Patrons at a restaurant in New York, USA, watch as banned US cyclist Lance Armstrong talks to Oprah Winfrey in an earlier recorded interview, in New York, USA, 17 January : photo - EPA PETER FOLEY.
The 45 year-old boxer told the regional Dziennik Polski newspaper he believes that doping should be made available to professional sports people as it “aids recovery” but not for amateurs in the gym, “who don't know what they are taking”.
Saleta said, in the wake of the Lance Armstrong confession on the Oprah Winfrey show, that “only the dumbest and poorest” athletes get caught and that the current rules do not create a level playing field and favour richer athletes.
“It all comes down to whether or not someone has the money to have access to [drugs] that are undetectable. […] One example is China, where sport is sponsored by the state and there are no financial constraints. The result? Chinese athletes do not get caught,” he claimed.
Saleta said that doping in controlled circumstances should be allowed as it is not a threat to health.
“I'll give the example of cyclist Lance Armstrong, who doped for years. I guarantee that he will not have had any side effects and will not pay for this with his health. In fact, I would even say that in sports like cycling, doping is healthier. The body regenerates faster and is able to bear the strain [of competition and training] better than a diet based only on natural products, which simply cannot not handle it,” he said in remarks that will cause controversy in Polish sport.
The former European heavyweight champion is in training for a fight with Andrzej Golota next month, where both boxers are coming out of retirement for one last pay day.
Saleta, who has pursued a mixed martial arts and media career since 2006, says that doping is no excuse for hours and hours of training, however.
“Doping does not guarantee success: that only comes with hard work,” he claimed, adding that taking performance drugs is “human nature, in that if [an athlete] can get an advantage over an opponent then he will take it”.
“What scares me about doping is its popularity among teenagers and the ignorance of the subject. Doping is probably available at any gym, and most teenagers do not know what to take and what is harmful. They do not know that the side effects can be devastating [and] they will pay for it for life”.
Polish boxer Mariusz Wach tested positive for anabolic steroids after losing on points to World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko on November 10 last year in Hamburg.
Saleta says that steroids are “not actually helpful” for heavyweight boxers as they create “unnecessary ballast, which influences speed and even coordination”.
Saleta's remarks come after Armstrong, who has been stripped of his seven Tour de France wins from 1999 to 2005, told Oprah Winfrey that each of his victories was done with the aid of EPO, blood doping and other 'enhancers” but that he “did not feel like a cheat” as much of the peloton was doing the same. (pg)