Doping's Nemesis, by Arne Ljungqvist

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Arne Ljungqvist was good enough as a high jumper to represent Sweden at the 1952 Olympics before injury ended his sporting career at 21, after which he concentrated on qualifying as a doctor.

So when he returned to sport in 1971 as a member of the Swedish Athletics Association he was astonished to discover the major topic of conversation among the country's leading athletes was which performance-enhancing drugs were the most efficacious, and even more alarmed when an anonymous survey he distributed indicated that nearly half of them were using anabolic steroids (which at that time weren't illegal).

As a doctor he knew how damaging these could be, and so began his crusade to rid sport of doping; as he points out, horseracing had been conducting dope tests since 1910, but 40 years ago humans could largely take what they liked.

Almost singlehandedly at first, he turned the tide of popular opinion against drugs, chairing the medical committees at the International Olympic Committee and the then International Amateur Athletics Federation. His autobiography gives an unrivalled insider's view of the biggest dope scandals over the years, including the Balco affair and the Greek sprinters at the Athens Olympics in 2004. He hails minimal positive tests at Beijing 2008 as proof that doping is steadily on the decline, and is confident that the next big threat, gene technology, is capable of being detected.

British readers may wish to gloss over the details of Swedish athletics infighting and Ljungqvist's dealings with the country's royal family, but the core of the book is of great interest to anyone who believes in ridding sport of dope cheats.

At 80, he is still active in the battle. The fact it is being waged at all is his lasting legacy.

Published in hardback by SportsBooks, £17.99

Comments