Nothing rewrites Olympic history like a drugs scandal. With the admission by Marion Jones that she lied about her drug use to U.S. investigators, the final results from the Sydney Olympics are about to be changed, but maybe not for the better.
An IOC Disciplinary Commission will not take long to consider the Marion Jones case. Perhaps within a few weeks the IOC may have acted to expunge her name and records from the Sydney Olympics. The IOC commission consisting of Thomas Bach, Sergey Bubka and Denis Oswald has proved to be a no-nonsense group in the past. Its last ruling in May cut the legs out from under the Austrian Olympic Committee for its neglectful supervision of its Olympic biathletes and cross country skiers.
Bach and his colleagues have been waiting nearly three years for the chance to make a link between the BALCO scandal and the Olympics. Inauspiciously mentioned in a December 2004 IOC press briefing, the commission was formed in the wake of accusations by BALCO founder Victor Conte that Jones had used his company's steroid treatments to help train for Sydney.
Now that the other shoe has dropped, the IOC will act quickly with evidence in hand. But what about drug-tainted athletes from Olympics long past who escaped detection? Some Olympic records in track and field remain on the books after more than 30 years. Suspicions abound, as in the case of Marion Jones, that these were drug-aided conquests.
While acknowledging suspicions, the IOC has balked about reconsidering the records of the Games from generations ago, even following admissions by some athletes. In 1998 the IOC closed the book on appeals from the U.S. and Britain to overturn victories in the 1970s by East German swimmers. Current rules allow the IOC to change the results no longer than eight years after the Games.
Even if a medal-winner steps forward to admit doping outside that time frame, about the most the IOC can do is to accept the return of the medal from the contrite offender for display in an Olympic Museum rogues gallery.
Is it time for a new record book for the Games in sports where drugs have made a difference? With the credibility of results teetering on rumor, why not wipe the slate clean and let drug-free athletes become the standard of excellence?
In the case of Marion Jones, the IOC clearly still has the power to strip Jones of her medals in Sydney and award new ones to those atop to new medal tables. But the IOC might be forgiven if it drags its heels a bit on one of the Jones medals, for the 100m event.
The new gold medalist would be none other than Katerina Thanou of Greece, who was close to being expelled from the Athens Olympics until she withdrew in the midst of a doping scandal that broke open on the eve of the Games. She and partner Costas Kenteris, the 200m men's champ in Sydney, still face trial in Athens on charges they lied to police investigators in connection with the scandal. Thanou has served a two-year suspension from the IAAF on charges relating to Athens and is hoping to make a comeback.
Who could fault the IOC if it does not rush to aid Thanou's return to the medals podium, especially if there's the possibility another shoe could drop?
Earlier editions of this column incorrectly stated that Katerina Thanou was expelled from the Athens Olympics by the IOC. She and Costas Kenteris withdrew from the Games just as an IOC Disciplinary Commission was considering expelling the two athletes.
Op Ed is a weekly column of opinion and ideas from Around the Rings founder and editor-in-chief Ed Hula. Comments, as well as guest columns are welcomed: email@example.com