Berlinger Urine Sample Bottle
Swiss manufacturer Belrlinger’s urine sample bottle explained by the NY Times.

I have enough trouble taking the cap off those child-proof bottles for pain medicine. I’m sure it’s not easy to open up one of Berlinger’s urine sample bottles.

The design of this bottle is based on 20-years of experience of designing and manufacturing security bottles according to Berlinger & Co AG, and that the Swiss company “welcomes all endeavours to further investigate these allegations.”

The allegations are that the lab in Russia in charge of testing urine samples of high-performance athletes had figured out a way to open up sealed urine sample bottles in order to switch out tainted urine with clean urine. The New York Times has covered the state-sponsored doping scandal in Russia extensively, and a recent article provided details of how athletes beat the urine tests.

Today, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released its report on the allegations of Russia’s doping and cover-up of doping, not just of track and field athletes, but all high performance athletes. As a result, the recommendation for a Rio Olympics ban on Olympians from Russia have expanded to all athletes.

As many now know, the head of the drug-testing lab for athletes in Russia was a man named Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, and he described in detail how tainted urine samples were passed through a small round hole in the wall of the testing facility, to be returned with clean urine samples. Before the bottles were returned, however, someone had to figure out how to re-open the supposedly tamper-proof bottles without any obvious evidence of tampering.

famous russian hole in the wall
The now famous Russian hole in the wall.

The bottle, which is part of Berlinger’s “BEREG-KIT”, was designed to be opened only one way once sealed – by breaking the cap into two parts with the use of a special tool in the kit. Somehow, Russians involved in the conspiracy to cover up drug usage figured out how to open the bottles up without breaking the cap. Here’s how the Times explained the process:

In Room 124, Dr. Rodchenkov received the sealed bottles through the hold and handed them to a man who he believed was a Russian intelligence officer. The man took the bottles to a building nearby. Within a few hours, the bottles were returned with the caps loose and unbroken. Dr. Rodchenkov’s team emptied and cleaned the bottles with filter paper and filled them with untainted urine collected from the athletes months before the Olympics.

This made me wonder – what are the ways in which urine tests can be compromised. I thought I would uncover stories only about athletes, but in the United States in particular, needing to cheat on drug tests is far more common than I had thought. I’ve lived in the US for only three adult years, so I was surprised at the level of drug testing that takes place in schools, hospitals and places of employment, very often as a part of the pre-employment screening process.

With a relatively high number of recreational drug users in America comes a need to cover up drug remnants in the system. According to this website, there are three basic ways to “fool” a urine drug test:

  • Diluting a urine sample with water,
  • Substituting your urine, or
  • Adulterating a sample.

Apparently, tampering in the first and third ways are easily detected by lab technicians, but “substitution”, assuming you are not being observed up close when peeing into a cup, is the best way to beat the test. Not only that, the tools to beat the urine tests are available online. I had no idea.

A quick search took me to this product called “U Pass Synthetic Urine” for only $11.74. U Pass comes with a bottle of “100% Toxin Free Synthetic Urine” and two heat pads that can be used to warm the sample just before the test. (After all, you can’t hand a sample of urine to a security person that doesn’t feel somewhat warm.)

u pass

According to the website, THC Clean, subtitled “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for THC Detox & Passing Your Drug Test”, U Pass works and doesn’t work, and that “… you need good quality synthetic urine in order to not get caught.”

But perhaps the most important advice provided in the THC Clean site is that drug tests and drug-cheating techniques are changing all the time: “When reading synthetic urine reviews online and other people’s experience with synthetic urine, on forums and such, it’s important to look at the date. Drug testing evolves constantly, which means the same brands and methods may or may not still be effective. If older than a year, you may want to look for something more recent.”

Drug testing is a cat-and-mouse game, but one in which the mice are sponsored by well financed and highly motivated players, relative to the cats, who always seem to be two steps behind.

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John Oliver in his program, Last Week Tonight, takes complex issues and explains them simply and, often times devastatingly, with humor. Recently, he took on the topic of doping.

It is powerful, and hysterical.

One early scene, Oliver shows an American anti-doping official observing an athlete urinate to show the world the humiliating extremes authorities feel they have to go to prevent cheating.

John Oliver_peeing
An anti-doping official watching an athlete pee.

He quotes the former head of top world anti-doping regulator (WADA), Dick Pound, saying that no matter what processes you have in place to prevent doping and cheating, if there’s a will there’s a way.

“The machinery is all there. The question is, do people really want it to work. You can do hundreds of thousands of tests and catch nobody if you don’t want to catch anybody. Yeah. People don’t want it to work.”

Oliver goes on to show the dismay of athletes who feel they are competing fruitlessly against cheaters, and don’t know what to do about it. Alysia Montaño came in fifth in the 800 meter race at the 2012 Olympic Games, losing to three people from countries (Russia and Kenya) whose anti-doping authorities have been deemed inadequate. Montaño states that she felt she was “racing against robots”, and wondered at her predicament “What am I doing here? What’s the point?”

The 20-minute piece, every minute worth watching, builds to a glorious finish with a fantastically funny spoof of the inspirational profile of an Olympic athlete. Please watch this video.

John Oliver_cram all the pills
From John Oliver’s faux inspirational athlete profile.
Daraya Pishchalnikova
Darya Pishchalnikova

On June 17, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) barred the entire Russian track and field team from competing in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio this August due to revelations of Russia’s state-sponsored doping of its athletes. As the head of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe, stated during this historic announcement, “Politics was not playing a part in that room today. It was unambiguous.”

The scale of this ban due to doping is unprecedented in Olympic history, and will have a significant impact on the Rio medal tally as Russia won 18 medals in track and field, including 8 gold medals, at the 2012 London Games. This is a tragedy for Russians, who likely were fully expectant of their citizens bringing home medals and glory from Brazil. But it is also a victory for athletes who live clean sporting lives, and a bit of redemption for athletes whose final results may have been affected by a tainted Russian athlete.

But this a complex tale of good and bad, with victims, heroes and dreamers. Here are a few of the players in this tragedy:

The Whistle-Blowing Victim, Darya Pishchalnikova: Way back in December of 2012, a female discus thrower from Astrakhan Russia wrote a very sensitive email in English, and sent it to the World Anti-Doping Agency. Darya Pishchalnikova took a chance by opening up to the global doping regulatory authority, expecting her whistle lowing to be handled with the utmost confidentiality. According to this New York Times article, Pishchalnikova’s email was sent to the top three WADA officials at the time, with a note explaining that the discus thrower’s accusations were “relatively precise”, filled with facts and names. What did WADA do with Pischalnikova’s email? They forwarded it to the Russian sports authorities

What is interesting is that she had actually tested positive for an anabolic steroid prior to the 2012 London Games in May, 2012. She blew the whistle 7 months later, explaining how she had taken banned substances as a part of a systematic doping program in Russia. But perhaps predictably, after the Russian authorities were forwarded Pischalnikova’s email from WADA, the Russian Athletics Federation banned her from competing any further for Russia.

Rusanova of Russia competes during the woman's 800 metres semi-final heat 1 at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu
Yuliya Rusanova of Russia; REUTERS/Michael Dalder

The Reluctant Hero, Yuliya Stepanova: Like Pishchalnikova, Yuliya Stepanova (now Rusanova) was a standout athlete who was banned by the IAAF due to abnormalities with her bloodwork. Her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, was actually a member of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), who was growing disenchanted with RUSADA’s lack of integrity. At one point, the 800-meter specialist took steps to divorce herself from her crusading husband. But after Yuliya was banned by the IAAF for two years, the couple committed to work together, and began to think about ways to share their insight into systematic doping of Russian athletes. Eventually, they agreed to go on camera with German news broadcaster, ARD, for a documentary that blew the lid off Russia’s state-sponsored doping system. Fearing for their safety, the couple, now married, are living in the United States.

Sochi Winter Olympic Games - Pre-Games activity - Wednesday
Sir Craig Reedie

The Reluctant Sheriff, WADA: We know that the World Anti-Doping Agency was aware of allegations into Russian state-sponsored doping, as early as December, 2012 based on Pischalnikova’s case. We also know according to this 60 Minutes account that Yuliya’s husband, Vitaly sent 200 emails and 50 letters to WADA, detailing what he knew as an insider at RUSADA. As 60 Minutes stated, “his crusade eventually cost him his job.”

WADA’s president is Craig Reedie. In this New York Times article, he acknowledges that Vitaly contacted him, but also implied he did not act on it. In fact, he even confirmed “that he had sent a reassuring email to the Russian sports ministry in April — four months after the ARD documentary was broadcast — in which he praised the sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, for his efforts in the fight against doping and said there was ‘no intention in WADA to do anything to affect’ their relationship.”

Wow.

The Hopeful, Yelena Isinbayeva: Pole vaulting has been an Olympic event for women for only four Olympiads, debuting at the 2000 Sydney Games. In that period, Russian Yelena Isinbayeva has won gold in 2004 and 2008 before taking bronze in 2012. She has never tested positive for drugs. And despite the ban, she still hopes to participate in her fifth and

The images from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, particularly the 1982 film of that name, are haunting.

“We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control”, chant the students in unison, faces blank, walking into the gaping maw of a meat grinder.

In 1977, fifteen-year old Christiane Knacke, was a promising swimmer in East Germany, the first woman to swim the 100-meter butterfly in less than a minute. Now targeted for greatness, Knacke’s coach began to put his new swimming prodigy on a new regimen, as explained the wonderful tome, The Complete Book of the Olympics, by David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky.

Christiane Knocke
Christiane Knacke in 1980

“Her coach, Rolf Glasen now added to her regime a daily dose of ten to fifteen steroid pills. She also received shots of cortisone and procraine and, twice a week, intraveneous drips of an unknown liquid. In less than a year Knacke grew from 50 kilograms (110 pounds) to 65 kilograms (143 pounds).”

At the 1980 Moscow Olympics, boycotted by over 60 nations in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, the East Germans swept the women’s 100-meter butterfly, 18-year old Knacke taking the bronze. According to Wallechinsky and Loucky, right after her triumph in Moscow, Knacke had three operations on her elbow, her bones having turned to “crystal” due to an excessive intake of anabolic steroids.

In 1998, 9 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Knacke was a co-plaintiff in a suit against former East German coaches who oversaw the implementation of the systematic doping. Glaser publicly apologized to Knacke, and Knacke voluntarily gave up her bronze medal.

According to this PBS article, The East German Sports Performance Committee, with the

Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov on 60 Minutes
Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov on 60 Minutes. Click on picture to go to video.

On May 8, CBS aired Armen Keteyian‘s interview of Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov, Russians who fled to the United States after the world learned that they were the informants to a German documentary on massive state-sponsored doping of athletes in Russia. As a result of that documentary and a subsequent investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the IAAF banned Russian track and field athletes from competing in international competitions, including the 2016 Rio Olympics.

In this interview, Vitaly explained that he had surreptitiously taped a talk with Grigory Rodchenkov, the man who ran the drug-testing lab in Russia and was now in the United States as well because of what he believed was a threat to his life if he stayed. (Two of his colleagues had died unexpectedly in February according to the New York Times.) Rodchenkov said that not only was the state-sponsored doping widespread throughout the Russian government, not only were Russian athletes competing in the Summer Olympics tainted by doping, but at least four gold medal winners of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia doped.

Grigory Rodchenkov
Grigory Rodchenkov

On May 12, the New York Times released an article based on an interview with Rodchenkov, who was introduced by the producer of a documentary on Russia doping. According to the Times, Rodchenkov developed a “three-drug cocktail of banned substances that he mixed with liquor” that helped potentially dozens of Russian athletes, and that some of Russia’s biggest names in cross-country skiing and bobsledding at the Sochi Games were given this cocktail.

Rodchenkov also actively covered up the doping by ensuring tainted urine would not be tested. Here’s how the Times explained the operation:

In a dark-of-night operation, Russian antidoping experts and members of the intelligence services surreptitiously replaced urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier, somehow breaking into the supposedly tamper-proof bottles that are the standard at international competitions, Dr. Rodchenkov said. For hours each night, they worked in a shadow laboratory lit by a single lamp, passing bottles of urine through a hand-size hole in the wall, to be ready for testing the next day, he said. By the end of the Games, Dr. Rodchenkov estimated, as many as 100 dirty urine samples were expunged.

hole in the wall
The hole in the wall (covered by a removable cap) through which tainted urine samples were passed and replaced by clean samples during the Sochi Games, according to Dr. Rodchenkov. NY Times

The big question hanging over the Rio Olympics is whether the ban on the entire Russian track and field team would be lifted in time for competition at the Games starting on August 5. According to the CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, in the 60 Minutes piece, this new information from Rodchenkov does not bode well.

Look, it’s a stunning revelation. And if true it’s a devastating blow to the Olympic values. It’s clearly the final nail in the coffin for Russian track and field.

electrically stimulated muscles_Cybathlon
Wheelchair racers whose legs are paralyzed, but whose leg muscles are electro-stimulated to move

 

We cringe when we hear about yet another doping case in sports. Dopers are cheaters! We hope that international bodies like World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) can stay close with the shadow chemists who continue to devise new ways to mask the fingerprints of performance enhancing agents.

We thrill to see a double amputee sprint on carbon-fiber blades, but we worry if they will one day far outpace sprinters who race on legs they were born with. Unfair advantage!

The truth is science and technology, if it had a will of its own, is ever eager to advance, solve problems, and push the inside of the envelope. The infamous Oscar Pistorius was allowed to compete at the 2012 Olympics on his blades, running in the 400 meter and 4X400 meter competitions. Technology in this case did not afford the runner an advantage to take him to the elite levels of sprinting.

But we all know, it’s a matter of time. The “Six-Million Dollar Man” Scenario, where a given person with various prostheses and enhancements will be “better than he was. Better….stronger….faster.” The Six Million Dollar Man debuted on American television in 1973. If the main character, Steve Austin, wanted to participate in the 1976 Olympic Games, he would have won gold in almost every athletic event. Why he wasted time as a secret agent for the OSI is beyond me.

The Six Million Dollar Man

So what does the future hold? Clearly, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs will continue to look for ways for people with disabilities to return to so-called “normalcy”. They will also look for ways to give “normal” people super-human abilities. In the case of organized sports, the nature of competition will continue to change. In fact, it already has.

When technology creates a totally different standard of performance, new competitions arise, as was explained in this Wired Magazine article from 2012.

When such devices are perfected to the point that they can be used for athletic purposes, we’ll be looking at an entirely new concept of sport. It’s doubtful the Olympics will ever feature exoskelletally assisted runners or weightlifters, but what’s to say that a different type of venue won’t arise for such a thing? “I think that once the technology is proven to exceed normal human function, then the stage will be set for the introduction of a whole new type of enhanced sporting entertainment,” said Matthew Garibaldi, director of the Orthotic and Prosthetic Centers for the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UC San Francisco.

In fact, two competitions that put technology front and center have emerged. As explained in this Inverse.com article, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich organizes a competition called the Cybathlon, the next one scheduled on October 6. It’s similar to the Paralympics, in which disabled people use technology, like a prosthesis, and the athlete

TEN-SPO-SHARAPOVA
Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles, on March 7, 2016.  / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

The world was shocked when world #11 and five-time grand slam singles champion, Maria Sharapova, was suspended from tennis competition for use of a banned substance, meldonium. The tennis world reacted with scorn for the former world #1 women’s tennis player:

  • John McEnroe: “It would be hard to believe that no one in her camp, the 25 or 30 people that work for her, or Maria herself, had (any) idea that (meldonium had been banned).”
  • Jennifer Capriati: “I didn’t have the high priced team of [doctors] that found a way for me to cheat and get around the system and wait for science to catch up.”

Capriati is making the most powerful case against doping from an athlete’s perspective. Taking banned or illegal drugs to enhance performance is cheating. And to not call out cheats is unfair to those who are not taking drugs that give advantage.

Sponsors dropped Sharapova like an overripe fruit with maggots inside. All except Head, the racquet manufacturer.

According to this statement from HEAD, “We question WADA’s decision to add meldonium to its banned substances list in the manner it did; we believe the correct action by WADA would have been to impose a dosage limitation only. In the circumstances we would encourage WADA to release scientific studies which validates their claim that meldonium should be a banned substance.”

WADA is the World Anti-Doping Association, the international governing body that establishes what athletes may or may not put into their bodies. The president of WADA, Dick Pound responded to HEAD’s statement to the BBC:

“First and foremost, Head is a manufacturer and seller of tennis rackets, among other things. So far as I’m aware, it’s not a medical expert and not in a position to amend the world anti-doping code. As for its view as a commercial racket seller as to whether meldonium should be on the list of prohibited substances or not, quite frankly I prefer the scientific opinion of medical experts to the commercial interest of somebody telling tennis rackets using a player who is subject to whatever discipline is called for under the world anti-doping code. A complete conflict of interest on its part, combined with a lack of knowledge of the particular substance.”

SPORTS-WADA-ESP-POUND
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Canadian lawyer Dick Pound / AFP PHOTO/PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU (Photo credit should read PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)

That is a powerful and damning retort from Pound, whose efforts helped lead to the suspension of Russia’s entire track and field team from international competition, including the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympics.

And yet, this is what confuses me. There doesn’t seem to be any consensus among “medical experts” as to whether meldonium actually enhances performance in athletes.

This New York Times article explains the science of how meldonium works. In short, burning glucose in your body releases more energy than burning fat. The “science” states that meldonium will work to encourage the burning of glucose, not fat. So when you’re oxygen starved, a situation many high-performance athletes find themselves in when they exert themselves, the meldonium will give them a glucose burn and a bigger burst of oxygen.

Meldonium box
A box of meldonium pills, legally marketed as Mildronate primarily in Eastern Europe.

The same New York Times article, entitled “Effects of Meldonium on Athletes are Hazy“, quotes Dr Eric Brass of UCLA, who questions the correlation between meldonium and greater athletic performance.

“In general, if one is involved in short-duration, sprint-type activity, one tends to use glucose because it is more available and it is an efficient way to generate energy quickly,” said Dr. Eric Brass, a professor of medicine at U.C.L.A. Still, Brass said it was not clear if that was what was really happening in athletes. “The science behind many of these performance-enhancing compounds is limited, biased and subject to misinterpretation,” he said. Several of the studies on meldonium were done on rats and published only in Russian.

This is why doping stories outrage me and put me to sleep at the same time. I definitely

Ma Junren and his Army
Chinese Track coach Ma Junren and his “Army”

Old letters from our youth can trigger warm memories or nascent insecurities. Some should be published for their form and insightfulness. Others should be lost to eternity.

The Chinese government may have wished for the latter for one particular letter that has unveiled yet-another possible example of state-sponsored doping. Russia’s athletics team is banned from competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and Kenya’s team is under threat of ban. Now China is facing scrutiny over allegations that Ma Junren, the coach of China’s female middle- and long-distance runners, forced performance-enhancing drugs on his team of runners.

While the news broke in early February of this year, the source of the news was a letter written in 1995, signed by nine members of Ma Junren’s team. The women on this team, who also faced intolerable physical and verbal abuse from their coach, delivered the letter to an investigative reporter they respected, Zhao Yu. Nineteen years later, this letter was finally published in a book by Zhao Yu, unnoticed by the public, until a Chinese sports website called Sports.qq.com shared the letter this month. Here is part of that letter:

What we have told you about how Coach Ma verbally and physically abused us for years is true. It is also true that he tricked and forced us into using large quantities of banned drugs for years. We have a heavy heart and very complicated feelings in exposing him.

The person who is said to have written this letter is Wang Junxia, who was coached by Ma until 1995. Under Ma, Wang set records and won titles in marathons, 10ks, 3ks and 1500 meter races. In 1995, Wang and her teammates left their coach. In 1996, at the Atlanta Summer Games, Wang won gold in the inaugural women’s 5,000 meter race, as well as silver in the 10,000 meter competition.

Wang Junxia at the Atlanta Summer Games
Wang Junxia at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta

And now, due to this recently publicized revelations, what Wang wrote in that letter 21 years ago may ring true: “We are concerned that our motherland’s reputation will be harmed, and we are also concerned about ‘how much gold’ there will be in our gold medals that were earned through blood and sweat.”

Go to this New York Times article for the full text of the letter.

sebastian coe_head of IAAF.png

How do you clean up corruption when it is perceived that all parties are steeped in it?

According to this powerful opinion piece by Juliet Macur of the New York Times, better to go with the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.

She writes how the head of WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency), Dick Pound, has consistently been blunt and hardline with regards to corruption in athletics, particularly as it relates to doping. (She cites in the article a hysterical quote from Pound about a famous cyclist’s testosterone levels as a case in point.) But for some reason, when it comes to the fate of IAAF leader, Sebastian Coe, Pound somehow found it in his heart to praise and support, not tear down. As Macur wrote, “What had WADA done with the real Dick Pound?”

Coe took gold in the 1500 meters in 1980 and 1984, was elected as an MP in the British Parliament, and has been a leader in the International Amateur Athletics Federation since 2007, recently becoming the head of the IAAF last August. To be honest, it’s a lousy time to be the head of the IAAF, which is under a dark cloud of suspicion.

SEbastian Coe wins gold in 1500 in Los Angeles
Sebastian Coe wins gold in the 1500 meter race at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games

There are allegations of gifts made in exchange for awarding the 2019 world track and field championships to Doha, Qatar. There is the state-sponsored doping program in Russia that was conveniently ignored by the IAAF but eventually exposed by WADA, resulting in Russia’s track and field being banned from international competition, including the Rio Olympics in August. There is the suspected doping of Kenya’s runners, whose performance at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing last August was so superlative, they topped the medals tables for the first time ever.

And finally, there is Coe himself, who very reluctantly disassociated himself from his long-time paid association with Nike. The IAAF awarded the 2021 Athletics World Championships to Eugene, Oregon in the US, with apparently a formal bidding process. Oregon is definitely a hotbed for track, so Eugene’s selection is not a surprise. But Oregon is also the home to Nike. There’s no real indication that Nike, and thus Coe, had anything shady to do with the selection process. But taken all together, the IAAF is not currently a poster child for transparency and ethical decision making.

But as Macur explains, “It can be difficult to find purity at the top of international sports. In track and field, Coe, the former middle-distance star and Olympic champion, just might be the best option. He should serve his punishment for not speaking out against pervasive doping in track and field. His sentence: to clean up his dirty sport.”

Macur goes on to quote 5,000-meter runner and champion, Lauren Fleshmen as saying that Coe probably didn’t know all the corrupt things going on in the IAAF because of its

drug den clearance picture

I can’t get this image out of my mind. It seems so foreign to the spirit of athletic competition on the one hand, and yet it is as entwined in world-class competition as excellent coaches and dedicated training.

Doping.

The image I am referring to is a particular odious one, described in the book, The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final, by Richard Moore. The Second World Athletics Championships were held in Rome, Italy in August 1987, a year prior to the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul Korea. Ben Johnson has set a world record in the 100 meters with a time of 9.83 seconds, beating rival Carl Lewis who also had a personal best of 9.93 seconds.

Moore related a story told by Doug Clement, a former Olympic middle-distance runner who was a coach and a doctor for the Canadian Olympic Association, and was at those World Athletics Championships in Rome.

Stadio dei Marmi
The Stadio dei Marmi, Rome.

Next to the Olympic Stadium was one of Mussolini’s smaller excesses, the Stadio dei Marmi, the Stadium of the Marbles, filled with statues depicting athletes in classical poses, which during the championships was being used as a warm-up area. ‘Inside it was a catacomb-like area, lots of little rooms,’ recalls Clement. ‘They were dark and dingy, there were multiple caves. There were syringes everywhere. All over the floor. It was like a drug den.’

It was a drug den – and a metaphor for the sport. In the sunshine of the Stadio Olympico the triumphant championships were played out in front of 75,000 people; near by, in the shadows of the statues that adorned the Stadio dei Marmi, lay the dingy reality.”

A year later, Ben Johnson won the gold medal at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, only to have it stripped from him after testing positive for drugs in his system.

ben johnson.,_Koreajpg