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Date Posted:08/11/2004,  11:00AM

Article In Sun-Journal Features Dr. Hanley


BRUNSWICK, Maine - The following article appeared in the Wednesday, August 11 issue of the Lewiston Sun-Journal. Click HERE to read it online, or scroll below.

A son recounts his late father's involvement with the drug testing movement

by Kevin Mills, Lewiston Sun-Journal

Dr. Dan Hanley probably never thought it would reach this level.

Drug issues have recently dominated sports headlines around the world. Some of sports biggest names have been drawn into the discussion.

The "have they or haven't they" stigma follows many, and the stain of drug enhancement has tarnished a multitude.

It is a far cry from when Hanley was a pioneer in developing the initial drug-testing programs in the Olympics.

"I think he'd be a little bit sad that there's so much emphasis placed now on winning and the pressures to maximize your performance and achieve," said Dr. Sean Hanley, son of the late Bowdoin College physician. "So much of the drug testing movement, rather than to educate, is sort of aimed at catching cheaters. It's a little ironic. That is a statement of where we are in our society."

Dan Hanley, the former chief physician for the United States Olympic team, had far-reaching influence on the Olympic Games and its drug-testing programs. Despite being out front of the issue as early as the 1960s, the problem remains as formidable as ever.

"It used to be that we were afraid the East Germans and the Soviet empire were building these athletes with performance enhancement and in reality, we're just as guilty as they were 25 years ago," said Sean, a physician at Maine Orthopedic Center in Portland. "Certainly, they were ahead of us, but we've caught up with them in that aspect."

A death of an Italian cyclist at the 1960 Olympics in Rome sparked interest in developing a drug testing program. Hanley was a new Olympic physician on the cusp of a long and influential association with the Olympic movement.

"The feeling was that he died of an amphetamine overdose," said Sean. "That was sort of the start of any interest in drug testing in athletes as sort of a preventative thing to try to protect the athletes from the dangers of drug abuse."

Hanley became involved when a fellow physician from Princeton suggested he apply for a job as an Olympic physician. Hanley didn't expect a doctor from Maine to garner much consideration but applied anyway and was selected.

"At that point, the U.S. Olympic movement wasn't as well organized as it is today," said Sean. "The Olympics were a big deal, but they weren't as structured as it is today. My father helped them develop a structure to their medical services. He helped set up a variety of procedures and other things they can go through to make sure all the athletes had access to quality medical care."

Athletes in that era were still true amateurs. They didn't receive the funding from the Olympic team or the medical support or care athletes receive now.

When the drug overdose occurred in Rome, doctors from around the world gathered to look into a variety of issues relating to health and drugs. Hanley was part of that panel.

"They decided that drug testing to prevent further deaths and further catastrophes was a good idea," said Sean. "Clearly at the start, the cheating and performance enhancement was part of it, but the biggest impetus to the program was to prevent catastrophic things from happening."

The initial drug testing was primitive and focused on amphetamines and alcohol. Over time, the organization became better defined. An International Olympic Medical Commission was formed. Hanley was the first U.S. representative.

The drug testing program evolved over the next decade with Hanley playing a significant role. He helped set up medical facilities and oversaw the drug protocols.

When the United State Olympic Committee moved its offices to Colorado Springs in the 1970s, Hanley was offered the job as the full-time medical director.

"He thought about it actually, but didn't want to leave Brunswick and Bowdoin College," said Sean. "He had a family and all those things. So he helped them set up a program and helped them hire a full-time medical staff for Colorado Springs."

Hanley remained part of the Commission until 1980. When the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Olympics, Hanley was among the casualties.

"None of the U.S. contingent went," said Sean. "So the International Olympic people ended up firing my father over that because any U.S. representative that didn't go to Moscow was relieved of their jobs."

His influence is still being felt. Hanley, who died in 2001 at age 85, worked in the labs at UCLA to help establish protocols for the programs that followed. Many of the procedures begun under his tutelage are still used all over the world.

"A lot of what he was involved in was setting up protocols," said Sean. "If you're going to test them, you have to make sure it's accurate and make sure the testing process is foolproof. If you're going to accuse someone of having a problem or breaking the rules, you have to be sure the certainty level is such that there are no mistakes or you minimize the mistakes."

He was often asked to manage drug testing in a supervisory role. When Joan Benoit won the first women's marathon in Los Angeles, his Olympic involvement came full circle. It was Hanley who suggested his niece take up running to rehab a skiing injury. Hanley and his wife, Maria, stayed with Benoit as she downed soda after soda in preparation for her drug test.

"He was there helping somewhat with the Los Angeles Organizing Committee," said Sean. "So he was there and was able to watch Joan win a gold medal. It was very exciting for both of them to be part of that."

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