(Granma daily staff writer)


Speaking to journalists after the October 2 meeting of PASO’s executive committee meeting, the president of that organization dared to compare Sotomayor—after denying that he had referred to him as a drug addict—with Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter of Jamaican origin who was totally discredited when his drug use was first detected, and even more so after confirmation of his relapse in relation to the use of prohibited substances.

Vázquez Raña was specifically asked: "How do you see Sotomayor after this?" and he replied:

"In universal terms, Sotomayor is a gentleman, like many athletes. For him the situation is very difficult, when you think about Canada’s Johnson, who wanted to come back, came back, and fell into the same problem."

Previously, after mentioning "my affection and respect for Fidel," he expressed his surprise that the Cuban president had "stepped into an area where he knows he shouldn’t go." And he added: "He hasn’t gained any points in our commission, and for that reason I tell my Cuban friends that they’re defending the indefensible. I say it as a joke, but it’s serious."

At a later point: "Sometimes I think, I hope they win a point, because they are defending something... in the case of the three weightlifters charged with using the same substance."

Now, dear readers, evaluate the following piece of dialogue with the press:

Question: But, according to the experts, doesn’t that substance [nandralone] remain in the body for at least six months?

Answer: "No, it was stated today that it disappears within five or six days."

Question: Who stated that?

Answer: "The Medical Commission. And there’s another thing, you should be aware that I don’t want to get too deeply into all this because I don’t like to get involved too deeply in matters I don’t know about, but there’s one very important point: this is the second time that one of the three weightlifters has come up positive and Cuba accepted it, and now Cuba’s coming out in his defense...."

Question: But accepted what?

Answer: "If Cuba didn’t accept, it kept quiet; in other words keeping quiet means saying OK, I accept it. I don’t see why there’s such anxiety among my friends the Cubans in defending this matter; I think I have an idea why, but I don't want to say, maybe it isn’t true..."

This strange dialogue with the press took place after José Ramón Fernández, head of the Cuban Olympic Committee, had left. During the PASO meeting, Vázquez Raña’s position was more cautious, very respectful and with none of the arrogance and smugness he displayed in this press conference, when there was nobody to respond to his statements. He not only advises us, but treats our country like a bully.

In my opinion, this is a whole rosary of intrigues. He prompts people to think of collective premeditation when he lets slip that the three weightlifters used the same substance. He’s vague when referring to nandralone’s disappearance from the body within five or six days, given that De Rose stated two to three days, forgetting that he had categorically confirmed in Winnipeg that it was an injectable anabolic, traces of which remain in the urine for up to six months. Texts on the subject state that nandralone used for anabolic purposes is detectable for months afterwards. It was precisely for that reason that Cuba was able to expose the repugnant infamy with the alternative laboratory tests.

Then Vázquez turns to discrediting techniques, by mentioning that one of the athletes had registered positive for nandralone once before, and introduces perfidy by stating that he thinks he knows something but doesn’t want to say it in case it’s not true.

Say what you have to say and don’t insinuate, Mr. Vázquez Raña, because any fabrication will inexorably collapse before the unimpregnable shield of our honor.

As far as the previous positive nandralone test result for Rolando Delgado is concerned, it is a fact, but everyone should understand that it was detected by the regular and rigorous Cuban controls. Most important of all, the athlete acknowledged his error and thus the sanction applied had educational value.

On this occasion, the first-rate medical care that Cuban athletes receive—which nobody would dare to deny—did not detect any abnormal symptoms in the weightlifters during or after the Winnipeg Games in which they were found to have nandralone in their urine samples. Incidences of this substance in the body during periodic examinations is unconcealable, even to an average physician.

There are two other cardinal factors in this matter. On the one hand is the unwavering rejection by our athletes of any involvement in fraudulent acts. And, on the other, there is the shady history of all kinds of aggression plotted and executed against Cuba by its irreconcilable enemies. They have dared to engage in biological warfare, assassination attempts and numerous acts of aggression in such a covert way that they have fooled most people, who have viewed our charges incredulously until, after many years, declassified CIA documents have corroborated them in all their macabre dimension.

Why deny outright the possible transfer of aggression to the sports sector? What does Vázquez Raña know about resisting merciless harassment for almost 40 years? Why insist on referring to the total integrity of members of the drug-testing chain and its inviolate security mechanism?

In a capitalist world alienated by money, many people give in; and corruption moves ahead via the weakest link. Not even maximum security is infallible and there are examples of that, not just in small and poor countries, but in the top echelons of that empire itself. What else was Watergate, for example?

There are abundant irregularities in the weightlifters’ incident, among other reasons, because the laboratory was in Montreal and not in Winnipeg. Vázquez Raña acknowledges that as a difficulty—but they were still "the best Games," in his view—and asked the Dominicans to install a drug-testing unit in situ for the 2003 Games in their country (they had already planned to do so), even though the Canadians have infinitely more economic resources.

In the case of William Vargas, the Cuban doctors were unable to get to the Montreal laboratory from Winnipeg in time to witness the opening of his test B. A postponement was requested and denied by Dr. De Rose, who did state that Vázquez Raña could authorize it. When Vázquez Raña was located immediately afterwards, De Rose had already reached him before the Cubans and told him that it was impossible to extend the time. Then the PASO president responded that De Rose could authorize it and that they should come to an agreement. But the doctor had his cellular phone turned off and could not be located for hours, as if he had decided to go into hiding.

This constituted deceitful and evasive behavior on the part of those gentlemen, given that a different reason for the Cuban request was brazenly expressed by the slippery De Rose during the recent PASO Executive Committee meeting, when he stated: "The postponement request was made solely so that the result wouldn’t be announced during the Games."

How little Dr. De Rose knows us. Is he so used to those kinds of methods that he’s incapable of valuing fair play among the rest? You belong to those who never had or have feelings, to those who think that we will be defeated, to those who fail to understand that truth and justice always prevail.

The Cubans had to travel all night to reach the Montreal laboratory in time, but what a surprise was waiting for them there: the senior staff member there had not been notified of the process and was encountered by chance heading for the beach with her daughters. A Solomon’s solution was found when, without consulting De Rose, the senior staffer asked Canadian student Andrew A. Rooney, a worker at the laboratory, to represent the "squeaky-clean" PASO Medical Commission. Was this a serious decision, after pressuring Cuba so much to comply with requirements to a "T"?

However, observe the contradiction: it was possible to postpone Modesto Sánchez’ second sample, due to be opened on August 30 (the A sample was opened on August 10, after the Games’ closure on August 8), by reason of the absence of the athlete and the Cuban delegation representative.

Back to William Vargas. The document received by Cuba confirming the positive drug result was dated August 2, despite the fact that his competition was on August 3 and the laboratory process was carried out on August 6. This was, in other words, an incongruence smelling of another trick in the midst of all the intimidation faced by our athletes. De Rose attempted to clarify things by attributing the mix-up to a simple typing error, given that they themselves typed the letters. An excess of privacy after announcing the Sotomayor case to the four winds? Who could guarantee that one blunder wouldn’t lead to another?

Vázquez Raña’s cover-up for De Rose is evident. But nothing and no one could claim that this physician’s procedure has been honorable or ethical. What comes out of darkness returns to the shadows, as the Chinese proverb says.

In the final analysis, Vázquez Raña fears that PASO could be discredited if it were to accept the irregularities that the International Amateur Athletics and Weightlifting Federations will take into account to exonerate our athletes. He is trying to prevent that at all costs. He has threatened that PASO will not respect any rectifying or just solution.

He acted indelicately with the president of the International Olympic Committee.

The U.S. Senate has asked Samaranch to make a statement. "How do you see this?" Vázquez was asked. And his response: "I don’t know if it’s moving or not. I wouldn’t go...." He is constantly repeating PASO’s inflexibility in relation to doping cases, as one of the principal problems facing contemporary Olympics, in conjunction with possible corruption scandals. His insidious and discrediting intention cannot be disguised.

The PASO president, who is proud of his friendly relations with Cuba, still doesn’t know us very well, because if he did he would have been incapable of telling the press that he was surprised by the Cuban president’s personal concern for his athletes and his vanguard role in their defense. In other words, President Fidel Castro’s consistent support, which constitutes one of the fundamental factors in the development of our sports, seems strange to him, when what really should surprise him is the total lack of concern on the part of many political leaders for an activity as important for the health, development and education of young people everywhere.

But the biggest disappointment was when the highest authority of PASO termed as "Cuban bragging" the announcement that we would offer drug-control laboratory services to the rest of America, without having as yet constructed that installation.

He has forgotten that Cuban doctors are working throughout the world, and that they have always been offered altruistically. Nor should he ignore Cuba’s exceptional support to the development of sports in the Third World.

He is unaware that we have never thought just of ourselves, but also about how we can contribute to others, as one of the ways of reciprocating the international solidarity that we have received throughout the hard and harder years.

Next year, Cuba will have an excellent modern drug testing laboratory run by top-level scientific experts, which will offer its services to Latin American sports, as was announced on August 13. And, Mr. Vázquez Raña, this is not bragging, but an essential weapon against dirty tricks.

Meanwhile, two months later in that same press conference by Vázquez Raña, the idea also emerged of a Mexican laboratory, "for which part of the money has been made available and we are awaiting the gift of a trailer to make it mobile." He said mobile? We can only hope that this mobile laboratory doesn’t fall into the hands of persons as corrupt and unscrupulous as De Rose.

It is a striking fact that Vázquez Raña and the PASO Executive Committee have not uttered one single word about the monstrous frauds committed in the World Boxing Championship which took place in Texas barely two weeks after the shameful Winnipeg Games.

Many Cubans view the PASO president’s statements in Winnipeg and Mexico as totally cynical, as well as his use of sarcastic language to slander and humiliate our athletes. But nobody—and least of all he—can have any doubts as to Cuba’s prestige, dignity and responsibility, acknowledged by an increasing number of countries in the world.

We shall irrefutably prove that none of the Cuban weightlifters had nandralone in their urine. Truth and ethics will always be more powerful than influence and the millions of dollars of those who want to cast doubt on our country’s integrity and honor.

Neither should anyone doubt that we shall continue this battle for as long as necessary, independent of any decisions adopted by the PASO leadership or other sports bodies incapable of undoing the infamy and injustice done to the athletes of a nation which, despite being blockaded and harassed by the United States, has done more for the development of a healthy and genuinely altruistic sports movement than any other country in the second half of this century.