On Tuesday Japanese short-track speedskater Kei Saito became the first athlete to be sent packing from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics for failing a drug test.
It seems like Mike Pence spent more time sternly pretending he wasn’t sitting practically in the laps of some North Koreans.
In a pond of big fish, Saito would have to be considered something of a small fry. As a reserve athlete, he hadn’t even skated at the Games. The test he failed was out of competition, with the sample having been taken the day he arrived in the host city.
Technically Saito was provisionally suspended after testing positive for a masking agent, with a final ruling to be issued after the Games by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, according to Reuters. The assumption is that the presence of masking agents is an attempt to disguise the use of banned performance enhancing drugs.
Drug testing has come a long way since Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was caught at the Summer Games in South Korea in 1988. Enforcement, on the other hand, sometimes leaves a lot to be desired.
If this topic interests you, I highly recommend the film "Icarus". It’s on Netflix, is nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature and would make complementary viewing during any Olympics downtime you might have.
Filmmaker Bryan Fogel, a cycling enthusiast, became infatuated with the notion of whether a self-administered doping regime would help him do better in an elite event in France. So the initial concept for his movie was determining how easy it would be to become an amateur Lance Armstrong.
As luck would have it, his research eventually led him to Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov. Long story short, Rodchenkov reveals himself to be the architect of his home country’s high-stakes state-sponsored doping program, and the ripples reach all the way to Pyeongchang whenever an Olympic Athlete from Russia is on the screen. Sanctions mean they are ostensibly representing themselves, not their country.
Rodchenkov got more screen time Sunday with an appearance on "60 Minutes". He doesn't come off as all that shy in "Icarus" but he appeared in disguise in the news story, as he’s in protective custody in the United States and fearful his old boss, Vladimir Putin, might arrange some kind of “accident” for him.
And as Saito makes his way back to Japan, the question is: will he be the only accused cheater not to prosper in Pyeongchang? "Icarus" indicates it seems unlikely.