It will surprise no one that Mariem Alaoui Selsouli has tested positive for a banned diuretic, after running the extraordinary time of 3.56.15 for the 1500 metres in the Paris Diamond League three weeks ago. Both her time (she improved by over four seconds) and her nationality conspire against her.
The Moroccans have long built up an unenviable reputation for doping. They are, of course, not the only nation whose athletes indulge in drug-taking, but for a numerically small athletics country, the band of high achieving athletes caught drug-taking puts them close to top of the doping league.
Given that this is Selsouli’s second offence – she was banned between 2009 and 2011 for EPO – she now faces a lifetime ban. And incidentally, the reason diuretics are banned is that, since they increase urination, they are used to cleanse the body of performance enhancing drugs. And so, the favourite for the women’s Olympic 1500 gold is out of London 2012.
As is, in a similar situation, Robert Fàzekas of Hungary. Disqualified after winning the discus gold in Athens 2004, for not providing a proper urine sample, Fàzekas tested positive two weeks ago; and likewise is out of the Olympic Games, which begin on Friday.
But, as in previous Games, there will be more than a few athletes in Stratford East in the next couple of weeks, whose consciences may not be as clear as their blood and urine samples. And recourse to God, believe me, will be no defence, girls and boys, when you are busted. But that’s for another day.
For the time being, I wish to point out that, for those who can read between the lines, it was announced here a month ago, albeit obliquely, that Jemima Jelegat Sumgong of Kenya was likely to be DQ’d from second place in last April’s Boston Marathon.
And so it has come to pass. All that anyone would admit a month ago was that her prize money had not been paid, whereas everyone else’s had. The clear implication was that she had failed a dope test. But I don’t blame anybody for lying to me, even by omission, as the Catholics say. After all, as that great moral philosopher Charlie Francis used to say, ‘Deny, deny, deny’.
Another athletics sage once said, ‘If the Kenyans and Ethiopians start taking drugs, we’re really screwed’. Well, guess what happened? Not only Sumgong was pronounced positive, in a leak to German TV network ARD earlier this week, but also another Kenyan woman marathoner, Rael Kiyara. And this pair was not even going to the Olympics.
Now, you could argue, as doubtless some will, that it is the lesser athletes who take drugs in order to ‘compete’. But that’s not necessarily the case, as the evidence of Selsouli and Fàzekas and, for example, Justin Gatlin (another Athens gold medallist) suggests. I may be wrong, but I don’t know any other example of a busted sprinter coming back, as Gatlin has done this year, from a four year ban; and not just running under ten seconds, but substantially under ten seconds, ie 9.80! And Gatlin will be in London 2012.
But given that their athletes are almost too good to begin with, the emergence of more and more East African dopers is probably more concerning for the future of track and field athletics.
So, are we really screwed? Or what?