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‘Random’ drug tests make JSA look bad

by Ed Odeven

What a joke.

What other words can be used to describe the Japan Sumo Association’s latest round of “random” drug tests?

For the drug testing to actually be legitimate, it needs to be done without advanced notice.

But as Kyodo News reported on Monday evening, “each stable was warned of the procedure two days in advance.”

A lot can happen in two days — plenty of dirt can be swept away or shoved under the carpet (Richard Nixon, if he was still alive, would be a great speaker on this topic).

In essence, the JSA’s method is the same as giving a restaurant advanced notice before a health inspection. A restaurant could be filthy for months and months at a time, then the staff could decide to vigorously clean it in the days before an inspection.

After the inspection, the restaurant can return to its bad habits — not throwing away expired food, storing toxic chemicals next to food condiments on grease-stained shelves, for instance.

Similarly, sumo wrestlers can use performance-enhancing substances and use a masking agent to hide their drug use.

Remember: Drug cheats have, and always will, look for ways to stay one step ahead of the authorities.

Just ask noted expert Victor Conte, who founded BALCO.

Conte served time in prison for his role in a drug scandal that also landed decorated Olympic sprinter Marion Jones behind bars. Dozens of high-profile athletes were also linked to Conte, including Major League Baseball’s all-time home run king Barry Bonds.

“Game of Shadows,” a well-publicized book, provides a thorough account of BALCO’s role in baseball.

Conte has done a number of interviews since being released from prison in 2006. He has talked about the way athletes have learned to beat the drug tests, operating on a calendar that enables them to take drugs and avoid detection.

The JSA has done the right thing by implementing drug testing, especially in the aftermath of last year’s drug scandal involving Russian wrestlers Wakanoho, Roho and Hakurozan.

But that doesn’t mean the JSA is properly administering those tests.

To earn the public’s trust and gain some measure of respect on this issue, the JSA should conduct random drug tests at, well, random times.

Anything less should be unacceptable.

There’s no logical reason for the JSA to inform stable masters of drug tests in advance. In fact, it can lead to improper activity before those tests take place.

“A scandal was caused because of problems with marijuana, so it is important that we carry out the tests firmly,” Takeo Tono, a member of the JSA’s guidance committee told Kyodo.

He added: “The Japan Sumo Association wants to conduct the tests on all JSA members but it is hard to arrange with major and regional tournaments.”

Tono and the JSA should stop making excuses about these tests, citing the difficulties of administering them due to tournament schedules. Instead, the JSA should make drug testing an ongoing priority.

Sumo wrestlers and their stable masters may be “inconvenienced” by these tests. But the message should be simple, bold and clear. It should be this: Too bad.

And that’s life in the 21st century when you are guilty until proven innocent in the world of sports when it comes to drugs.

Clearly, the JSA needs to regain the public’s trust, and the current model of drug testing leaves much to be desired.

Case closed.