London 2012: Cuba will once again respect fair play

Cuba’s athletes have undergone one or more drug tests, all yielding negative results

By ALFONSO NACIANCENO

(HAVANA, July 19, 2012) – CUBA is sending a delegation of athletes to the London Olympic Games who are free of illegal performance-enhancing substances which have become widespread, especially in professional sports.

This is another expression of Cuba’s respect for fair play and clean competition, the philosophy of a nation which loves and practices physical activity to maintain and improve the people’s health.

After the Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games were concluded, Cuba’s Institute of Sports Medicine, the National Anti-Doping Brigade and Laboratory, as well as the federations of several disciplines, joined forces to continue their efforts.

Dr. Yahumara Castro, head of the Brigade, reaffirmed to Granma that all of the country’s high performance athletes had been tested, not only those who are competing in London.

The 110 athletes Cuba is sending to the Olympics have been tested during competition and training periods, without a single case of doping being detected. Some of them, such as the boxers, have been tested on more than one occasion, the doctor reported.

“Our young people do not have any problems, no one requires authorization to consume any therapeutic medication such as Salbutamol, used by asthmatics,” she said.

RESPECT FOR REGULATIONS

Cuba’s program is implemented alongside that of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA), since Cuba has elite athletes who, given their level of performance, must designate a place to be tested without notice by WADA, to prevent the use of fraudulent methods to improve performance, disregarding official international bodies, Dr. Castro explained.

If an instance of doping is detected, the laboratory informs the National Anti-Doping Brigade and subsequently the national federation of the relevant sport. The athlete is summoned to appear before a hearing, and sanctions excluding him or her from competition are determined. These periods of exclusion may be of two or more years in length, even for life.

FAMILIES INVOLVED

It is important that athletes understand the need to ingest only authorized liquids and foods. Trainers must ensure that no one on their teams violates this norm before, during or after a competition, explained Rodney Montes de Oca, assistant director of the anti-doping laboratory.

Families must, he continued, also take responsibility, since even taking an everyday medicine to alleviate a slight ailment can constitute doping and although this may be done with the best of intentions, such practices can cause serious problems for athletes.

In order to respect the prestigious institution (Cuba’s laboratory is among only 33 worldwide), Montes de Oca clarified that the athlete’s samples are sent coded numerically; no one knows where they came from, since this information is handled by the National Anti-Doping Brigade.

BIOLOGICAL PASSPORT

Recently there has been discussion of a ‘biological passport’ as another means of combating fraudulent practices in sports.

This procedure involves detecting doping indirectly, according to Montes de Oca. Prohibited substances leave their mark on the body, even when they are no longer present. That is to say, an athlete could ingest a substance; it disappears, but causes changes over time, which can be detected.

In an effort to detect such changes, over a set period of time, three or four blood samples are tested, in order to compare any variations indicative of the consumption of illegal substances or self-transfusion, explained Montes de Oca.

A biological passport can be of three different types: hematological, relating to blood; steroidal, measuring endogenous steroids produced by the human body; and endocrinal, which is being considered for implementation. Currently, only the hematological passport is in use, required by the International Cycling Union for all of its athletes.

The development of biological passports will not take the place of regular testing which now exposes cheating, since these tests are designed to detect specific substances.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, producers of performance-enhancing drugs have the lead in the race, with anti-doping institutions bringing up the rear, trying to catch these companies. There are more than 100 non-controlled pharmaceuticals offered athletes, some of which have been discovered by accident, concluded Dr. Montes de Oca.

Granma

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