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de Melo: "People Do Take Substances but I Honestly Don’t Care"
As a former field hockey player and gold medal winner, Fatima Moreira de Melo is still a much sought after sports figure in her homeland of the Netherlands.
As you might have guessed, then, she's been pretty busy over the past couple of weeks.
After a long stretch focusing on everything Olympic de Melo is now back plying her new trade at the felt at EPT Barcelona.
What's her take on the events of the past 16 days in Rio de Janeiro? And on substance use both in sport and in poker?
We caught up with her to find out.
Fatima Moreira de Melo: I was very busy the past weeks. I was analyzing the matches of the Dutch women’s team for the NOS TV station, and I did all the updates on the Olympics for RTL4, which was more on the boulevard side.
You can say I’ve watched pretty much everything.
PokerListings: They say poker has evolved a lot in the last 10 years. Is there something similar to be said about field hockey?
FdM: Very much so. Even in my time, offside was already eliminated. Now there are a lot of new rules that have made the game faster.
For example, you can pass the ball to yourself at the equivalent of a throw-in, there’s no overtime anymore, two halves of 35 minutes are now four quarters of 15 minutes, and penalty strikes have been replaced by shoot-outs, which is incredibly nerve-wrecking.
There are many more examples.
PL: As a former professional did you always know exactly about all the different supplements and drugs you were taking? Or is it possible to dope without knowing?
FdM: First of all, I never took many substances except multi-vitamins. If I did take anything I made sure it was officially approved by the Olympic Committee.
PL: What if your coach gives you pills and says ‘these are multi-vitamins?’
FdM: No way would this ever happen. Your coach might get any form of medication through the Olympic Committee, but of course, you have to trust someone at some point.
In Holland the Olympic Committee doesn’t want anyone to be doping. We were always told to never take anything, even if you can get it in the drugstore - not even if you have a prescription from a doctor - before talking to the team doctor.
PL: So, sports people are in control. They know what they’re taking.
FdM: In Holland, they do. In other countries, I don’t know. I don’t know how things work in Russia, for example.
I don’t know how people get put under pressure in some countries, while in others the incentive to take something might be very strong because that’s the only way they see to get out of poverty.
In Holland people have lots of opportunities so they’re much less likely to take the criminal way.
PL: Did the IOC treat the Russian athletes correctly?
FdM: That’s not a quick one to answer. Athletes are all individuals. Even the ones who dope train very hard. And you can’t just say no to every Russian athlete – which they haven’t – because not everyone is doping.
Also, there were athletes who were allowed to go despite having a doping history, like the Russian swimmer [editor’s note: Yulia Efimova], which I found very confusing as I thought that wasn’t the rule.
Then there are countries like, let’s say Kenya, where we don’t know much about their control system. And on top of that there are athletes who used to dope but are clean now.
This in turn means that it’s now just bad luck for you if you’re Russian and get banned without having been in the state-run doping scheme.
PL: That doping has been organized big time in Russia is not just a theory, it’s been proven.
FdM: Correct. And in that case I think every Russian athlete should undergo severe tests which the Russian government pays for.
I say everyone deserves a chance but that’s just how I personally look at things. In games like Hockey doping isn’t very useful. You might be a little fitter but the downsides far outweigh the upsides.
In a poker tournament, would you really steal that 25 chip, just because it’s there, when you have a 30k stack and might be disqualified for stealing if someone finds out?
You don’t; the risk is way too big compared to the benefit. If it’s not a moral issue for you it should be one of risk assessment.
Not Everything Called Doping is Doping
FdM: Take the case of Maria Sharapova for example. She’d been taking meldonium for 10 years. Then it was added to the list of forbidden substances and three weeks later she was caught using it and got banned for two years.
This means she was doping for three weeks but it was perceived as if she was doping for 10 years. Perception is an important factor here. And meldonium is nothing that has ever harmed her body.
If it’s not harmful, does it have to go on the doping list? You can take this too far as well. I think that a substance that’s available and not harmful to your body, it should be your own decision if you take it or not.
FdM: No, not at all. People do take substances but I honestly don’t care. It’s their own responsibility.
PL: But that’s unfair then, isn’t it?
FdM: No, because you can take it, too. Anyone can do some research on what helps you to focus or last longer. I choose not to take anything, but I’m very liberal.
I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. But I also don’t judge people on what they do and how they prepare.
I don’t have a motto in life but I’m convinced that many things go wrong because people can’t simply let people live the life they want to live.