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The good news: Jamaican, U.S. track athletes not among new dopers

April 29, 2009 |  7:56 am


There is good news for track and field in the announcement of more doping positives from the Beijing Olympics, even if 1,500-meter gold medalist Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain was among those caught.

Actually, even because Ramzi -- one of the sport's mercenaries -- was among those caught. More on that.

The good news is that no Jamaican or U.S. athletes are among the three from track and field nabbed by retesting of samples for a new incarnation (known as MIRCERA or simply CERA) of the blood-booster EPO, according to sources familiar with the results. Although it is unlikely that a sprinter like Usain Bolt would have been using a drug favored by endurance athletes, track officials know their sport would officially be proclaimed dead if he had tested positive. And there might have been just as much damage from the guilt by association that would have accompanied another Jamaican positive.

Same for USA Track & Field. All its efforts to overcome the doping scandals that ensnared Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery and more would have been for naught had a U.S. athlete turned up positive in Beijing.

So why is it good Ramzi, a native Moroccan, was caught, which the Bahrain Olympic Committee admitted today?

He is among many top North African and Kenyan runners whose services have been bought by rich Gulf States seeking to embellish their sporting image; athletes are able to take advantage of the easy citizenship procedures in those countries. Maybe this doping positive will be a cautionary tale -- sort of "buyer, beware" -- for such deals. A spate of middle-distance and distance runners born in North Africa, especially Morocco, have been caught for EPO use. Many were citizens of European countries, but they often continued to train in Morocco. The number of these cases casts doubt on the achievements of such great Moroccan runners as Hicham Guerrouj, 1,500 and 5,000 winner at the 2004 Olympics, even if he never tested positive for anything. (Neither, as you may recall, did Marion Jones.)

The other announced big name from the Beijing retests is Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin, silver medalist in the road race.

And, although the positives have yet to be confirmed by testing of the "B'' samples, it is hardly a surprise that a leading cyclist was dirty. After all, it was discovery of CERA in samples from last year's Tour de France that led the International Olympic Committee to pay for 847 retests targeting that substance.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Rashid Ramzi on the way to victory in the 1,500 at the Beijing Olympics. He stands to lose the gold after a positive dope test announced Tuesday. Credit: Greg Baker / Associated Press