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Drug policy questionable

August 14, 2012
The Leader Herald

American judo fighter Nick Delpopolo's story of his long road to the Olympics was an American dream.

He was born in Petra Perovic, in the former nation of Yugoslavia, and adopted by an American family. Since he was 5 years old in New Jersey, he'd been practicing judo. Through years of hard work and dedication, the 23-year-old Amsterdam resident made it to the Olympic games this year.

He was a role model for young people and an inspiration for all. He was the top-ranked judo fighter in the United States, and he ranked 12th worldwide going into the games.

Many were dreaming along with him back at home, hoping he would medal. Then on Aug. 6, he made international headlines - not for his competition results, but for his drug-test results.

He was the first athlete to fail an in-competition doping test, and he was expelled from the games.

It wasn't performance-enhancing drugs that ejected him - it was tetrahydrocannabinol, which is more commonly known as THC, the chemical found in marijuana and hash.

Delpopolo said he accidentally consumed baked goods that contained marijuana before he left for London. A family member came forward and confessed to bringing brownies baked with marijuana to a family gathering. Delpopolo says he was unaware he consumed them up until his drug-test results.

Some may not believe Delpopolo's story. That's not a judgment for us to make. While we do believe athletes should be mindful of the examples they set, we hope this infraction does not prevent Delpopolo from bouncing back in judo competition.

Delpopolo wasn't expelled for injecting drugs into his body to unfairly cheat the competition. While we don't condone athletes ingesting illegal drugs, we do think the drug policy is questionable. If Delpopolo had consumed copious amounts of alcohol or smoked a pack of cigarettes before the games, that wouldn't have been a problem. Alcohol is prohibited "in competition only" in select sports such as karate, motorcycling and archery. Chemicals found in everyday, over-the-counter drugs are included on the World Anti-Doping Code's 2012 prohibited list, such as pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant found in Sudafed and other drugs. It is a stimulant, so it is banned.

Regardless of the Olympic drug policy, athletes should be held to high standards. They shouldn't ingest any drugs or chemicals that may harm their bodies, and they must follow the rules of competition.

Our youth need role models and examples of people who achieve greatness to which they may aspire. When athletes act inappropriately, they don't just let themselves down, they let down all the people who dream along with them.



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