by Thanh Nga
In a relatively short space of time, two Vietnamese athletes have been caught using performance-enhancing drugs and/or methods which are forbidden by the Anti-Doping Code. Doping has been around for a long time and it's time for officials to get serious about the issue.
|Banned: Beijing Olympic silver medallist Hoang Anh Tuan was suspended from local and international tournaments after testing positive for banned substances. — VNA/VNS Photo
The first was Viet Nam's second-ever Olympic silver medallist, Hoang Anh Tuan. The International Weightlifting Federation imposed a two-year ban after samples taken at the 2010 World Weightlifting Championships in Turkey tested positive for a banned substance.
The Bac Ninh Province-born athlete therefore will not compete in London this summer, and will be excluded from any involvement in the sport until September 18, 2012.
The second case occurred at a domestic event. For the first time in its history, doping tests were conducted at the 2010 National Sports Games, and out of 30 samples taken, one tested positive.
The move was warmly supported by experts and fans because for many years, testing was not conducted in Viet Nam, and it wasn't until 2006 Asian Games silver medal holder Tuan tested positive at a world event did officials start to consider doping a serious threat.
According to results from the Beijing Doping Test Centre, out of 30 samples from Viet Nam, one tested positive for Methandienone, which is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The sample belonged to Ngo Thi Hanh, 21, a weightlifter from the central province of Ha Tinh, who won three gold medals at that year's National Games.
If one athlete in 30 tested positive for a banned substance at that year's Games, then the total number is likely to be quite high.
Viet Nam don't have a testing centre due to the expense involved. For example, to test a sample at the Beijing facility costs up to US$300, plus transport fees, etc.
Tuan's and Hanh's cases were considered to be indeliberate because of slack management and a lack of doping knowledge.
However, maybe athletes still use banned performance enhancing drugs for achievements.
Inspections to be tightened
Officials said that they would tighten inspections and raise awareness among athletes and coaches before the construction of a testing facility is completed.
On December 28, 2011, the Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued Decision No 2469/QD-TTg to establish the National Sports Medicine and Doping Centre under the National Administration of Sports and Physical Training, part of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
"The centre is expected to be completed in 2014 at the Ha Noi-based My Dinh Sports Complex, with research and testing facilities as well as a rehab clinic," said Nguyen Van Ly, deputy rector of the Institute for Science and Sports Medicine and the centre's director.
Temporary offices have been set up at the My Dinh National Stadium, but the new centre will have modern equipment and trained staff, expected to cost VND40 billion ($1.9 million).
Ly said at present, testing was practically non-existent at domestic events, and the centre would create a fair playing field while reducing expenditure for tests conducted abroad.
The centre would also raise morality in sports in the process of Viet Nam's integration into the international arena. Athletes would have to undergo drug tests to ensure the sport was clear of illegal performance-enhancing substances and ensure victories were the result of hard work, not drugs.
For the WADA to recognise the centre as meeting international standards, between 3,000-5,000 samples would have to be tested annually.
Ly said the centre would strive to meet WADA standards.
In the past at international events, Vietnamese athletes fell foul of drug regulations. Nguyen Van Tuan failed a doping test at the Asian Bodybuilding Championships in Indonesia in 2003. He was found to have taken Bio-X Andro Complex 5. As a result, he was stripped of the silver medal he won in the 80kg category.
At the 2006 ASIAD Games in Qatar, a Vietnamese bodybuilder was also found to have taken drugs and was sent home.
The country's No 1 female bodybuilder, Nguyen Thi My Linh, was banned for one year (2008-09) when a urine test showed the presence of banned substances at a tournament in Hong Kong. — VNS