At these 'homecoming games ' even a return to' />

By PHIL TAYLOR

Let's give thanks to Ancient Olympia for placing the issue squarely before us.

At these "homecoming games" even a return to such hallowed environs could not save track and field from itself.

In the heat and dust of rural Arcadia, where it began nearly 3000 years ago, Russian shotputter Irina Korzhanenko was in a competition all on her own, throwing 21.06m, almost 1.5 metres further than anyone else.

It was four years since a woman had put the shot beyond 21 metres.

Turned out to be a throwback for doping too. Korzhanenko has been stripped of the gold, having tested positive for stanozolol, a steroid popular among Eastern bloc athletes two decades ago but made famous by Ben Johnson at Seoul in 1988.

It may be no coincidence the Olympic and world records - another 1.5 metres further than the Russian throw - were set by an East German and a Russian, 17 and 24 years ago.

Korzhanenko's disqualification saw Valerie Adams promoted to eighth, but who knows what she may have done with the three extra throws the top eight get.

For a 19-year-old in a strength sport she did well, and her talent is undeniable. One challenge will be to retain her belief that it's possible to win clean. That's no easy task given the history of the shot.

Korzhanenko, 30, was awarded the 1999 world indoor gold medal when Ukrainian Vita Pavlysh was banned for doping, but lost the title herself after a positive test. Her two-year ban meant she missed the last Olympics.

The Sydney champion, Yanina Korolchik of Belarus, was not at Athens because she is suspended for doping.

And it's no better looking at the men. All of the 1992 men's shot put medallists had served doping suspensions. Two of the 1996 medallists had previous suspensions and later were given lifetime bans.

But there is a ray of hope. As testing improves, winning throws get shorter. In Athens and Sydney the gold medal winners were more than two metres off the 14-year-old world record.

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chairman Dick Pound welcomed Korzhanenko's being stripped of the gold medal.

"It increases the confidence in the authenticity of the competition if we are taking people out who cheated.

"The testing is more extensive and more comprehensive, so you'd expect we would catch more athletes that are cheating," he said.

The positives so far have come from sports that are no strangers to doping - weightlifting, cycling, track and field.

Track and field has provided the biggest scandals of the year.

The source of most despair for the hosts has involved the withdrawal of Greek sprint stars Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou after missing doping tests.

In the United States the Balco scandal took out several gold medal hopes, including world champion sprinters Tim Montgomery and Kelli White. Though she faces no charges, Montgomery's wife, Marion Jones, has been caught up in the circumstantial outflow and had her reputation tarnished.

Balco, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, was traced as the source of a new steroid called tetrahydrogestrinone, THG, designed to evade all existing drugs tests. A test was developed after a coach anonymously sent drug testers a sample.

Balco was set up by Victor Conte, a former musician who once played with jazz legend Herbie Hancock, to make nutritional supplements for athletes.

Reports suggest a link between Conte and disgraced Greek sprinters Kenteris and Thanou, who won gold and silver medals in Sydney, and their coach Christos Tsekos, who is also in the supplements business.

Leaked emails from Conte, who is under investigation by the FBI, included one that warned an unidentified coach that a test had been found for a previously undetectable drug. It ended: "We might also want to somehow get this information to the coach for the Greek athletes [names blanked out] so nobody tests positive."

Greek authorities this week discovered small amounts of steroids and 1000 products with ephedrine as the main ingredient in a search of a warehouse used by Tsekos.

The steroids came from the United States, Bulgaria and Germany. Ephedrine is used by some athletes to boost alertness.

Pound announced the war against drug cheats is to include coaches and doctors. Athletes will have to name their coaches and doctors on the WADA doping control form.