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Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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August 20, 2008 4:54 PM

Dope-testing for table tennis paddles?

Posted by Ron Judd

paddles2.JPGOh, sure, they look innocent. But these tennis paddles, sitting on a table during a break in the action on Tuesday in Beijing, might get you high -- or thrown out of an international match in the near future. (Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

From the too-good-to-pass-up department:

Word from Beijing that this will be the last big table-tennis tournament where doped-up paddles, or bats, as they're known in the trade -- will be allowed.

To explain: In the 1970s, a table tennis player used bicycle puncture repair glue to affix the rubber mat to his bat before a match He immediately noticed enhanced speed and spin on the ball. "Speed glue" was born, with players uniformly reporting enhanced smacking power with the stuff.

The theory is that the glue and its solvents cause the rubber to stretch as it adheres to the wood surface of the paddle, creating a sort of trampoline effect on the ball. Some players apparently enhanced the effect of the glue by adding various nasty solvents, some of which are restricted inhalants.

The catch: It only lasts a few hours, so it must be reapplied before matches. And just ask any glue huffer: The fumes can be overpowering. Because of health concerns, the International Table Tennis Federation banned its use in 2004. But players objected, saying it would slow down the game, and the ban was suspended while alternative glues were explored.

But time apparently has run out on bat doping. Last year, a Japanese player gluing up before a match apparently overhuffed, and in what could be a severe allergic reaction, had the minor misfortune of lapsing into a coma for six days. The federation decided to stick with its original plan to phase-in the glue ban for all international competition.

Bottom line: After Beijing, no more speed glue, or any glue containing "volatile organic compounds." Players will have to switch to water-based adhesives.

Not everyone is objecting, admitting that prolonged huffing can make you daffy.

"You breathe it too much and you begin to lose your balance. It is a bit like a table tennis drug," Peter Gardos, an Austrian coach, told Reuters in Beijing.

ITTF vice-president Claude Bergeret told the news agency: "If you glue once a week, or maybe even once a day, it would not have been so important. But they are gluing 10 times a day and then it could be a problem."

How will they enforce the ban? You guessed it: A doping test for paddles, using a device that can detect the high-octane stuff.

Meanwhile, if your favorite table-tennis star looks a little light in the head in Beijing, you know why. Maybe they can borrow some of those nice, high-tech breathing masks from the USOC. We hear they've got a surplus of them.

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