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Michael Johnson Says Drug-Free Sports World Is Impossible

By McCarton Ackerman 12/12/13

Even though he was "let down" by 2000 Olympic relay teammate, Antonio Pettigrew, in the past, Johnson has admitted that there's not much anyone can do.

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Photo via Shutterstock

Olympian Michael Johnson has declared that drugs are an unavoidable part of competitive athletics. Speaking yesterday at the Doha Goals Forum, the track runner said that the zero tolerance policy with drugs in athletics means that athletes “have kind of suffered because it … since we can control it more than most sports, we have more scandals and more people caught.” But despite stringent drug testing in the Olympics, Johnson said athletes will continue to abuse performance enhancing substances.

“You are never going to have a situation where no-one cheats - athletics is a microcosm of real life and in real life you will always have people who cheat. It`s unrealistic to expect athletics to be a drug free sport,” he said. “Other sports may have fans that can put up with it but in athletics the fans want to see the Olympians hold true to the Olympic ideals and values."

In June 2012, American wrestler Stephany Lee missed her chance to represent the U.S. at the London Olympics after testing positive for pot. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) loosened its regulations of pot use in Olympics sports last June, only banning athletes from using marijuana in the days or hours leading up to a competition.  "We wanted to focus on the athletes that abuse the substance in competition," said Julie Masse, WADA's director of communications. "This should exclude cases where marijuana is not used in competition."

However, many medical experts are curious as to why certain drugs like pot are banned by WADA, particularly since it’s legal in many countries and is hardly performance enhancing for athletics.  "I can't think of any sport in which it would be an advantage,” said David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London. "And it seems ludicrous that someone could quite legally smoke cannabis in Amsterdam in the morning and then come over to London in the afternoon and be banned from competing." 

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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