Drugs in sport: Cheats are getting away, says Turner

Swimmer who has only been drug-tested twice in two years claims authorities could easily clean up the pool.

Nick Harris
Wednesday 09 December 1998 00:02 GMT

WHEN ADRIAN TURNER heard the head of the International Olympic Committee say there might be case for shortening the list of prohibited substances in sport, his first thought was: "That's the biggest load of rubbish I've ever heard."

The 21-year-old swimmer, a finalist in the 400m individual medley at this year's Commonwealth Games, added: "I felt sick when I heard him say that. He [Juan Antonio Samaranch, who later said all drugs harmful to health should remain on the banned list, but there might be a case for removing others] is the head honcho in the IOC and he was saying `Take some off the list.' And I thought `I'm the one who's got to race against these people who use drugs'."

Like many young British sportsmen and women, Turner feels there are still people cheating in his sport and feels not enough is done to stop it. "There is a fear of extensive testing by governing bodies because a 100 per cent sample might make a mockery of swimming if all of a sudden they came up with a 30 per cent positive test rate. Every time they catch someone, it's good for us clean athletes but it's also bad for swimming in general. People will say: `here's another one in swimming, how bent is swimming?' The swimming federations do have a vested interest in keeping the number of positive tests to a minimum."

Turner added that some responsibility should lie with the rich corporate sponsors who pay huge amounts to be associated with the glamorous side of sport. "It seems scarily easy to me to be able to clean up a sport but no one seems to be making a move to do so. I don't get it."

Although tested twice while in Kuala Lumpur at the Commonwealth Games, Turner said testing in general leaves much to be desired. "Before the Games I hadn't been tested for two years. I wasn't tested in training, wasn't tested at any competitions. I could have been using any substances and I wasn't tested. It's not good enough. If I could get away with it, how many others are there that might not be as clean as I am?"

Drug use is a common topic of discussion within swimming, Turner said, as are the temptations to bend the rules. He recalled an incident at the European Championships last year, less than 10 months after a Russian swimmer had been allowed to keep an Olympic medal despite having tested positive for a steroid masking agent. "My room-mate said to me: `if you could take something that would make sure you got a guaranteed Olympic gold, and it had no side effects and you knew no one would ever catch you, would you take it?' And my instant reaction was `of course not.' But my room-mate said `I think you're lying mate' and I can see what he means."

The difference between temptation and acting on temptation, Turner said, was that he could not, with a clear conscience, happily beat someone by using illegal means. A life of training - he started competing at 12 and now trains up to nine times a week, swimming up to 10,000m a time - has also made him feel success should be earned, not merely swallowed.

"I've experienced winning, and the nightmare of losing. I couldn't force that nightmare upon them purely because I put a chemical into my body that they did not have."

He added: "I've competed in China and seen how little in the way of assets the man in the street has, and how a winning athlete in that country is comparable in Western terms to a millionaire national hero. The phrase `nothing to lose' is startlingly applicable. So why do our punishments make it even more so?"

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