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Italy Should Just Say No to Ban on Stringent Anti-Doping Laws
FEBRUARY 15, 2005 - As Americans contemplate the use of steroids in baseball, Italy is deciding what to do about its stringent anti-doping laws ahead of the 2006 Olympic winter games in Torino. In Italy, when an athlete is caught taking drugs, he or she is committing a criminal act. The police get involved and the people administering or providing the athlete with the drugs end up in jail. This was all fine before Italy was hosting the winter games. But now the country has to answer to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a group that wants the law to be less stringent.
Traditionally, the IOC strips athletes, who have tested positive for drug use, of their medals and kicks them out of the Olympic Village. This is usually followed by a ban from their sport's governing body. Under Italian law, however, if athletes test positive, the Italian police must step in. “Our legislation on doping is very, very strong and we don't make any distinction for anyone,” said Mario Pescanti, the Italian sports minister who is in charge of Torino 2006 and is also a member of the IOC. He added that many Italians are afraid that more lax laws will serve as a sign of weakness in the fight against doping.
At Pescanti's request, however, the Italian government is considering a change in law to meet the needs of the IOC and Olympians. He's asking that the police stay out of doping charges in sport.
This is a touchy subject with Italy. The Carabiniere Health and Anti-Doping Unit announced that it seized 900,000 packets of illegal substances last year, compared to 10,000 in 2003, reported China View. The Carabiniere arrested 115 people for drug use in sport in 2004, compared with 20 the year before.
Rumors about doping have plagued Serie A for some time now. In December Riccardo Agricola,, the Juventus soccer club doctor, was convicted for giving players the performance-enhancing drug EPO, which boosts red blood cells, and other medicines in the 1990s. He was sentenced to 22 months in jail and is appealing the charge. His trial featured the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Baggio, who denied taking any illegal substances.
Last year, cyclist Marco Pantani overdosed on cocaine after a long bout with depression that was brought on by punishments he received for using performance enhancing drugs.
But maybe Italy is right. Maybe we need to be tougher with these athletes and the doctors who let them put garbage into their body to give them that little edge, so they feel invincible. Just look at Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees. His career is in shambles and, worse than that, his body is dragging as a result of his steroid use. He has tumors and surely has cut off years of his life. Was it worth it? Is that what we want for international Olympic athletes? Is that what we want for anyone? I don't think so.
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