PEDs and the Olympics: Gaming the Games

Performance-enhancing drugs will be part of the Summer Games. How big a part depends on whom you ask, and who gets caught.

PEDs and the Olympics: Gaming the Games

However, the BALCO case also unintentionally did something useful: It pulled the curtain back on the sorry charade behind the doping cat-and-mouse game. The world learned that comically weak drug tests more accurately gauged an athlete’s cheating acumen than they did the presence of drugs in their system. Sporting organizations, always on the cheap, were more devoted to PR than paying for effective tests that were more expensive (bad) and may actually catch drug users (worse). Justice was random and occasionally cruel. Some Olympians were walking lab experiments, while others were ruined by technicalities. For instance, Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan was stripped of her gold medal in Sydney for taking cold medicine (pseudoephedrine)—a lifetime of hard work undone by an over-the-counter medication.


Nobody knows these loopholes and hypocrisies better than Conte, and he’s trying to do something about it. Nearly a decade after being at the center of the raid that changed the sports world forever, Conte is back advising elite athletes, including WBO super-bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr., welterweight boxer Andre Berto, MMA fighter Cung Le, and Olympic hopeful Marlen Esparza, a photogenic 22-year-old boxer with a CoverGirl endorsement deal and loads of athletic (and marketing) potential.

Today, Conte is the last person to allow his athletes to use PEDs, having watched his family endure the traumas of his conviction and incarceration, not to mention the damage done to the reputations of his former clients. Conte believes in a karmic universe and now aggressively fights to clean up the mess he helped create.

“I test everybody that I work with,” he says. “If they look suspicious, I don’t work with them.”

He believes most accepted drug-testing standards aren’t just woefully inadequate but willfully inadequate. His Twitter feed is a master class in PEDs in 140 characters or less. He regularly calls out boxing and MMA authorities, who claim their sports are ruled by rigorous testing protocols. He insists that random testing using carbon isotope ratio (CIR) screens should be the standard for analyzing initial, or “A,” samples. This is not the case with Olympic drug testing, as performed under the protocols set by the World Anti- Doping Agency (WADA).

As it stands now, athletes who use PEDs can calculate when the drugs will leave their system in time for scheduled tests. If they’re using testosterone, they now opt for faster-acting creams and gels instead of injectables, since they stay in the system much longer. That was Ben Johnson’s mistake.