WADA = World Anti Doping Authority
BOA = British Olympic Association
CAS = Court of Arbitration for Sport
IOC = International Olympic Committee
NOC = National Olympic Committee
Last week I dipped my toe in the Twittersverse and ventured to posit my position in what can be called the “Dwaine Chambers debate.” 140 characters is just not enough to do justice to my argument so it’s to the blogging sphere I go to shape it some more. Jamie Baulch, friend, business colleague and fellow quarter miler echoes the sentiments held by most of the British athletes I argued with last week, this being that Chambers, along with other sportsmen and women who cheat by taking performance enhancing drugs should be banned for life. Click here for source.
I do not hold that view and like Jonathan Edwards, Olympic Champion and world record holder for the triple jump, I do believe in a world of second chances, but we are very much in the minority. Fortunately for Dwaine our voices do not matter, what will matter will be the verdict delivered by CAS on Monday afternoon 30th April 2012 when CAS will adjudicate between the BOA and WADA.
The BOA are a lone voice in the world of NOC, as they up hold their bylaw in what they see as an “eligibility issue” and part of their selection policy of who is a right and proper person to represent the United Kingdom at an Olympic games.
WADA on the other hand consider the BOA position to be in effect a double sanction, and in contravention of their global policy on a drug cheats redemption. After serving the defined ban WADA would welcome the rehabilitated sports person back into the world’s sporting family.
Athletes that support the BOA position point out that since 1992 every British Athlete has signed the BOA charter knowing that if they got caught doping they would be banded for life. They note that with this being the case there is no point crying when indeed having “done the crime they now do the time”.
Legal representatives supporting the banned athletes point out since 2003 the BOA signed up to the WADA code, which in effect binds them to be compliant (or so the argument goes) to a global set of rules as a member of the Olympic family and does not allow them unilaterally to contradict the said rules. (See source here)
I’m at a loss to explain why drug enforcement agencies and governing bodies don’t spend less time arguing and more time in working out if there are a category of drugs that once ingested alter the physique and strength of an athlete forever. A lifetime ban then would not be an ethical issue but a necessary one. However there are moral, and emotive arguments, that vacillates between fairness, redemption, and the human right to employment.
Athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs do unfairly impact those who work hard without contriving the rules. It is undoubtedly unfair then when clean sport people get replaced on the podium or worst still don’t even get a chance to go to the games due to their miscreant colleague’s. But is it fair that purely due to where you are born, one should pick up a lifetime ban from competing in the Olympic Games when for the rest of the world it is only two year (I do agree 2yrs is light and would support 4year ban but it must be universal)?
Many argue yes, it’s fair because the athlete in question had a choice, those athletes who have missed out didn’t. This is not my view. No one would argue that it is fair for one country to compete under a set different rules than another. Sport needs consistent rules and regulations in order to make where possible a level playing field. Another argument that pro life banners put out for the one strike and you’re out argument, is that a life ban will act as a deterrent to other potential felons. I point out that in many states in America there is the death penalty for murder yet in the Western world I can’t think of a nation that has more homicide per capita than the good ole US of America. There has to be a better way.
There are as many reasons given for people taking drugs in sport, as there are people; but here are just a few:
1. Everybody is doing it.
2. Some one spiked my food/drink
3. I just fell in with the wrong crowd
4. Coach, Boss man, peer group leader told me to
5. I was young, and naïve and wanted to get to the top by any means necessary.
6. It just sort of happened over time
7. I was running out of time and wanted to give it one last chance
8. I looked on the label, bought it over the counter didn’t know it was illegal
9. It wasn’t on the banned list when I started and wasn’t being tested for
10. It was for recreational use not performance enhancement
And the list could go on but I stop there.
Redemption is the bedrock of any civil society, the ability to put right wrong, see the error of ones ways and if possible make recompense for the misdeed done. Obviously athletes who have missed out on a games, or medal will never be able to go back and have their day in the sun, and in certain fields of work, teacher/pedophile, banker/thief, politician/corruption, the hapless antisocial individual forfeits the right to regain employment in that field of endeavor. Not so in sport. I have already pointed out that globally sport has laws governing when athletes may return to the fold but also I must point out a lesson I learned in college “principles of correct thinking class 101”; analogies break down when extrapolated to final degrees and one must never compare apples with pears.
As a young athlete (in career terms as I was a late starter) I did have the opportunity to take drugs. I was 25 years old, England team captain, and an Army sergeant and I didn’t. The pressure was there but I was sufficiently developed in my moral compass, plus considerable pressure from my social standing to make the right decision. At seventeen however as a young man out of the “Looked after children system” faced with the same opportunities I might have made the wrong decision and succumbed. Would it be really fair to not give that “Young Akabusi” a second chance in life? Young people between ages of 16- 25 are still in the maturation process as far as brain development is concerned and may be dealing with things such as, leaving home, finding work and from dependent instruction to self autonomy. Click here and here to view sources.
(Please view page three on both sources for those who don’t wont to read the whole dossier)
These young people may not be in a position to make cogent decisions that ultimately are going to limit their career choices in later life. Does then, that young person who deviates from the norm not deserves a second chance? It is imperative in my view that society does not ostracize young people at this age group for the inevitable errors they will make, after all we where all young once and I’m sure can recall a few mistakes we would rather keep under the carpet. Chambers was 24 when he got caught contravening the law of common decency in 2003. Since then he has not only owned up to what he has done but he has done the laudable thing and warned the next generation of the perils of taking the path he trod. View source here.
Chambers has paid a very heavy price socially and economically and shown enough contrition and remorse to be given a second chance in life full stop in my humble opinon.
And finally I’m reminded of a Biblical story in which a woman is found to have committed adultery and the crowd would have her stoned. The Nazarene kneels on the ground and starts writing in the sand (in my mind paranormally I see him putting misdeeds to the names of the people he notes in the crowd) and he says, “he who is with out sin cast the first stone” (John Chapter 8 v 7). Slowly the masses disperse in timid recognition of their state, Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin, (Daniel Chapter 5 Verses 25-28) having been weighed in the balances they were found wanting.
It takes an extremely arrogant person unaware of their humanity not to recognize that to Err is to be human and that they are indeed human, all too human.