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Gaming the System; Cutting Edge Competition; Olympian Overcomes Heart Condition

Aired August 4, 2012 - 16:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: We've seen world and Olympic records shattered in London. But no athlete has come under more scrutiny than the 16-year-old swimmer Ye Shiwen. She beat her personal best at these games in the 400-meter individual medley. She beat it by five seconds and in the process broke the world record by a second as well. Her final lap was faster than the last lap in the men's gold medal swim.

That performance has set off whispers, some accusations about doping, some of it subtle, some not. For example, John Leonard, a top U.S. coach, called the performance suspicious and, quote, "not right".

The IOC spokesman Mark Adams says the top five finishers of every event are tested to ensure clean wins. And Ye was no different.


MARK ADAMS, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: Suffice to say, in this case, pure rumors, nothing at all of fact or substance, and I have heard no word at all from our drugs testing people. So I think people should really sit back and enjoy a great performance.


GUPTA: WADA, which is the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the IOC, they keep a very close eye on drug use. Athletes can be tested any time during the games and their samples are sent to this lab. It's in east London. It's kept open 24 hours a day during the Olympics. It has a staff of 150 scientists.

So with all the intense scrutiny, can you still game the system?

Victor Conte says yes. And after all, he did. Conte helped top athletes to obtain steroids and he went to prison for it.

He says it's just as easy today as it was 10 years ago. And he now advocates for a clean competition.

Mr. Conte, welcome to the program. Really appreciate you being on.

As you know, sir, there is zero evidence that the young Chinese swimmer cheated, took any kind of performance-enhancing drugs. She tested clean as you just heard. Is there any reason we shouldn't believe that? VICTOR CONTE, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, BALCO: Well, the entire climate now over the Olympic Games because of what's happened in the last decade regarding the rampant use of drugs brings this suspicion. It's really not fair to her.

But I think it's important to understand that while they're doing some projected 6,000 tests here at the Olympic Games, that doesn't tell us what the athlete was doing as much as nine months ago. The October, November, December time frame typically is when Olympic athletes use anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to build the explosive power and speed base that serves them months later at the Olympic Games. It would possibly be easy for an athlete to do an injection of EPO and already have a significantly elevated hematic or increased red blood cell and that clears an injection in less than a day. And then of course those benefits would carry over throughout the two weeks of the Olympic competition.

To show up at the Olympic Games and get a positive drug test, that's more of an I.Q. test than it is a drug test. They have used these drugs long before and been benefiting for months and months before they get there. So I think there needs to be a reallocation of funding that's available to fight the use of PEDs and use that in the months leading up to a greater percentage of the available funds in testing needs to be done long before they get to the London Games.

GUPTA: And to be clear: you're talking about PEDs, performance enhancing drugs, and people using them before the games as part of their training regimen.

Sir, you've obviously made a name for yourself by helping top athletes including Olympians to do this, to cheat essentially. When you were trying to beat the system on behalf of your athletes -- was that your strategy?

CONTE: Well, that's when the athletes were using the drugs. Not so much at and during the competition, but months ahead of time.

GUPTA: One thing that comes up, if you think about this even in the pregame time period, there is this issue of timing. I mean, for example, to be in the Olympics, top swimmers have to submit to a schedule offering an hour every day when they can be tested. Again, I'm not talking about during the games, I'm talking about pre-games. Every day, they have to be available for that test.

If the testers can't find them they actually, it's like they fail the test. That seems like pretty close scrutiny, Mr. Conte. Wouldn't you agree?

CONTE: They're allowed to have two missed tests and the third missed test is the same as a positive drug test. So this is not transparent. So, they are allowed to have missed tests. They can miss a couple tests and be using drugs and then show up and no one knows they've had two missed tests and then win a gold medal.

So, there are drugs like fast acting testosterone will be back within the allowable limit in less than 24 hours. You can do an injection of EPO, which will help to maintain the level that you've built up in what they call the corrective phase. During maintenance phase, the benefits will last 10 days, two weeks. They could do an injection of EPO after they've already built up their red blood cell count and that will carry them over throughout the entire Olympic Games.

So it's relatively easy to beat the testing is what I'm trying to say.

GUPTA: All right. Mr. Victor Conte, obviously, you heard from the IOC representative as well. But we appreciate your comments and we may have you back on as we get more details. I really appreciate your time.

CONTE: Thank you for having me, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Now, as we roll into the second week of the Olympics, I want to show you a fascinating side of what these athletes went through just to get here. You know, it's not just blood, sweat, and tears, at least for the U.S. team -- high technology also plays a big role.


GUPTA (voice-over): Michael Phelps was the big name in the 100-meter butterfly but one of his toughest opponents was fellow American Tyler McGill. McGill knew, to beat Phelps he'd need to improve his under water kick.

TYLER MCGILL, 2012 U.S. OLYMPIC SWIM TEAM: As you can see I'm in the air and Michael along with everybody else is still on the block. So my reaction is ahead of everybody else's at this point and I have a lead. You'll notice everyone has caught up by the time we reach the 15-meter mark.

DAVID MARSH, 2012 U.S. OLYMPIC SWIM TEAM ASSISTANT COACH: The breakout portion of this race as compared to Michael, who is coming out at a little bit faster time. Move over here to the 15-meter mark to the 35 meter mark, he's at 11.3, 11.2. Michael is at 10.9. So, 0.3 of a difference doesn't sound like a lot but in swimming it's a lot of time.

GUPTA: The big race was Friday night and McGill came up just shy of a medal. Phelps won gold.

BMW has taken video analysis to the next level, adopting its expertise in designing high performance cars and applying it to swimming.

RICKY BERENS, 2012 U.S. OLYMPIC SWIM TEAM: Kicking in the water has become one of most important parts of swimming. It's faster than on top of the water. You really don't know why they go so fast or why you go faster than them. So this technology adding numbers, adding equations to this, will help us evolve as swimmers.

GUPTA: Ricky Barrens is experimenting with this new technology, by marking six points where the body bends on the swimmer -- the wrist, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, and toe. The software connects the dots.

CRIS PAVLOFF, BMW TECHNOLOGY ENGINEER: We have the kick frequency, kick depth, kick rate. This is really going to help USA swimming to help determine what makes a great dolphin kick.

GUPTA: What swimmers wear affects their aerodynamics. This year, it's evolved even more.

TYLER CLARY, 2012 U.S. OLYMPIC SWIM TEAM: The more fabric you can put on the human body the faster it is going to be. The whole idea is to keep the body as uniform as possible, kind of like a torpedo.

GUPTA: Incidentally, the same goes for track and field athletes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We added texture to the suit to make it faster. So if you look really close there's dimension to it, texture to it. So, it turns out smooth does not equal fast. It shaves off 0.023 seconds. This is not just the difference between first and second place. This is the difference of being on the podium or not.


GUPTA: We got more Olympics just ahead. We're going to meet the swim champion who needed heart surgery just to make it to London.


GUPTA: Rebecca Soni is one of the real stars of the U.S. Olympic swim team. This week in London, she took silver in her first event, 100 breast. But she almost didn't make it here at all. A lot of people don't realize this.

To make her break through as a swimmer she had to undergo surgery on her heart.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she did it. A great swim by Rebecca Soni.

GUPTA (voice-over): These days, Rebecca Soni is used to getting to the wall first. But being an Olympic swimmer wasn't always part of the plan.

REBECCA SONI, OLYMPIC SWIMMER: It just never crossed my mind. When we grew up, my family, we didn't watch a lot of sports. My parents were from Europe, so we didn't understand the American sports of football, baseball, and they just didn't watch very much TV in general. So I never had those people to look up to and be like, oh, I want to be like them.

GUPTA: As she began to excel, she refocused her goals. But an unexpected obstacle got in her way.

SONI: I was diagnosed with SVT. It was basically a rapid heart rate, but only at certain times, usually exercise-induced, and all of a sudden my heart rate would go up to the highest I counted was 400 beats per minute. And it would only last about five minutes, and I'd kind of lose feeling in my arms and legs. I'd just climb out of the pool.

GUPTA: Her heart condition required her to take it easy in practice. Something Soni doesn't like to do.

SONI: It would always happen in the hardest part of practice, the most important part.

GUPTA: Six years ago, as the episodes became more frequent, Soni decided to have an operation to remove abnormal tissue from her heart. When she was healthy again, she dove back into training and qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where she won one gold and two silver medals.

SONI: I definitely feel like I had the meet of my life in 2008, the race of my life with the 200 breast stroke. To win a gold medal, break a world record, all in one race, was kind of that ultimate moment of sport.

GUPTA: Even so, Soni wasn't ready to hang up her suit.

SONI: I could have probably walked away and been happy, but I still felt like I had a little bit more to give to the sport. I'm just excited to race.


GUPTA: And Thursday night, she did it again. Rebecca set a world record on the gold medal in the 200 breast. That's her favorite race.


Up next, the longest distance interview I've ever done. NASA astronaut Suni Williams is going to join me from the International Space Station.


GUPTA: Obamacare -- whether you love it or hate it -- it's here. It's been phased in piece by piece. And this week, some big new changes are in effect, specifically for women. Insurance must now cover eight new types of preventative care.

Take a look here. The benefits include contraceptives, breast feeding supplies, and screenings for gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, as well as domestic violence counseling. Also, routine checkups for breast and pelvic exams, pap tests, and prenatal care.

Now, these new services are in addition to preventative health benefits that have already taken effect. There's going to be no copay or deductible for any of it.

About 47 million women are going to be covered by these new changes. That's not everyone because older insurance plans are grandfathered in and don't have to change. What we're hearing though is starting in 2014, 90 percent of insurance companies will have to offer this coverage.

You know, I've been training pretty hard for my big triathlon, which is next month. And every time I need a little inspiration, I think about my friend and NASA astronaut Suni Williams. She's going to be racing the same race except she's going to be doing it in space at the International Space Station.

I spoke with her earlier about life aboard the space station and also, how her training is coming along.


GUPTA: You took me around a mock up obviously of where you are now. We talked a lot about sleeping which I'm fascinated by -- even got one of your sleep pods if you remember.

How are you sleeping? How does it feel for you up there?

SUNITA WILLIAMS, EXPEDITION 32 FLIGHT ENGINEER: An interesting question. You know, people always ask, how do you sleep? Of course, there is no bed so we have sleeping bags. Sleeping has been great. Brought my sleeping bag into my sleep station, close the doors, it's quiet. It's dark in there. I got my own -- we all have our own laptops in there so we can do e-mail while we're in there.

So, it's actually been really nice. Eating has been great. You know, everything has been pretty perfect so far.

GUPTA: Yes. You know, one of the other things I did when I visited you at Johnson Space Center was to do essentially a virtual reality spacewalk. It was remarkably challenging I found for myself. I even got nauseated even in the virtual reality.

Do you have any spacewalks planned?

WILLIAMS: Yes, we have one planned for the end of August. It's called EVA 18. We have a big box, big computer power switching unit outside that we're going to switch out and also run some cables from the U.S. segment back to the Russian segment to provide power for a module they'll put up in the future.

The only big thing is wearing that big EMU or space suit that you saw pretty up front and close. That's still a little bit hard to work in and that's why we work out pretty much a lot every day while we're on the space station to make sure we're physically ready to do the spacewalk.

GUPTA: That's a perfect transition, being physically ready, because you and I also have decided to do this triathlon together mid- September, the Malibu Nautica triathlon. You're going to do it in space. I'm going to do it on Earth, and again, it was one of the most fascinating things for me to watch you train on Earth. And you've done the Boston marathon before from space back in 2007, I believe.

How is your training going? What's it like up there?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, the adaptation is great for space. Up here, everything feels a little bit easier. You just saw him floating by. It just takes one hand to move yourself. But then when you start simulating gravity, you get on the treadmill and you have a harness on pulling you down or you get on the weightlifting machine and you're actually doing squats and dead lifts against a weight based on vacuum, it hurts. So this first two weeks, we've sort of used as just get used to the equipment and get used to the protocols that we're doing.

So I think we're at that point that we're finally adapted and ready to start building on it. So just watch out because now I'm ready to really start preparing for the triathlon and watching the Olympics up here has been really motivating to turn us all into really good athletes.

GUPTA: I got to ask really quick -- I also visited in the food lab when I was with you and I think people imagine food in space to be pretty bland stuff. How is it going for you? Are you getting the types of food that you want?

WILLIAMS: It gets a little tiring drinking your coffee out of a bag but, you know, I'll enjoy my cup of coffee when I get home. You know, six months is a small amount, small price to pay for not enjoying that cup of coffee in the morning sitting out on the porch.

GUPTA: Thanks so much for joining us, Sunita Williams. I am looking forward to doing the triathlon with you and most importantly, though, come back safely.

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much. It's great to talk to you. Good luck on the triathlon. We'll see you on the road there.


WILLIAMS: A lot of people that I know who are triathletes are also coffee drinkers like Suni. So for those of us who are drinking coffee here on Earth, I decided to take you behind the scenes of an organic coffee plant and try to answer this question: just how healthy is the morning cup of coffee?



GUPTA: If you're like most Americans, you've probably already had a cup of coffee this morning. Most Americans drink 3.1 cups a day.

The question is for a lot of people: is it good for you?

So we came to the right place to answer that question. We'll ask the right guy as well. Come with me.

What you're looking at is an organic coffee farm. You're hearing it as well. In fact, it's the highest altitude coffee farm in all of Hawaii.

The guy who founded it is right over here. Trent Bateman, thanks for having us.

TRENT BATEMAN, FOUNDER/CEO, MOUNTAIN THUNDER: Thanks for coming. GUPTA: I mean, I've never been to a place quite like this. First of all, organic coffee. What does that mean?

BATEMAN: First, you can't use pesticides, herbicides, and if you do use fertilizer, the fertilizer has to be organic as well.

GUPTA: We are hearing the animals obviously. That is part of what makes this organic. They look like fruit.

BATEMAN: Yes. This coffee comes from the flower and then it becomes a fruit just like it would a citrus. It goes green and you grow to color. I'm going to squeeze this and pop out the two beans.

GUPTA: So, these -- these are actually what the coffee bean -- that's how it all starts.

BATEMAN: Two coffee beans and a cherry. We call them coffee cherry.

GUPTA: One of the things I hear often, you know, triathletes and others alike, is that coffee can be healthy in moderate doses.

BATEMAN: In moderation, yes. The studies have shown that if you drink too much coffee it cannot be good for your heart. But two cups a day is good for your heart.

GUPTA: And there are specific things in the beans themselves but also the skin. I've heard about chromium, magnesium, in fact helpful for people who have diabetes. But what is it about the skins even in the coffee that can be of such benefit?

BATEMAN: It's antioxidants. It's ORAC value, oxygen radical absorption capabilities. So it's running over 700 units per gram, which is about nine times blue berries. And the health benefits from that, there's caffeic acid, ferulic acid, several other, these are all antioxidants. So it's become the new Hawaii super fruit.

GUPTA: It's worth pointing out this is all handpicked as well, right?

BATEMAN: Everything in Kona is handpicked one by one.

GUPTA: So this is the -- I mean, you literally dry a --

BATEMAN: We're drying the coffee in the sun. It's all sun dried. The sun actually puts the -- some of the essence into the bean to make the very best coffee.

GUPTA: How long does that take?

BATEMAN: About three days in the sun. Once it's dry we bring it to this facility here. This is a dry mill line. All of it goes into the hopper here. The hopper starts the conveying of the line, goes into the huller. It peels the skin. It goes on to the sizer. It goes on to the density classifier.

So the coffee here is a lower quality than the coffee here.

GUPTA: I got it. Yes.

BATEMAN: And then it's on the way to the color sorter and off to the roaster and then off to the fresh cup of Kona coffee.


GUPTA: And we even got to try some of that coffee and it was quite good.

Unfortunately, that's going to wraps things up for SGMD today. But next week, we're going to be taking a look at our new vaccine for brain cancer. It's fascinating stuff. Not going to want to miss that.

Meanwhile, stay connected at Keep that conversation going on Twitter @SanjayGuptaCNN.

Time now, though, to get you a check of your top stories in "THE CNN NEWSROOM".