LONDON -- Most of the news accounts about the 31 Turkish track and field athletes hit Monday with two-year bans for doping have centered on four main points: One: Istanbul is in the race for the 2020 Summer Games, along with Madrid and Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee will choose the winner Sept. 7. To be blunt, the timing for Istanbul is not good. Lamine Diack, the president of track and field's international governing body, which goes by the acronym IAAF, has said, "They cannot bid for the Olympics if they cannot control their athletes. They need to clean their house."
Two: three of the 31 athletes competed at the 2012 London Games.
Three: one of those three, Esref Apak, is also the 2004 Athens silver medalist in the hammer throw.
Four: The bans came five days after the IAAF confirmed nine other Turkish athletes got two-year suspensions for using anabolic steroids.
Those are, of course, all relevant and material.
But here are the two central points in what is perhaps one of the biggest doping scandals in track and field history -- and, even given everything that has happened in the sport, that assertion may prove not to be an overstatement.
One: of the 31, 20 are 23 or younger.
Two: eight are teenagers.
Ebru Yurddaş, a hammer thrower with a top-10 result this year in her category, is 16.
For emphasis: she is just a teenage girl.
Thus the fair question: who is doping teenagers -- nearly a quarter of those who were named -- and on what authority?
Or did Ebru Yurddaş, at 16, have the wits, the will and the cash to obtain performance-enhancing drugs herself?
This is on a level completely and profoundly different than the headlines involving sprint stars Tyson Gay of the United States or Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson of Jamaica, all of whom recently confessing to failed drug tests.
Two-time Olympic 200-meter champion Veronica Campbell-Brown tested positive for a stimulant a few weeks back. This is way different than that as well.
Those cases represent, if you will, individual choice.
So, too, the Biogenesis matter -- which led Monday to the sanctions from Major League Baseball. It is of course an absurd joke that Alex Rodriguez can be "banned" for 211 games but then start that very same night at third base for the New York Yankees, and if you want evidence about why the rest of the world looks at the U.S. professional sports leagues and thinks something is askew -- it does not understand collective-bargaining agreements and does not necessarily care to -- that is Example A.
To be clear:
The point is not that doping is a Turkish problem. There have been plenty of doping cases in, for instance, the United States. See, for example: Armstrong, Lance. Or, Jones, Marion.
The point is that in Olympic sport the doping cases in United States have almost exclusively involved young adults, some well into their 20s and 30s, making choices -- bad choices, surely -- in, again, the exercise of individual self-determination.
This, though -- to be doping teenagers?
The news in Turkey erupted on the same day it was disclosed that West Germany's government encouraged and covered up a culture of doping among its athletes for decades, participation "conspicuously similar to the systematic doping system of [East Germany]," according to a comprehensive report.
Last week, the chairman of the Turkish track and field federation, Mehmet Terzi, resigned. He had been in office for nine years.
The IOC, or IAAF, or the World Anti-Doping Agency -- some entity -- should find him when he's out of Turkey, if he ever is allowed out again, and ask: what did he know, and when did he know it?
The president of the Turkish Olympic Committee, Ugur Erdener, who is also an IOC member, issued a statement Monday saying that the 31 suspensions should be taken as a "clear signal" of how seriously the country is responding.
He also said in that statement, "Led by the Turkish government, Turkey has zero tolerance for doping and it is our intention to have clean, young athletes competing on the international stage in the future."
Note it's his statement that invoked the government.
Thus the obvious, and reasonable, question: what, exactly, is the government's involvement in all of this?
Further, all high-level sports officials have to issue a public-relations statement that says something like that at a moment like this.
Reality check: this is not a "clear signal."
How do you know? Because the list of the 31 names provided by the Turkish track and field federation provided no other details: what kind of drugs are at issue or the dates of the suspensions.
That is simply not transparency at work. There is more, much more, to come.
For instance, those nine Turkish athletes who got the two-year bans for using anabolic steroids? Two were teenagers, a 17-year-old discus thrower and an 18-year-old hammer thrower.
Those anabolic steroids?
Six cases, according to the IAAF, involved stanozolol. That is the same substance that Ben Johnson used at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Among those six, the IAAF says, three also tested positive for oral turinabol. That's the steroid that was used in the state-sponsored East German doping programs in the 1970s and 1980s.
Beyond which, two of the country's most successful athletes are still awaiting disciplinary proceedings.
Asli Cakir Alptekin, the London 1500-meter champion, could lose that gold medal and be banned for life; abnormalities purportedly were detected in her biological passport. Meanwhile, two-time European 100-meter hurdles champion Nevin Yanit, fifth in the event in London, allegedly failed a doping test.
The 31 suspensions announced Monday stem from tests ordered by the IAAF in and out of competition amid the Mediterranean Games, an Olympic-style competition held June 20-30 in the Turkish city of Mersin.
In a neat bit of irony, the track and field events there were staged at the "Nevin Yanit Athletics Complex."