6, 2017 2:54 PM # 
Oh... and is it a coincidence that while normally, all IOF news items are teased by a tweet, @IOForienteering fell silent one day before this news?
Jun 6, 2017 8:21 PM # 
If I were to want to cheat in Orienteering, I'd rather have a copy of the map a day beforehand than any PED
Jun 7, 2017 2:19 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@gas_turbine: Having a copy of the map is NOT a critical issue any longer, simply due to the fact that you can get free lidar for most interesting parts of the orienteering world.

Having that you can create your own map, which even if it will be missing many of the final details, will still give you a map which is more than good enough to plan possible courses and evaluate route choices.

I.e. both myself and Jarkko have posted autogenerated maps for the last ~5 Jukola relays.
Jun 7, 2017 6:53 PM # 

Doping would have a much greater affect on the WOC results board than someone getting to see the courses early.
Jun 7, 2017 9:58 PM # 
Tough room.

This discussion thread is closed.