“IT’S THE OLYMPICS – WHERE’S THE DRUG CZAR?” ASKS FORMER WHITE HOUSE DRUG SPOKESMAN
(Washington, DC) – “It’s the Olympics – Where is the Drug Czar?” former White House drug policy spokesman Bob Weiner is asking.
“At Sydney, former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey attended and was an omni-present force, holding news conferences, bringing athletes together with anti-drug leaders, and helping to formulate and strengthen the new World Anti-Doping Agency and its U.S. counterpart, the United States Anti-Doping Agency. He sent exactly the right message and helped to create the environment for today’s strong testing that tells youth they can’t cheat and will hurt themselves physically if they do.
“Now, four years later, with perhaps the biggest sports drug scandal in US history upon us, the Drug Czar is absent from the world’s most important sporting event.
“This is not a partisan issue. President Bush was on the mark in January’s State of the Union when he said, ‘The use of performance enhancing drugs is dangerous,’ and he called on sports to ‘get rid of steroids now’. Now, he has sent his father to Athens, but he forgot to send his Drug Czar.
“There are many reasons the Drug Czar needs to be at these Olympics. The world is attacking the United States as though we are alone in the drug problem. Just yesterday (Aug. 12), World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound claimed at a news conference that USA Track and Field’s actions are “sleazy” with “a lack of no tolerance for cheating”. Pound failed to show knowledge of US Track’s new policy of a lifetime ban for cheaters and full and enthusiastic compliance with USADA’s testing – thousands of unannounced tests of our best athletes annually. The point must be made that the US is perhaps THE most serious country in cleaning up drugs. The recent busts of world and Olympic champions and medallists including cyclists from Italy, weightlifters from Eastern Europe, swimmers from Australia, distance runningers from Africa, sprinters from Britain, skiers from Russia and Spain, and many others show that drugs are a world-wide problem, not just one in the USA.
“Another reason for the Drug Czar to make his presence known is the deterioration of the message since McCaffrey left. More and more editorials, opeds, and letters in major papers across the country are calling for legalization including just this week in USA Today, the Economist, the New York Times, the Australian, the Guardian, the Chicago Tribune, and college papers like the Stanford University Daily, among others. The arguments against the purported ‘solution’ of legalization of sports drugs are clear:
“The testing does work when it is done -- that's why the busts are occurring -- with good reason (a deterrent) and with good results. The positive test rates even when everyone in an entire Olympics is tested, and even for the newest drugs, are 1/2 of 1%: that's what it was in Salt Lake. So the desperation isn't merited when the system works.
”When you think that what the big guns do is paralleled by so many kids (a million teens used steroids last year), it's really important to set the model of non-tolerance.
”Why enforce this? Because not only are these drugs cheating, but they are highly dangerous -- ask the 10,000 East Germans now dying with diseases like liver cancer or diabetes, or Flo-Jo who ten years after competing died with enlarged organs, a steroid symptom, or Steve Bechler, who died from ephedra heart irregularities, or the women with irreversible hair on their chests or the guys with shrunken testes. The euphoria of winning a competition in the moment is hardly worth the life of painful illness -- or even the face you see in the mirror for cheating for a victory.
“No, we don't want to go to legalization. Anarchy is not an answer to a problem.
“But even with these kinds of powerful arguments, you have to be on the stage to make them heard. In Sydney, Drug Czar McCaffrey was all over the TV, radio, and press and all the Olympic venues calling for action – and the world’s sports bodies heard and paid attention.
“Current Drug Czar Walters is at home, and the silence is deafening,” Weiner concluded.
(Weiner was White House Drug Policy spokesman and Director of Public Affairs 1995-2001, directed White House Drug policy media at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and was WADA’s media outreach director for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Games. He is a public affairs and issues consultant.)