The Weird World of Doping

Reporters have beats. Congress, crime, Iraq... whatever. Tom Goldman is NPR's sports guy. And, of course, one of the big sports stories over the past few years has been doping. Whether it be cycling, baseball or track, a lot of athletes seem to be doing whatever they can to get an edge. But despite the endemic cynicism that comes from being a journalist, even Tom has been surprised recently:

I cover so much doping news these days; it's almost a full-time beat. I'm always on the lookout for particularly interesting stories about performance enhancing drug use — and boy, did The Guardian newspaper come up with a good one this week. Under the attention-grabbing headline "Police break gang feeding steroids to buffaloes," was the following:

"Italian police say they have smashed a criminal network linked to the Camorra mafia that was feeding buffaloes with steroids to produce more milk for making mozzarella cheese... The raid follows a similar operation last year that smashed a gang that was doping horses with Viagra."

Now, I will have to resist my reporter's impulse to find out what the hell that other gang was doing giving Viagra to horses. Because the mafia-steroids-mozzarella story inspires me to go in another direction for this posting. It provides an opportunity to share some items from my favorite e-mail folder, titled "Weird World of Doping." You think buffaloes on steroids are strange? How about this:

Jan. 17, 2006: "A 37-year-old woman has been arrested at an Ashgrove post office box after allegedly trying to import steroids in a box full of biscuits, noodles and chips."

Sept. 22, 2005: "Brazilian pro surfer Percy "Neco" Padaratz Jr. is the first athlete in the sport's history to test positive for steroid use."

March 9, 2005: "Dogs, not mushers, are tested for steroids, stimulants and other performance-enhancing drugs in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. That says something about which ones are the real athletes in this 1,100-mile journey over snow and ice."

Feb. 19, 2005: "In one of the most bizarre drug testing cases in Australia, two elderly Victorian bocce players face two-year bans from the sport after testing positive to banned drugs they took for their heart conditions..."

Nov. 8, 2002: "America's Cup sailors are to be drug-tested for the first time in the regatta's 151-year history."

It's obvious that doping is a phenomenon that goes way beyond the endless news about Barry Bonds and baseball. And to those officials who vow to rid sports of performance enhancing drugs? Good luck.

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