Monthly Archives: November 2012

Norwegian Track Coach Suspended for Giving Steroid Advice

A Norwegian track coach was suspended by the Norwegian Athletics Association for providing advice on the effects of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone (hGH). Peter Vukicevic allegedly shared details of doping protocols in a series of emails sent to another high-level track coach between 2001 and 2003.

Vukicevic also suggested that some of the athletes that he trained may have used steroids or performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Vukicevic reportedly asked for advice on how to avoid detection by anti-doping controls.

The incriminating emails were published in a top Norwegian newspaper. Vukicevic has not denied sending the emails in question. However, he has claimed that the incriminating steroid information was added by a bitter ex-wife. The ex-wife allegedly manipulated the contents of the emails before passing them on the media.

The emails brought unwanted scrutiny to the accomplishments of one of his star athletes as well. Most notably, Vukicevic coaches his daughter Christina Vukicevic. Christina is a former Norwegian under-23 100-meters hurdle champion. She was selected to represent Norway at the 2012 Summer Olympic in London earlier this year. However, she withdrew at the last minute citing inadequate training preparations.

The news about the steroid-related emails also caused trouble for the recipient (and his clients) as well. Vukicevic sent the emails to Serbian coach Srdjan Djordevic. Djordevic has one very high-profile client in the world of track and field Marlene Ottey.

Ottey is one of the most accomplished female track athletes in the sport`s history. She has competed at the elite level for over 30 years. During this time she was won numerous Olympic medals while making appearances at a record seven Summer Olympics.

Ottey continues to compete at the age of 52. Most recently, Ottey was the anchor for the Slovenian 4x—100 relay team at the 2012 European Athletes Track and Field Championships. She was selected to represent Slovenia at the 2012 London Olympics. However, the Slovenian team was not ranked high enough to meet Olympic qualifications.

The steroid advice received by Ottey`s coach will inevitably lead to suspicions regarding the superhuman performances of the world-class quinquagenarian. At the very least, it gives journalists an excuse to re-examine Ottey`s steroid positive from 1999.

Ottey tested positive for nandrolone metabolites during a 1999 track meet in Switzerland. Both her “A” and “B” samples showed higher than normal levels of nandrolone. The most common form of nandrolone is nandrolone decanoate; athletes and bodybuilders refer to it as “Deca”. Deca is short for the Organon brand name Deca Durabolin.

Ottey alleged she never knowingly used anabolic steroids. He appealed her suspension and won. The Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association cleared her of all charges. And track`s governing body lifted the two-year suspension.

Anti-Doping Norway is currently investigating Vukicevic to determine whether or not the emails are legitimate. There has been no evidence to suggest that any of Vukicevic`s or Djordevic`s athletes have doped.

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Attention Steroid Dealers: If a Customer Wants to Buy Steroids in a Donut Shop, Of Course It is a Cop!

What happens when a sports nutrition store employee doesn`t think the store has supplements strong enough for certain customers? Now that most of the steroidal substances sold as dietary supplements are becoming more aggressively regulated, what is the supplement store employee to do? In the case of George Touma, the clerk thought he would offer them something a little stronger and a lot less legal than the dietary supplements sold by his employer.

Tuoma worked as a store clerk for the General Nutrition Centers (GNC) store at the Walpole Mall in East Walpole, Massachusetts. An anonymous tipster told police that the supplement store clerk was selling anabolic steroids on the side. This led to a month-long investigation by the Walpole Police Department that culminated in the arrest of Touma on two steroid charges.

George Touma was arrested on October 24, 2012. He was charged with the alleged possession of a Class E substance (anabolic steroids) with intent to distribute and possession of a Class E substance (anabolic steroids).

Walpole Deputy Police Chief John Carmichael told the Walpole Times how the steroid bust went down.

After the GNC clerk was identified, an undercover police officer started visiting the GNC store and established a friendly rapport with Touma. The officer agreed to purchase two vials of steroids from Touma for $150 each.

The undercover officer and Touma agreed to meet at the Dunkin Donuts location at 491 Walpole Street in Norwood. The officer paid Touma and took possession of the steroids. Touma was arrested at Dunkin Donuts immediately following the steroid transaction.

Clearly, selling illegal anabolic steroids is a bad idea. But the real lesson to be learned by steroid dealers everywhere is: If a potential customer wants to meet you at a donut shop to buy steroids, you will be a fool not to smell “cop” written all over it!

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Steroid Laws in Portugal

Pop quiz: Which European country has the most liberal drug laws? (Hint: It’s not the Netherlands.)

Although its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze–filled “coffee shops,” Holland has never actually legalized cannabis — the Dutch simply don’t enforce their laws against the shops. The correct answer is Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal’s drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

 

 

The question is, does the new policy work? At the time, critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to “drug tourists” and exacerbate Portugal’s drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. But the recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

“Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success,” says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. “It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.”

Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal’s drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.

Portugal’s case study is of some interest to lawmakers in the U.S., confronted now with the violent overflow of escalating drug gang wars in Mexico. The U.S. has long championed a hard-line drug policy, supporting only international agreements that enforce drug prohibition and imposing on its citizens some of the world’s harshest penalties for drug possession and sales. Yet America has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the E.U. (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the U.S., it also has less drug use.

“I think we can learn that we should stop being reflexively opposed when someone else does [decriminalize] and should take seriously the possibility that anti-user enforcement isn’t having much influence on our drug consumption,” says Mark Kleiman, author of the forthcoming When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment and director of the drug policy analysis program at UCLA. Kleiman does not consider Portugal a realistic model for the U.S., however, because of differences in size and culture between the two countries.

But there is a movement afoot in the U.S., in the legislatures of New York State, California and Massachusetts, to reconsider our overly punitive drug laws. Recently, Senators Jim Webb and Arlen Specter proposed that Congress create a national commission, not unlike Portugal’s, to deal with prison reform and overhaul drug-sentencing policy. As Webb noted, the U.S. is home to 5% of the global population but 25% of its prisoners.

At the Cato Institute in early April, Greenwald contended that a major problem with most American drug policy debate is that it’s based on “speculation and fear mongering,” rather than empirical evidence on the effects of more lenient drug policies. In Portugal, the effect was to neutralize what had become the country’s number one public health problem, he says.

“The impact in the life of families and our society is much lower than it was before decriminalization,” says Joao Castel-Branco Goulao, Portugual’s “drug czar” and president of the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction, adding that police are now able to re-focus on tracking much higher level dealers and larger quantities of drugs.

Peter Reuter, a professor of criminology and public policy at the University of Maryland, like Kleiman, is skeptical. He conceded in a presentation at the Cato Institute that “it’s fair to say that decriminalization in Portugal has met its central goal. Drug use did not rise.” However, he notes that Portugal is a small country and that the cyclical nature of drug epidemics — which tends to occur no matter what policies are in place — may account for the declines in heroin use and deaths.

The Cato report’s author, Greenwald, hews to the first point: that the data shows that decriminalization does not result in increased drug use. Since that is what concerns the public and policymakers most about decriminalization, he says, “that is the central concession that will transform the debate.”