WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today welcomed 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps and gold medalist Adam Nelson to the Capitol to testify at a hearing on strengthening the global anti-doping system. During the hearing, Walden spoke of the importance of protecting the integrity of fair competition for clean athletes around the world. Below is a full transcript from Walden’s remarks:
“For centuries athletes, cultures, and nations have been brought together by the spirit of competition. From the slopes of Olympus to the stands of Autzen Stadium – home of the Oregon Ducks – people from all walks of life have gathered to pursue and celebrate athletic achievement,” said Walden. “We relish with anticipation the possibility of witnessing the impossible. We celebrate the thrill of victory, and agonize in defeat. Whether in our own pursuits or the pursuits of others, everyone in this room knows the emotion, collective experience, and beauty of sport.
“Nothing embodies the spirit and potential of sport more than the Olympic games. It is the hallmark of international competition uniting people from around the world, regardless of social, political, or religious differences in celebration of our greatest athletes. It envelopes national pride to the highest degree. It invokes a noble vision of sport rooted in participation over individual achievement. There is a lot of truth to that message, but we also cannot be blind to reality. Athletes and nations compete to win. They do not invest countless hours of training to lose. They sacrifice for success and their victories are rewarded.
“This is why, for centuries, athletes have sought performance enhancing substances to gain an advantage on competition. In fact, Greek Olympians and Roman gladiators used herbs and wine to get an edge on their opponents. In the early 1900s mixtures of heroin, cocaine, and other substances became prevalent among athletes. Over time – especially following the introduction of anti-doping testing at the Olympics in the 1970s – the drugs have become more sophisticated and the cheaters more creative. Despite improvements in global anti-doping efforts at the turn of the century and the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the fight for clean sport remains an uphill battle.
“The temptation to cheat will always be present to those looking for a shortcut. Recent events, however, revealed a far more startling and difficult challenge. Thanks to the courage and tenacity of whistleblowers, of journalists and others, we were exposed to a level of deception and cheating that felt more like a movie script than reality of international sport. It was not the case of individual athletes looking for an edge, it was a tale of nation state-sponsored doping. Hundreds of athletes knowingly or unknowingly became part of a widespread campaign to enhance performance, alter test results, and evade detection by international ant-doping authorities.
“Despite these shocking allegations, later bolstered by a series of independent commissions and reports, the response from the respective governing bodies for international sport has become a hodgepodge of indecisive and inconsistent actions. So what went wrong? It is one thing for an individual to beat the system, but how could such a massive program go undetected for so long? And what has the response been? It’s been a quagmire. Clearly these events point to larger challenges in international anti-doping efforts. That’s why we’re here today – to learn from the past in pursuit of a better future for clean sport.
“There will always be those who seek to gain an advantage – personal and financial motivations are undeniable. The opportunities afforded by scientific innovation are too tempting. The challenge is daunting and may never be totally solved. But that is not an excuse for inaction. We can and must do better, even if that requires difficult and frankly uncomfortable reforms.
“Success in sport is not achieved sitting on the sideline waiting for others to act. It requires leadership, team work, and most of all it requires dedication – as our athletes here have clearly shown. For the millions of clean athletes around the world who push the limits of physical and mental exhaustion, who sacrifice so much – don’t they deserve a similar commitment from those responsible for protecting the integrity of their sport? I believe they do.”
Contact Greg Walden’s Offices:
Washington, DC Office
2185 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-6730
1051 NW Bond St. #400
Bend, OR 97701
Phone: (541) 389-4408
La Grande Office
1211 Washington Avenue
La Grande, OR 97850
Phone: (541) 624-2400
14 N. Central Ave. #112
Medford, OR 97501
Phone: (541) 776-4646
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