News from the AP today says that Greek athletes thought they could cheat the Olympic anti-doping system by using a little known -- but dangerous -- anabolic steroid called methyltrienolone or M3. Early reports indicated Greek weightlifters used M3 to dope. Later track athletes tested positive for the liver-toxic steroid (Halkia, Regas, and Gousis). Although the Greek athletes thought they were cleverly cheating the system, they were really destroying their livers.
Over a dozen Greek athletes who failed doping tests prior to and during last month's Beijing Olympics thought a rare anabolic steroid would help them elude tests, a leading anti-doping expert said Monday.
But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had been on the lookout for cheats from Greece ever since the drug, methyltrienolone, turned up in the results of 11 Greek weightlifters in April, Don Catlin, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency's committee for science and medicine, told Ta Nea daily.
"The Greek case...involved the use of a particularly rare and dangerous anabolic whose use had not been officially recorded before," Catlin said.
"Whoever marketed it in Greece undoubtedly argued that it is not harmful and could not be traced, as only small quantities are needed for it to act."
In all, fifteen Greek athletes in three disciplines -- weightlifting, swimming and athletics -- have tested positive for methyltrienolone, severely embarrassing Greek authorities which on Monday tabled tougher anti-doping legislation in parliament.
Catlin is the UCLA endocrine wizard whose lab caught Victor Conte and the BALCO threat in the USA. The Greek system appears to be acutely embarrassed, which may lead to reform.
"The (Greek) state wants clean athletes," Michalis Liapis, the Greek culture minister responsible for sport, told reporters.
The new regulations cut rewards for successful athletes to discourage drug cheating and toughen sanctions against providers of banned substances, corrupt anti-doping officials and sports officials.
The doping outbreak has already sparked a preliminary judicial probe here.
Among those caught is Fani Halkia, the women's 400m hurdles at the Athens Olympics, whose coach George Panagiotopoulos has now been sued by the IOC for causing damage to its reputation.
Can the athletes and coaches be this naive about the side effects of the drug, and the ability of the anti-doping effort to detect at least the more obvious of the steroids?