Story written by Eric.
An athlete bent on using drugs to cheat will stop at nothing to win: he will squirm through loopholes, she will sprint through logic, and they will attempt to lean ahead of testers when the finish line draws near - or the drug cycle is over.
They are becoming more adept at playing both sides of the predator and prey game as well.
The cheater's meal ticket is punched in the form of opulent payouts and appearance fees in rich meets sprinkled here across the continent of Europe. These organisers, the public gathered there to watch along with the non-suspecting, non-doped competitors are called the prey.
The cheater is hunted by three particular alphabet soup organisations bearing the acronyms WADA, IAAF and USADA - organisations which have a united purpose to stamp out illegal drug use in an effort to provide clean sport among its initiatives.
Athletes pursue their targets by any means deemed necessary - even if that sometimes means leaving tracks in the sand for those following with vials, notebooks and chain of custody numbers to close in and strike at random.
Athletes who succeed at deception find themselves enabled to gain an unfair, illegal and unjust advantage over their competitors. They also hoodwink meet organisers who have bills to pay, fans who occupy expensive seats in the prime sections of the stadiums and corporate sponsors eager to get a prime return on their advertising investments.
WARNING: KEEP OUT
Anti-doping officials who are able to catch a lucky break are able to keep a cheat or two off the streets for a couple of years - or down a lane in the centre of a track near you if that imagery fits you better.
More importantly in their eyes, they're able to provide a semblance of cleanliness the sport's image has suffered to regain following BALCO, Marion Jones, stolen world records, tainted victories and lies, lies and more lies.
The highest anti-doping body organisation in the world along with track and field's governing officials are attempting to bring the spirit of true competition and cleanliness back into the sport of track and field, and welcome any legal, beneficial and binding way to reach their goals of making track and field safe and clean for the competitors and pure for the spectactors.
One can reason that they are attempting to meet this objective by any means possible.
They have found allies with European meet organisers who have signed a pact to keep cheats out of their venues, and certain national governing bodies like UK Athletics have prohibited convicted drug cheaters from participating for their country in the Olympic Games - the pinnacle of a professional athlete's aspirations.
The Euromeetings group, whose members conduct 51 track-and-field meets here on the European circuit, have also made a pact to refuse entry to current or future athletes convicted of serious doping violations -- those whose violations require a two- or more year banishment.
Keeping drug cheats out of elite, world-class competitions where money and fortune is at stake seems like a good idea on the surface, because athletes who cheated had previously been dishonest and collected money under false pretenses, and there's nothing written in the moral code of life which states they wouldn't do it again at the first opportunity afforded them.
This is an issue of trust which is difficult for a convicted athlete to regain once they have been inked on to the blacklist the organisers by resources within their circle of influence - including by track agents whose own athletes may miss out on valuable lane draws and Grand Prix points if a cheat is inadvertently allowed to compete.
There are athletes who have unknowingly injested products with a banned substances and have been penalised one or two years for their offences. Such athletes won't be bound together with the dirty lot who have made concerted efforts to swindle the sport and rob it of its integrity.
Just this week, Susan Chepkemei, a four-time IAAF World Half-Marathon medalist, was sanctioned for a doping violation for Salbutamol, a medication commonly prescribed for breathing problems -- usually asthma.
Chepkemei will sit out a year of competition due to the IAAF's strict liability rule which binds all athletes who are competing under its jurisdiction - or have the intention of doing so - to be held accountable for all substances in their bodies.
Chepkemei's case is one of bad luck, as the three-time half-marathon silver medallist was prescribed a medication at a hospital by a licensed doctor; she didn't demonstrate an intention to foul out of the game of track and field this season.
RETURNING BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY
Other athletes like British sprinter Dwain Chambers (photo above) and former Stanford University graduate Chryste Gaines, however, have made attempts in their careers to lure and mislead, and have been banned for steroid abuse - or suspicion of its use. They did cheat by all means possible, with those means coming in the form of drugs not detectable by conventional testing methods.
Now, several years removed from the disgraceful moments when they were discovered to have lied and covered up their tracks, Chambers and Gaines want back into the game, and they're planning on using any means necessary to gain acceptance on the playground.
Chambers, who has returned to the sport following his suspension and an aborted attempt to make it big in the NFL, has faced a fury of negative opinion in his homeland this winter, with the climax reached in having had to make legal maneuvers with UK Athletics in order to run in his national indoor championships two weekends ago - a 60m final which he won.
Chambers, who, along with Gaines, was caught in the BALCO net when Victor Conte's illegal operations were raided and information about their individual involvements was brought before a United States grand jury, has been frozen out of other meets of note this winter - meets which organisers have a right to pick and choose those whom they want, rather than those they must.
Gaines, who compted in her national indoor championships in Boston at the last week-end, has also been frozen out of meets vital to a world-class athlete's pocket book and sustainability, and believes it is high time for athletes on the rebound from drug offences to sue in order to be able to return to the track and carry on their jobs as she aptly put it earlier this week.
"Because we were affiliated with Balco we have this whole different stigma attached to us," Gaines told the BBC (link). "We're being treated differently. We're asked to serve a lifetime ban."
Actually, Gaines and Chambers have left a lifetime taint and stain on the sport as far as many current fans and former athletes are concerned, and many - including former mile world record-holders Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram, both from Great Britain, have decried their further involvement in the sport.
SPEED MEANS PLAY?
Gaines and Chambers share common ground in three areas: they were both convicted of cheating, have both faced roadblocks in their attempted comebacks, and may each consider legal avenues in an effort to regain their footing and paychecks.
Chambers may have an easier time at pursuing his dreams as he has demonstrated that he belongs in the upper echelons, having run the seventh-fastest 60m in the world this year, 6,56 seconds indoors in Sheffield.
Gaines, who is eight years older than Chambers, showed signs of her age in Boston, and has only the 110th-fastest 60m time in the world this season.
No meeting arranger would be wise to spend money featuring a non-ranked athlete unless he or she was a national star performing in front of a home crowd in a "B"-heat competition.
Gaines may declare that her opportunities are few and far between and have thereby affected her marketability and races, but that has not been the case with Chambers, who has only raced in two meetings this indoor season - and won them both.
Whether either athlete makes an attempt to sue meeting promoters to gain entrance into events for which the organisers are solely at liberty to invite those whom they please remains to be seen.
One point I'd like to drive across is that Chambers, Gaines and every other drug cheater who has been caught has broken a set of rules which have governed behaviour and expectations placed on them by world, international and national governing bodies.
If the sport can be looked at from a business standpoint, the meeting organisers hire athletes into their meets through appearance fees in an effort to please the two groups mentioned above - the fans and the sponsors.
A responsible corporate manager takes time to have his consultants and employees screened and simply doesn't hire those who don't fit a certain criteria. Track and field meet managers don't have to be any different in their business approach as long as they accept all open applications and make their "hiring" decisions based on merit, suitability and responsibility.
If they are able to demonstrate a sensible approach to this issue, they may avoid unnecessary, time-consuming and expensive lawsuits, and may actually keep a player in this game called track and field from ever attempting to cheat if the stakes include a permanent place "outside" of the arena.
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