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The IOC gets it right--commentary

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By Mike Forster

Along with the usual pitches for ?free? software and pleas from the widows of Nigerian multimillionaires for my bank account number, I received an interesting e-mail in my inbox today.

The note was a press release on behalf of the ?Innocent Olympic victims,? those athletes who competed (and won) on relay teams that included Marion Jones, during the 2000 Sydney Olympic games.

As a result of Jones being uncovered as a user of banned substances, she was stripped of her medals and records. This edict extended to her relay races, as each member of those teams was ordered to turn in her Olympic medal.

The news release announced that through the strenuous efforts of U.S. lawyers, the International Olympic Committee has agreed to hear the pleas of Jones?s teammates.

Now, I?m all for due process but, in this case, the decision should stand. A relay team consists of four members, each of whom runs the same distance as the other. By any vantage, you can?t reward the remaining members for Jones?s misdeeds. Jones was the standout on the winning teams. There is no guarantee a different runner would have enabled the relay teams to win their gold medals. It would be the same thing if a bobsled team had a member caught using steroids. The entire team would, and should, have its medals forfeited.

I like the IOC?s tough-guy approach to this situation.

I further believe that the IOC has set a precedent that other sporting governance bodies should adopt. Major League Baseball should be the first to sit up and take notice, particularly since it is still bearing the taint of the broad-brush steroids scandal.

If you think that, as a result of the Mitchell Report and better screening techniques, the use of performance-enhancing substances has ended in baseball, I?ve got some Bear Stearns stock I?d like to sell you.

The fact is, there are many smart people spending many long hours developing enhancers that avoid the state-of-the-art tests for the substances. By definition, the good guys will always be playing catch-up in developing detection techniques.

The only way that this junk will go away is when the players police themselves. More accurately, it will only go away when the players are policing themselves and are highly motivated to do so. You can motivate with either a stick or with a carrot. This situation calls for the type of stick the IOC wielded on Jones and her mates.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig should put out the word: If a player on a team is caught using HGH or steroids, the team will forfeit any games won during the course of the abuse. If the test can detect back 30 days, you lose a month?s worth of wins.

There has been so much talk about tainted individual records set by model citizens Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. What has not been brought up is how these drugs may have affected team performance. It doesn?t take a great leap of faith to project that a player that is suddenly hitting twice as many home runs is helping his team win more games. His cheating not only helps himself, it also helps his team.

Therefore, his team should suffer. Taking away wins for the abuse of steroids/HGH gives incentive to the teammates to either turn the guy in or to put pressure on him to knock it off.

But what about all those players who never touched the stuff? Is it fair to the members of those teams that play it clean to get saddled with losses because of an abuser? It sure is. The players know who is dirty. With such a rule in place, they no longer can chose silent acquiescence. Let the players? personal motivations work for the good of the team and for the good of the sport.

A guy in the clubhouse doesn?t care what the fellow next to him is putting into his body as long as it doesn?t hurt the team. An edict by Selig could make that exactly the case. He needs to adopt the Olympic stance. He needs the twist of logic that puts the ?me? back in ?team.?