2010 Winter Olympics: One of the Cleanest In Recent Memory

Jo-Ryan SalazarSenior Analyst IMarch 1, 2010

RICHMOND, CANADA - OCTOBER 21:  The exterior of the Olympic Oval venue where speedskating will be held during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games is shown October 21, 2009 in Richmond, Canada. The Olympic Oval also houses the anti-doping lab which will test over 2,000 samples during the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be remembered for a number of things.

The USA finishing with the largest medal haul at a single Winter Olympiad, while the hosts from Canada earned the largest gold medal haul at a single Winter Olympiad.

The Games started tragically with the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, but ended with an emotional finish as Canada earned the gold medal in ice hockey.

New heroes emerged. Old veterans took their curtain call.

But through it all, Vancouver 2010 can take pride in running one of the cleanest, if not THE cleanest, Winter Olympics ever.

Only two athletes were handcuffed by the IOC for doping: Russian women's ice hockey player Svetlana Terenteva and Slovak men's ice hockey player Lubomir Visnovsky of the Edmonton Oilers. Both were for minor infractions.

This is a breakthrough in the World Anti-Doping Agency's continuing efforts to perform stringent tests on athletes and punish those who fail them. During the 2002 Salt Lake Games, seven athletes were stripped of their medals, and two athletes were stripped of their medals at the 2006 Games in Turin.

"I think there is some message from this minimal amount of doping infringements [and it] is that at least for those products that we are absolutely 100 percent able to trace, there has been a deterrent effect," said IOC president Jacques Rogge. "So we see a trend there.  But of course we have to be very objective. We cannot trace everything."

Over 2,000 tests were made during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. After the Games, the IOC will store doping for eight years in order to be tested retroactively for any drugs undetectable at the time the sample were taken. Athletes can be stripped of their medals and have sanctions imposed if future testing detects that they have cheated.

Despite the two warnings, Prof. Arne Ljungqvist, the chairman of the IOC's medical commission, was pleased with the outcome. "The anti-doping program is running very smoothly and we're not finding very much," he said Thursday. "It seems promising."

"We have had no complaints from athletes with the running of the doping stations."

"I think the lack of positive tests at these Games just simply demonstrates the efforts that have been pursued by WADA and the IOC to very much narrow the gap between where the bad guys are and the good guys," Canadian Olympic Committee Michael Chambers said. "You never beat it all. It's kind of like trying to kill off all the weeds. 

"You can't kill all the weeds but there is real success on the front of fighting doping in sport at the Olympics and that's reflected by the lack of positive doping tests."

The weeds Chambers alluded to are those who may have taken human growth hormone or EPO, two blood-boosting drugs. 

"It's not going to last for too long before a test [for those two] is appearing," Rogge said. "But you know you could ask me when [we] would know exactly what the tally will be for Vancouver. Well, that's in eight years time, 2018."

Annecy, France, Munich, Germany, and Pyeonchang, South Korea are candidate cities for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The winning city will be announced next year at the 123rd IOC Session.

"I usually do not speak in terms of winning a war," said Dr. Ljungvist said. "But the relative absence of doping—it is of course, a very encouraging message. It really tells us that efforts by national federations and world anti-doping agencies is more and more efficient."

And with only two minor warnings given out at the Vancouver Games, the Sochi 2014 Olympic Organizing Committee has a challenging task at hand: a clean Winter Olympics with not even a single reprimand, sanction or stripped medal to deal with.

VANOC was very close to accomplishing this task. In four years time, the world will know if this Russian resort town is able to pull it off.