BARCELONA — Amid statistics strongly suggesting that American star Ryan Lochte is the most-tested swimmer on Planet Earth, the chairman of the doping control board of swimming’s international governing body, FINA, issued a blunt warning here Saturday to all racers on the eve of the swim competition at these 15th world championships: don’t take nutritional supplements.
Just don’t do it, Dr. Andrew Pipe said. Too many supplements are made or marketed in the United States, where the unregulated environment means elite athletes can have no guarantees whatsoever that what’s on the label is really what’s in the can or bottle, he said.
Pipe said nutrition “gurus” and others suggest that supplements are not only helpful but necessary. For many, he said, “Nutrition isn’t a science. It’s a religion.”
Reality: the anti-doping code makes plain, as track stars such as American Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell have learned anew in recent weeks, that athletes bear ultimate responsibility for what’s in their systems.
Without making explicit reference to the two sprinters, Pipe said swimming wants to be free of the “scourge of doping that surrounds so many other sports,” adding, “We want to demonstrate to the world that we’re swimming in clean waters.” Racing gets underway Sunday at the Palau Sant Jordi.
The fact is, of course, swimming has in recent years seen its share of notable supplement-related cases.
Two years ago, Brazil’s sprint champ Cesar Cielo and three others tested positive for furosemide said to have been included in a supplement. Cielo and two of the others got warnings; the fourth, Vinicius Waked, was suspended because it was a second offense.
Five years ago, American Jessica Hardy lost out at her chance for the 2008 Beijing Games after a positive test for clenbuterol; after proving she had innocently ingested it in a supplement, her suspension was reduced from two years to one, and she would go on to swim at the London 2012 Games.
Pipe’s comments come amid the publication of revealing anti-doping statistics from both track and swimming’s governing bodies. These facts and figures are readily available on the websites of both federations.
FINA, for instance, conducted 1,859 tests in 2012. Of these, 1,240 — exactly two-thirds — were out-of-competition.
Anti-doping authorities love to boast about how many tests they conduct at a major meet. Why? It makes it seem like they are being aggressive.
The truth is, such in-meet tests — while of course useful as a deterrent — have to be considered in context. The more sophisticated doper is busy doing his or her thing during training season. That’s when the time is optimal to use performance-enhancing drugs to help in recovery or to build mass or strength.
To FINA’s credit, it spells out not just who it tested out-of-competition but the actual dates.
That tells you perhaps who is not just high-profile but who might be on FINA’s watch list — for whatever reason. The list does not offer any explanation why a particular athlete might be subject to more tests, or fewer.
So, for instance:
Cielo got tested three times last year: Feb. 14, April 22, Nov. 18.
Hardy, three times, too: Jan. 25, April 12, June 2.
Michael Phelps — who made a career of saying he absolutely, unequivocally raced clean? Four. Feb. 9, April 14, May 21, June 11.
Missy Franklin — Four. May 21, June 11, July 12, Dec. 4.
Lochte? Six — making him FINA’s most-tested swimmer in the world. Jan. 18, Feb. 9, March 19, April 17, June 11 and Nov. 28. (He was tested five more times during the short-course championships in Istanbul in December.)
Lochte, it should be noted for the record, has similarly proclaimed that he swims clean and has never offered even a hint of doping-related misconduct. It’s unclear why he is the subject of such out-of-competition attention.
France’s Yannick Agnel, who swam the stunning last laps in the men’s 4×100 relay at the London Games to beat back Lochte and the U.S. team? Four. Feb. 16, March 12, May 10, June 20.
Australian sprint star James Magnussen? Four. Jan. 30, March 7, May 21 and June 25.
Fellow Australian Ian Thorpe, trying to make a comeback? (He announced this weekend it was, finally, over.) Five. Jan. 30, April 11, May 21, July 3, Dec. 19.
Chinese teen Ye Shewin, who won gold in London in the 400 individual medley (in world-record time) and the 200 IM (Olympic-record), her last 400 IM lap drawing comparisons to Lochte? Three tests, two before the Games and intriguingly just once after: Feb. 26, March 10 and Dec. 6.
In all, FINA performed those 1,240 out-of-competition tests on 692 athletes; 64 were in China, and 120 of the 1,240 tests, just under 10 percent; 65 in Japan, and 116, about the same percentage; 68 and 131 in the United States, just over 10 percent; 74 and 146 in Australia, nearing 12 percent.
These figures do not, of course, include testing at the London 2012 Olympic Games, done by the IOC, or any tests carried out by national anti-doping agencies or the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Track and field’s governing body, which goes by the acronym IAAF, on July 25 published its own table showing it had conducted more of its tests on Kenyans — 348, 14.7 percent — than athletes from any other nation.
As a point of comparison, FINA tested only one Kenyan swimmer, Jason Dunford, on Jan. 23 and again on April 13. A Stanford grad, he finished fifth in Beijing and 12th in London in the 100 butterfly.
Back to track:
Russians were the second-most tested — 336, 14.2 percent.
Then Americans, 222, or 9.4 percent.
Jamaicans? Fifth on the list, 126, 5.3 percent.
The IAAF does not break down test dates the way FINA does. Instead, in a list updated July 19 it noted only whether an athlete was tested out-of-competition “one to three” times or “four-plus.”
Gay? One to three.
Powell? Four-plus. Just like Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Veronica-Campbell Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Kerron Stewart — other mainstays of the Jamaican sprint program.
Another Jamaican gold medal-winning sprinter, Sherone Simpson, who, like Powell, has also registered a positive test? One to three.
Campbell-Brown — who has long been friends with Gay — recently failed a test, too.
London 800 meter world-record setter David Rudisha of Kenya? Four-plus, just like several other Kenyan standouts, the list of Kenyan names running across four pages.
The list of Russian names spills onto five.
Turkey’s Asli Cakir Alptekin, provisionally suspended in May after abnormalities reportedly were detected in her blood profile and now facing a lifetime ban because she served a two-year suspension for a 2004 doping offense? She was tested four-plus in 2012.
The very first name on the IAAF list, meanwhile, is surprise men’s London 1500 meter winner Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria. How many tests for him? One to three.