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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Potentially Alarming? What Do You Think?

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Not only did David Meca win FINA world championship races in 1998, 2000, 2003, and 2005 and 25 FINA World Cup races while being ranked #1 on the 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2003 FINA professional circuits during his lengthy career, the Spaniard who competed for USC during his collegiate pool career successfully swam twice across the English Channel in 2004 in 7 hours 46 minutes and in 2005 in 7 hours 22 minutes with both times ranked in the Top Ten of All-Time crossings.

While his 90 km swim in a wetsuit from mainland Spain to Ibiza in 2006 in 25 hours 30 minutes, his two double-crossings of the Strait of Gibraltar in 2008 (8 hours 35 minutes and 7 hours 18 minutes), his 11-time wins in the Descenso a Nado de la Ría de Navia, his 100 km swim from Tenerife to Gran Canaria in 2002 in 23 hours 5 minutes, his 90 km swim in Río Guadalquivir in 2007 were not included in his official International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame biography, Meca's career was undoubtedly impressive and comprehensive.

But because of his failed drug test, Meca was removed from the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame last year under the direction of chairman Chris Guesdon with the approval of the Executive Committee.

His official removal signaled an undeniable position by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame to implement a zero tolerance policy against swimmers who violate the various anti-drug policies of the various policing agencies in the swimming world.

Guesdon explains on the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame website (noted here), "IMSHOF Nominees who have failed a drug test by WADA or an authorized WADA body will not be considered for IMSHOF induction."

Meca is the only Honour Swimmer to date who has been removed from the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, but other sports are now testing more and more endurance athletes including masters (i.e., older) athletes who would not be otherwise tested by WADA or governing bodies like FINA.

The BBC recently reported that a 55-year-old amateur cyclist from England was banned after positive drugs test (see here) for taking steroid hormones prednisone and prednisolone because of mouth ulcer medication he was taking. The BBC noted that the British anti-doping body refused his retrospective application for a therapeutic use exemption, but "was satisfied [the athlete] did not act intentionally."

But BBC Sport released the survey results of more than 1,000 members of sports clubs and teams in the UK that found 49% of amateur athletes believe performance-enhancing drugs were easily available among competitive athletes, 35% say they personally know someone who has doped, and 8% said they had taken steroids (see here).

Nicole Sapstead of the UK Anti-doping agency told the BBC, "I don't think any sport can say that they don't have a problem at an amateur level. I think now is the time for everybody to sit up and acknowledge that this is a reality in every single sport and that you can't just be washing your hands of it or hoping that someone else will address it."

Is competitive masters pool swimming, marathon swimming and channel swimming as clean as it is assumed? Perhaps. But without testing or anonymous self-reporting procedures, we may never know.

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