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Why not Arrest Athletes for Using Illegal Drugs?

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Ethiopia’s Girmay Birhanu celebrates his marathon win at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, Sunday, May 24, 2015. Photo: ASHLEY FRASER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Two years ago Kip Keino, a long-forgotten name in America and the owner of two gold and two silver Olympic medals from the 1968 and 1972 summer games in running events, wanted to put athletes who tested positive for banned drugs in jail.

Keino, who is the Chairman of the Kenyan Olympic committee, was pushing the Kenya government to lock up athletes who use banned substances as a deterrent. It is an idea that did not go over too well with the publicly financed World Anti-Doping Agency as the group would rather punish athletes getting caught doping with a four-year suspension from international competition than a jail term. WADA is neither a nation nor a law enforcement entity, it is just a sports organization.

Kenya had a doping problem, 26 athletes were caught in 2014 using illegal substances. No one ended up in jail. But the story may be different in Ethiopia.

A marathoner named Germay Birahun could be facing a three-year jail term for allegedly doping. That is not making WADA happy although WADA admits it has no control over any governments. In 2006, the International Olympic Committee President Dr. Jacques Rogge begged Italian officials not to enforce drug laws at the Torino Olympic village claiming that the IOC could take care of things. Sports is afraid of criminalizing athletes who are caught doping.

Very few American athletes have gone to jail because of doping. An exception was Marion Jones who lied to federal investigators in connection with the BALCO case which also involved Barry Bonds. Jones ended up in jail. Jones admitted she used steroids in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics eventually.

The United States has not pushed to arrest athletes accused of doping. It may be time that some American steps up and pushes elected officials in an effort to really clean up sports with the threat of jail if caught doping.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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