- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

ATHENS — Adam Nelson tells the story like this: He was new in town. Out late. Never did make it home.

Of course, that didn’t stop the drug tester from showing up at his door in Athens, Ga., at 7:30 on a Sunday morning.

Nelson, an American silver medalist in shot put, got a cell phone call from his housemate. Adam, he said, the tester is here. Where are you?

Nelson wasn’t sure. No way could he get back in time. Tell her, Nelson said, to meet me at practice. In two hours.

No dice. The tester wouldn’t take no for an answer. She walked through the door, down the hall, right to Nelson’s room — where his old college buddy, a Bostonian named Matt Dancewicz, was crashing.

This is USADA. Adam, I know you’re in there. I’m coming in. Wake up.

Adam’s not here.

Adam, this isn’t funny. You’ve got to let me in. Otherwise, you’ll get a positive test for skipping out.

Lady, he’s not here! Go away!

Enough. The tester grabbed the knob and opened the door.

“[Matt] had just gone to the door to go yell at her,” Nelson recalls with a laugh. “And he was not clothed. So he yells at her in a way that only Bostonians can appreciate. That’s one of the horror stories. I’ve had a couple more over the years.”

Nelson smiles.

“To this day, she has not come to my house before 10 a.m.”

Such is the sad state of doping in Olympic sports: It takes an angry naked guy to inject some sanity into the proceedings.

Hushed allegations. Public accusations. Undetectable steroids and motorcycle “accidents.” Charge, denial, conviction, appeal. The cycle spins like a washing machine. Who’s clean? Who’s dirty? Who threw in the Tide with Fresh Scent Dianabol? Things are so bad, pretty soon they’re going to start testing the journalists.

“It’s always interesting when someone shows up for work,” Nelson says. “I was working at Merrill Lynch, and they asked for a sample of my urine in front of one of our big clients. I’m like, ‘Well, I’m an Olympian — this is part of it.’”

Par for the THG-soaked course. Really, there’s only one way to get out of this mess, one way to restore dignity and normalcy to the Games.

Make outfoxing drug testers an Olympic sport.

Don’t laugh. Doping control — now there’s an oxymoron, and doesn’t “oxymoron” sound like some sort of banned substance? — is already a cat-and-mouse game between the cops and the cheats, “The Running Man” meets “Beverly Hills Cop.” Cue Axel Foley’s theme.

So why not make it official?

Citius, altius, fortius. Latin for “swifter, higher, stronger.” That isn’t just the Olympic motto — it’s an apt description of the lengths athletes go to avoid the drug police.

Take weightlifter Caroline Pileggi, who was dropped from the Australian Olympic team in July. While training in Fiji, Pileggi was approached by two doping officers there to administer a test.

Pileggi refused, saying her name was “Michelle.” Right. She then ran from the gym, ignoring an official notice the testers had slapped on her car windshield. Doors locked and windows up, Pileggi hit the gas and sped away, nearly running over tester Vaughan Jones.

Pileggi, who previously had taken 80-some tests and wasn’t new to the procedure, later claimed she felt unsafe. Why? She thought she had been followed in a local market a few days earlier.

Oddly enough, she did not proceed to blame the dog for eating her homework.

Still, pluck like Pileggi’s shouldn’t be punished. It should be rewarded. It fits with the true Olympic spirit: anything for a gold medal, even if it means bribing your way to being host for the Winter Games or jobbing some poor Korean dude who just wants to swing on a bar for his country (oops, wrong column). The craftiest, most daring dope cheats ought to be recognized, even celebrated, like every other athlete who gets 15 minutes on NBC for triumphing over adversity.

Speaking of which: never mind overcrowded stadium urinal troughs. What could be more adverse than having to pee into a tiny cup in front of someone who’s checking for flow rate and catheter marks?

Besides, this way no one ever has to give back a medal like misty-eyed Greek weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis and that Russian guy who won the women’s shot put at Ancient Olympia. Also, international sports federations would save on legal fees. And those older sports almanacs, such as the ones with Jerome Young, still would come in handy.

How would this new event work? Simple. First, an athlete has to fail a drug test to qualify, same as a sprinter has to run a decent time in heats. From there, drug cheats would be graded on their efforts to avoid detection and maintain innocence. Categories could include:

• Degree of difficulty: Running away from testers? Meh. Faking a motorcycle accident to dodge a test? Very good. Faking your own death, getting a sex change and then re-entering the Olympics competing for a different nation? Golden.

• Creative excuse-making: Spare the tainted supplement story. No one’s buying, not when we all shop at GNC, too. Nobody slipped nikethamide into our protein powder. Say that a rival dunked your shot put into quick-absorb steroid gel just before your winning throw. Or make like track coach Trevor Graham and claim that you tripped and fell before your test, causing you to secrete extra testosterone. It could happen.

• Mock sincerity: Call USADA a “kangaroo court,” threaten to sue the devil out of anyone who utters a derogatory peep and swear on your two little angels. Oh, and tears are always good.

We would use judges, of course, mostly because they make any event so much more deliciously fallible — and if we’re ever gonna sell this to the IOC, we need to ensure some buzz. In a perfect world, we also would have the athletes wear skimpy costumes. But beach volleyball already has that covered. Or uncovered. Er, whatever.

Perhaps you’re still unconvinced. Again, consider the alternative. The current system isn’t working. Every day brings a new scandal. Paranoia reigns supreme. George Allen would have loved it.

Sprinter Maurice Greene is so whacked out by it all, he won’t touch a glass of water at a restaurant. Won’t touch a bottle that already has been opened. Won’t touch his own drink if left unattended.

And this comes on orders from USA Track and Field.

“You have to take precautions,” Greene says. “Be aware of yourself and your surroundings.”

Poor Mo. Shouldn’t he be able to drink a Snapple in peace?

Of course, some might argue that test evasion as sport is wrong, that it sets a bad moral precedent. What about the kids? To which we say: Let them eat school lunches with ketchup as a vegetable.

Other, more reasonable folks might note that this idea isn’t fair, that it punishes the athletes who dope without getting caught. What’s in it for them? Where’s their shot at glory, their trip to the Olympic podium?

Don’t worry. They’ll get their medals, too.

In fact, they already have.

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