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posted: 08/10/2001
by John Henry Auran

Imagine key members of the L.A. Lakers' 2001 NBA Championship Team -- Shaq, Kobe, even Mark Madsen -- getting busted for banned substances and thrown out of the league, all because of an incriminating stash left in a duffel bag at a McDonald's by head coach Phil Jackson.

That's essentially what happened in Finland this year. At the FIS Nordic World Championships in February, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) caught six Finnish medalists -- national heroes all -- using a banned substance (hydroxethyl starch, or HES) that enhances performance and masks other kinds of doping. The kicker is that WADA only decided to test the team after a medical bag containing doping paraphernalia, left at a Helsinki gas station by head coach Kari-Pekka Kyröe, was turned into police.

The drug scandal -- the largest ever to hit an athletic team -- devastated Finland. The country's leading newspaper gave the disaster full coverage for more than a month. Local churches even held sermons to help shocked Finns cope with the trauma.

The incident also calls into question more than a decade of outstanding Finnish cross-country results. Old and new rumors surfaced, including whispers about the team's uncanny ability to pull off performances in competition far better than its performances during the training season. True or not, the rumors are inevitable. And the fact is that this team has attained the one result a team never wants: national sadness.

So, what do you think? Are these substances illegal drugs or simple performance-enhancing supplements? Tell us what you think via e-mail or in our forums for a chance to win...a shiny, new sticker.

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