Taurasi Gets Slighted
When the bottom line on ESPN read “Taurasi tests positive” a couple months back, I just assumed it was the same old story: Another fantastic athlete succumbing to the pressures of the outside world to perform at an unbelievable level.
Surprisingly, this story ends a bit differently than you would expect.
Nearly two months after being accused of taking the banned stimulant Modafinil, according to ESPN.com, WNBA star Diana Taurasi has passed a polygraph in which she said she didn’t take the drug, her test results have been “retracted” by the Turkish lab that released them, and officials from that same lab are facing requests for their resignation and lawsuits from both Taurasi and the Turkish club she played for this fall, Fenerbahce. Surprised? Me too.
For Taurasi, the last few weeks have been a fragile and terrifying time. From Marion Jones to Barry Bonds, we’ve all seen the devastating effects that doping allegations can have on an athlete’s career. In this case, Taurasi lost her contract and she faced a possible two-year suspension that would have kept her out of the 2012 Olympics and the WNBA. Now, it seems she may be able to clear her name.
In case you missed it, Taurisi is sort of a big deal. The five-time WNBA all-star is almost unanimously regarded as the best women’s player in the world. Her resume includes two olympic gold medals, a league record four straight WNBA scoring titles, two WNBA championships, and most recently, a U.S. National Women’s Basketball World Championship back in October.
According to ESPN.com, the accusing lab, Ankara, had its drug-testing credentials suspended by WADA for three months in 2009 because of problems with its methods. Now, after making one of the boldest accusations in sports history, they have retracted their “positive” test but are yet to issue any sort of apology. Executives of Fenerbahce are calling it the biggest scandal in the world of sports. And they should. Taurasi’s teammates are demanding that the directors of Ankara lose their jobs. And they should.
And still, here in the states, every basketball program on television wastes 20 minutes of air time on Carmelo Anthony trade rumors, when they could be reaffirming my belief that there are still some honest athletes out there.
So, how does a doping lab with a tarnished record get away with something like this? Well, hopefully, they don’t. The lab should be shut down, for good. Every positive test that they’ve ever made should be reevaluated, and the people responsible should [at the very least] issue a very public and sincere apology to Taurasi, her family, and her fans.
Obviously, losing Taurasi hurt Fenerbahce’s chances of winning the Turkish Women’s Basketball League championship. The league, which is the top women’s league in all of Turkey, has been dominated by Fenerbahce, who has won the championship the last five years. So what of them? How much money did they lose by being forced to snip the best player in the world from their roster? I’d be willing to bet that they will take that to court, and I think they have a pretty good case.
Taurasi, who plans to return to the WNBA when the season begins in June, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that her return to the Turkish league was “pretty unlikely.” The WNBA allows players to participate in other leagues, but on the issue of doping a failed test in one league effects your eligibility in all leagues. I hope the media coverage will give her some reprimands, but somehow – I doubt it.
Taurasi says the second round of tests vindicated her, but the headlines in the United States aren’t telling her story. In fact, the news of her “false positive” has hardly caused a ripple in the sports world at all. In an age where Lance Armstrong is still giving urine samples every month, I’m surprised that people in the states aren’t making a bigger rumble about the recent news.
Of course, for all this to happen in less than two months, Modafinil must be a serious performance enhancer. Right? I mean, this stuff is what Bonds was shooting up when he ran out of HGH. Right?
Wrong. Drug manufacturers describe Modafinil is a “mild” stimulant used to counter excessive sleepiness due to narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, or sleep apnea. The problem is that you won’t find that in the headlines.