Say the words "Dream Team" and one thing comes to mind: the guys on the basketball court. But they're not the only ones. A group of scientists, dubbed the "dream team of drug testing," has been using 22 drug-testing machines in Atlanta to detect athletes' use of banned performance-enhancing substances. The "team" can find even small amounts of steroids that may have been taken months prior to the competition.
Some critics contend that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is wasting both its time and money. Athletes, they say, are more sophisticated about the drugs they take and in their efforts to conceal them. That's true. It's also true that there is currently no reliable test for one of the most popular performance-enhancing drugs - human growth hormone.
But though the IOC may not eliminate drug-taking it, too, is more sophisticated, and is moving in the right direction. It's possible, for example, that some athletes were discouraged from using performance-enhancing drugs by the knowledge that the new, powerful machines would be used in Atlanta. Greater awareness of the problem also has helped.
Some advocate stepped-up use of short-notice, out-of-competition testing. That might keep the concern over doping in the Olympics and other major athletic events in perspective, helping to ensure that athletes aren't accused falsely.
It's unfortunate that drug-testing is such a prominent part of the Games. Athletes hear the message, "Win a gold medal and you're set for life." As former Olympic champion Chris Brasher of Britain said, "There is pressure ... to succeed at all costs." But IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch sent back his own message, one all competitors should take to heart: "Doping is the negation of sport."