The last word: The conundrum of new oleh Max Jaben

If swimmer Max Jaben hadn't made aliya from America last summer there would have been practically no chance that he would have made his country's Olympic team this summer.

jeremy last new 298.88 (photo credit: Jeremy Last)
jeremy last new 298.88
(photo credit: Jeremy Last)
If swimmer Max Jaben hadn't made aliya from America last summer there would have been practically no chance that he would have made his country's Olympic team this summer. The 22-year-old had swum for the Florida Gators at college, where he did well but was not outstanding. His best result was coming second in the 400-meter freestyle at the 2004 US Nationals, but he never won a gold medal. The turning point in his life came in 2005 when he represented America at the Maccabiah Games. In the Maccabiah Jaben faced some tough competition where he came third in the 200m butterfly and won a gold as part of the US 4x200m freestyle team. "It was a great experience," Jaben said of the 2005 Games when interviewed by the Post a week and a half ago. "I competed well and we also toured all of Israel and I fell in love with the country." Within two years his mind was made up and he fulfilled his dream of moving to Israel. Since making aliya last summer Jaben has immersed himself in the swimming world, living at the Wingate institute close to Netanya. And he received what appeared to be his just reward when he qualified for the Olympics by finishing the 200m freestyle in 11th position in an Israeli record time of 1:49.48m at the European Championships in March. It all appeared to be a wonderful feel-good story, of the American-turned Israeli athlete who became part of Israel. Jaben was welcomed into the Israeli Olympic team and quickly garnered a reputation as a friendly, happy young man. So when it was revealed on Tuesday that the 'A' sample of Jaben's drug test had come out positive it was a sad moment. According to sports physician Moli Epstein, the urine sample contained traces of the anabolic steroid Boldenon. The news came only weeks after sailor Udi Gal failed a drug test. But unlike Gal's case, where he was caught taking a balding treatment which contained a banned substance, it is unlikely Jaben took Boldenon by mistake. If, as suspected, Jaben was indeed knowingly taking drugs in order to make the Olympics he should be punished severely and questions must be asked about how much interest was taken in his day to day life over the last year. We are still waiting for the result of the 'B' sample, and he might in fact be clean. But it is time for the Olympic Committee of Israel to keep a closer eye on its young competitors. [email protected]