When I was in school and the days were long and dull I would skip
school and get my mother to write a note explaining that I was suffering
from some strange ailment and had to be excused for the day.
Unfortunately, even the more obtuse teachers would see through the charade
and determine it was a con.
Warnie, the sports drug regulators are sharper and more focussed than
you give them credit for. The stakes are high; your career is on the line.
And the practices are simple; don't put anything in your mouth unless you
know what it is.
The Australian Sports Drug Agency
(ASDA) has been running an extensive programme of testing and teaching
aimed at making athletes aware and auditing that awareness through drug
testing. Now that Warnie's positive has been confirmed there is no chance
of a laboratory mistake.
ASDA have done a remarkable job in keeping Australian sports drug-free.
John Mendoza (CEO of ASDA) has just stated that they target athletes whose
performance is remarkable or their weight
loss is excessive. Taken on face value, and if we assume Warnie is
honest, we could assume that he felt as though he would not be unduly
targetted because what he has done with regard his body shape has been
through diligent exercise. However ...
Let's examine the whys and wherefores of Warnie's case. Shane Warne
would have been approached by a testing officer and asked to provide a
sample, which would have been separated into two samples marked A and B.
Such samples are coded with identical numbers and have the world's best
tamper-proof seals. In the lab the A sample would have been opened under
controlled conditions of temperature, humidity and in a contamination-free
environment and a suite of chemicals determined using a variety of
analysis techniques (the laboratory holds International Olympic Committee
accreditation). Upon determination of a problem measurement the sample is
likely repeated and then a positive would have been declared to ASDA. The
laboratory has no idea of who the individual is, only that it was a sample
from a cricketer (different sports are tested for different chemicals).
ASDA then had the responsibility to approach both Shane Warne and the
governing body. (The ACB in this case. However, ASDA often tells the
athlete only and gives them the chance to declare themselves - perhaps
this is an honesty test?) What occurs next is the media circus we have
seen when the athlete or governing body comes forward.
The B sample was scheduled to be opened in the athlete's presence, or
in the presence of their representative (this happened on Valentine's Day
but is certainly not a romantic operation). This sample went through the
same rigorous testing as the A sample and, as we have all heard, was
declared positive for diuretics.
The detailed chemistry of diuretics is complex and uninteresting.
However, in a nutshell diuretics are substances which aid the body in
expelling liquids. There are many examples of diuretics in society. In
fact, tea is a diuretic. Diuretics are a useful chemical when used
appropriately. They assist in the removal of excess fluid from the body,
which has an advantage of lowering blood pressure. This is one of the
dangers of misuse. In a healthy individual the lowering of blood pressure
is not a good occurrence, as it will result in the heart having to work
harder to ensure that oxygen reaches the extremities. This is why people
feel dizzy with low blood pressure. When a person has low blood pressure
and they exercise it exacerbates the situation by putting additional
strain on the heart and increases the likelihood of cardiac failure by an
order of magnitude.
In the case of someone who has recently had an injury and just started
to recover there is a likelihood that the individual would feel pressure
in their joint and think it is fluid build up - especially if they had a
limited knowledge of physiology. If this were compound by arguably the
most trusted person in that individual's life informing them that they use
fluid tablets and you will be OK if you use them then the decision is made
- "Why not? It's not like I am taking steroids or anything!"
A drug cheat can use diuretics to mask, through speeding their
expulsion, steroids in urine. (The term 'mask' is something of a misnomer,
it implies that the diuretics sit in front of the real performance
enhancer and hide their presence when viewed on some machine that spits
out answers). A full-blown serious drug cheat would have been advised to
drink mountains of liquid while on the diuretics, making his body
If Warnie was a drug cheat his logic may be that he was taking steroids
to speed his recovery from the recent dislocated shoulder. Taking the
diuretics would expel the unabsorbed steroids rapidly and make detection
This raises an interesting point: If Warnie took the diuretics to
remove fluid from his body because he felt bloated or one of his joints
was swollen, he would have realised that too much water in his system was
bad. Hence, video footage of the first one-day final may be revealing if
it shows Warnie not partaking in the drinks break as vigorously as the
others. However, if it showed him drinking like a fish and running off to
relieve himself every few minutes, then he was probably trying to flush
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