Thursday, August 7, 2008

As the Olympics begin

Retaining an interest anabolic steroids as a former drugs-worker, I felt an alarm ringing in my noggin as I read a First Post report on things that could go wrong with the Beijing Olympics. It concludes:

Last year a caterer working for the United States Olympic Committee visited China and was shocked to discover why portions of chicken being sold in supermarkets were so huge: "We had it tested and it was so full of steroids that we never could have given it to athletes," he said. "They all would have tested positive."
This could create some confusion should Olympians fail "dope" tests by testing positive for anabolic steroids, which are all artificial - and strong - versions of testosterone. Add concerns that testing for banned substances is tainted by the "prosecutor's fallacy" (which is an assumption that - in this context - producing a false positive for a dope test is unlikely, therefore innocence is unlikely), and it looks like the process of moving an investigation forward from a failed banned substance test could be fraught with counter-accusations and even litigation.

click to read BeijingAirblog.comThere are, of course, many other considerations surrounding the Olympics which arise merely from the fact that they are being held in China. It's a famously polluted city, even by the standards of China's measurement of clean air being up to an Air Pollution Index of 100 - twice World Health Organisation's measurement. The API has been pushed down to 95 by the closure of 100 factories and 56 power-plants in the city, the capital of a country whose average hourly wage is $0.57 (29 pence). I don't know if the workers will be paid for their enforced holiday - perhaps one of the 600-plus British public servants who will be attending at a cost of £7m to the taxpayer will think to pose the question. One lives in hope. Sometimes.

The thorny issue of human rights is a thistle that seems not to be getting grasped with any alacrity by any the major TV stations covering the Olympics despitethe demonstrations that greeted the Olympic Torch - first carried in Adolph Hitler's 1936 Olympics in another totalitarian nation - as it was carried, surrounded by Chinese élite police, through the nation's capitals. In our own capital, the Chinese officers clashed at points with British bobbies. Take, for just one of many examples, the case of Alimujiang Yimiti, who is currently detained for the crime of being a Christian. Not that visiting journalists in Beijing are guaranteed to find it easy to get details about Yamiti or others on the internet - despite promises to the contrary, which helped Beijing secure the games, the Chinese are now cracking down on freedom to access international websites reporting human rights abuses there by reinstating the great firewall of China. (As it happens, access to Amnesty International has at present been restored to China, but using the verification tool at the bottom of this post confirms that many Falun Gong sites are still banned. I should note, however, that another site has stopped verifiying sites as the increasing complexity of censorship measures make it difficult to give a definite result.)

note the second Chinese policeman on the left forcing Connie Huq to hold the torch higher - click to read coverage
Possibly the most egregious abuse of human rights in China is their government's throwaway - literally - attittude to children. The one child rule doesn't just lead to enforced abortions and infanticide in maternity hospitals, but an undesirable child - often so for merely being a girl - will often end up in an orphanage so that the parents can try for a boy and still be within the one-child rule. One report states:

Child-care workers reportedly selected unwanted infants and children for death by intentional deprivation of food and water a process known among the workers as the “summary resolution” of childrens’ alleged medical problems. When an click to read the Human Rights Watch report on China's orphansorphan chosen in this manner was visibly on the point of death from starvation or medical neglect, orphanage doctors were then asked to perform medical “consultations” which served as a ritual marking the child for subsequent termination of care, nutrition, and other life-saving intervention. Deaths from acute malnutrition were then, in many cases, falsely recorded as having resulted from other causes, often entirely spurious or irrelevant conditions such as “mental deficiency” and “cleft palate.”

I remember at school I was once a member of a chess club. One boy, known for cheating, tried to get onto the "game ladder" without much success until one day somebody felt sorry for him. The teacher supervising watched the game closely but was inevitably called away, at which point the boy "accidentally" knocked over a piece and replaced it in a more advantageous position. He won the game and got onto the match ladder, which gave him the right to demand a game with anybody three places or less above him. he never lost, and soon the chess club had fallen apart.

If China decides that objective necessity dictate a good showing on the gold medal front to show the superiority of the Chinese way, then it will have a good showing on the gold medal front, and the Olympic games will slowly fade into irrelevance because any use of banned substances discovered will be justified by "it didn't stop the Chinese athlete so and so..." Unless the International Olympic Committee stands up for itself, China will use it as a doormat. And the resulting humble pie won't taste like chicken, with or without added steroids.

Related posts:

Sport isn't worth that much - Yimiti's olympic struggle
at the close of the Olympics


  1. Children are indeed selected for nurturing or "not" nurturing. In the orphanage I worked in for four years, it was very common until we showed our outrage for months on end. We finally abolished this inhumane treatment, by convincing the nannies that with proper care, many of the children they thought would die could actually survive.


  2. Kay, thank you very much forthe chance to look at your blog, which I found both heartwarming and heart-rending at the same time. I pray that politicians who are courting China in the name of short-term gains will come to realise the price of that cooperation. I think you are a very loving and corageous person. I wish I had your guts.



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