Saturday, January 13, 2007

When You See a Mess

When you see a mess you know a mess and here is a mess.

Last November, claiming that it was acting on evidence that surfaced in the criminal case of convicted East German coach Thomas Springstein, Germany's Athletics Federation (DLV) filed a complaint against Hermens and Spanish doctor Miguel Angel Peraita.

Last month, denying wrongdoing and claiming damage to his reputation, Jos Hermens the agent for 39 Ethiopian athletes including Haile Gebreslassie’s and Kenenisa Bekele, filed a slander suit against the German Athletics Federation (DVL) President Clemens Prokop.

The central figure in this mess is the former East German coach Thomas Springstein who was sentenced to 16 months in prison last year for giving a banned substance to minors he had been coaching. Hermens is the former manager of two German athletes coached by this convict. It appears that Jos Hermens name surfaced in the court documents during this trial. The two athletes are former 800m Olympic champion Nils Schumann and former world 400m relay champion Grit Breuer. The more controversial of the two is 34 year-old Grit Breuer, a former East German athlete and girlfriend of the convicted coach Springstein. She was the 200M World Indoor Championship in 1991 and a medalist at the Olympics and World Championships in the 4x100m relay. In 1992 she received a two year ban for taking a performance-enhancing substance and got in trouble again in 2004 for skipping a drug test. She faced a lifetime ban for a skipped drug test but managed to get cleared on a technicality.

The DVL accuses Hermens of sending three athletes to Dr. Peraita. Hermens said he recommended Peraita to the German athletes because he believed some of the Spanish doctor's methods, which included homeopathy, were revolutionary.

Last summer cycling experience a huge doping scandal that damaged the credibility of the sport. OnJuly, 1 2006The Washington post reported :

The Tour de France, the legendary three-week bicycle race that is one of Europe's most popular sporting events, was rocked by a major drug scandal on Friday -- the day before the race was scheduled to begin -- that forced several of the top competitors to withdraw, including favorites Jan Ullrich of Germany and Ivan Basso of Italy.

Cycling analysts described the burgeoning doping scandal -- which centers on a sports doctor in Madrid who allegedly helped dozens of riders with performance-enhancing blood doping -- as the worst to ever hit the sport. They said that it could claim more Tour riders before the race is finished July 23 -- or even before it starts Saturday morning in the French Alsatian city of Strasbourg. Johan Bruyneel, coach of the Discovery Channel team that was headed by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong until his retirement last year, said the ongoing Spanish drug probe "is probably the biggest doping scandal in cycling and maybe even in sports ever.

According to this Spiegel Magazine, for years Spain has been considered a paradise for athletes open to doping. That piece of doping paradise was not limited to cyclist. Dr. Miguel Angel Peraita and the East German convict were a part of this paradise.

The first reports about compliant doctors and well-equipped laboratories began making the rounds in the track and field world in the late 1990s. The suspicion that a network had developed in this environment was confirmed last year when the police staged a spectacular coup against the drug cartel. In a series of raids on the Spanish mainland, as well as on the Canary and Balearic Islands, police secured 10 tons of illegal doping products.

Since the trial of former sprint trainer Thomas Springstein in Germany, anti-doping activists there, like Heidelberg cell biologist Werner Franke, have openly referred to the so-called "Spanish connection." In March, a court in Magdeburg gave the eastern German track and field coach a 16-month suspended sentence for supplying drugs to minors. The investigation had revealed that Springstein was regularly in contact with Miguel Angel Peraita, a Madrid physician.

During a search of Springstein's home, the police seized a folder containing faxes and email printouts. In some emails, Springstein, whose screen name was "Top.speed," inquired about advances in genetic doping. In others, he asked Peraita (screen name "Top Doc") for his views on the respective advantages of testosterone creams and insulin injections.

Germany's National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) in Bonn now has portions of this incriminating file at its disposal and is trying to uncover links between Fuentes and Peraita, whose medical practice is located on Madrid's Calle Fernández de la Hoz -- just a few steps from Fuentes's apartment and Merino Batres's blood laboratory.

About sending athletes to Dr. Peraita, Jos Hermens said:

I was maybe a little dumb, I should have asked more questions about what Peraita exactly does.

It may have been dumb mistake but it’s something you just wish Hermens never did. The stink surrounding these German athletes is seriously threatening his livelihood and reputation. The most confusing thing is why would such a well respected agent send the East German convict's girlfriend (Grit Breuer) who herself was a cheat to Dr. Peraita the doper. This is the wrong crowd for him to have anything to do with. All this does not look good but the fact of the mater remains that the evidence against him is still slim.

The current evidence isn't enough to press doping charges against high-profile agent Jos Hermens and a Spanish doctor, the investigating district attorney said Wednesday.

But Rudolf Jaspers said his Magdeburg office will investigate the allegations of trafficking in banned substances brought against Miguel Angel Peraita and Hermens, whose clients include long-distance greats Haile Gebreslassie and Kenenisa Bekele.
The German Athletics Federation, which filed a criminal complaint Monday, bases its doping allegations on court documents from the trial of Thomas Springstein, a German coach sentenced to four months for providing a banned substance to a minor.

"We have hints in the e-mails between Springstein and Peraita, but nothing that specifies amounts or where they (drugs) were transported," Jaspers told the Associated Press. "That will not be enough to build a case." Jaspers said his office may appeal to Spanish and Dutch authorities for help in the investigation. It's also not clear if any wrongdoing falls under German jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, the problem is not legal but a problem of preception. Joe Hermes is an agent who is regarded as the best of the best in the business. It’s unfortunate when such an incident hoovers around a good guy like him.

Hermens does much more than negotiate financial deals for these athletes. "Jos had done everything for me, not only in running," says Gebrselassie, the two-time Olympic 10,000m champion. "He is doing everything. For example my brother was in [the] hospital in Holland. Jos is looking after him."

"I never see him as [a] manager," says Gebrselassie. "Always he looks like a brother or a father and son."
And there is more...

For his athlete family, he is willing to assist wherever necessary in their lives. Occasionally his duties include such diverse tasks as shipping farm implements from Europe to Africa on behalf of enterprising athletes.

In September 2004, Hermens even sought out the best doctors for Gebrselassie and his friend, 2000 Olympic marathon champion Gezehegne Abera, in Helsinki. Abera is not even one of his clients. Hermens wanted, however, to ensure he was also in capable medical hands.

I believe Joe Hermes is innocent. The problem here is that every news article that covers this issue also mentions our record shattering athletes Haile Gebreslassie’s and Kenenisa Bekele. This places two of the hardest working athletes under a cloud of suspicion without an ounce of evidence. Anytime an athlete dominates there are suspicions and it is the athlete’s responsibility to stay clear of anything that may create a controversy. Lance Armstrong’s career has been dogged with doping allegations without any evidence and his legacy is somewhat tarnished based just perception. I personally have always been suspicious of Paula Radcliff and I have no evidence for that. Therefore, I can’t blame anyone for being suspicious of Ethiopian athletes given how dominant they have been. We may think our athletes are special but not everyone thinks like we do. The good news is that Ethiopian athletics has been one of the cleanest in the world of sports. It is unfortunate that Jos Hermen’s second tier German athletes could tarnish the hard earned reputation of our heroes and for that matter the reputation of our country.

This is something you would hope have never happened. This is a mess. There will be no winners.