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End the Olympics?

Yes, until we find a way to fix what is so wrong with an idea thatshould be so right

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I was 12 years old when I competed in my first Olympics. OK, those Olympics were held in my backyard in Saint John, New Brunswick, and the competitors consisted of me, my brothers, my sister, the O'Briens from around the corner and the Lunds from up the street.

We struggled to be stronger, faster, higher in events like the around-the-house-twice marathon, or shot-putting my mother's old iron. After all, we were absorbed with the "idea" of the real Olympics, taking place that summer in Mexico City.

But 30 years after my introduction to the games, I believe it's time to face the facts and end the Olympics.

Beseiged by corruption and scandal, unable - and unwilling - to deal effectively with rampant drug use by elite athletes, and so subsumed by corporate interests that actual athletics are now secondary to merchandising and the interest of the TV networks, the idea behind the Olympics has been so polluted that it is sending the wrong message to athletes and young people worldwide.

What about current attempts at reform, some will say.

True, some minor fixes are being made after recent revelations of corruption.

But will true change come as long as current International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Juan Antonio Samaranch remains in charge? Not likely. Nor is it likely that genuine change will come from any of the hand-picked lieutenants that might succeed Mr. Samaranch.

Even if the IOC removed the abuses associated with the awarding of the games, the drug problem alone could bring the movement to its knees.

"Athletes are a walking laboratory, and the Olympics have become a proving ground for scientists, chemists, and unethical doctors," Robert Voy, the director of drug testing for the US Olympic Committee (USOC) at the 1984 and '88 Games, told Sports Illustrated in 1997.

"The testers know that the [drug] gurus are smarter than they are. They know how to get in under the radar."

How bad is the problem? A 1995 poll of 198 top Olympians, most from the US, posed the following question: If you could use performance-enhancing drugs and get away with it, would you do it? One hundred and ninety-five athletes said yes.

They were then asked a second question: If you could take these same drugs, not get caught, win every race for five years, but then die from side effects of the drug, would you take them? More than half said yes.


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