Fri | Mar 23, 2018

Foster's Fairplay | Sport’s credibility under the microscope

Published:Tuesday | June 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The world of sports is having a true test of its ability to maintain credibility.

Track and field, understandably, takes the spotlight. Facing it is a dilemma in the retention of relevance to societal norms and mores that it chooses to hold as sacrosanct and unshakeable.

How else can one sum up the global emotional upheaval brought about by this decision to retest urine or blood samples dating back as many as 10 years?

Sports was intended to be fun and games aimed at relaxation and respite - away from the burdens and at times boredom of the banal beat of everyday activity.

Then some misguided entrepreneurial spirit introduced the prospects of earning money. The original concept was turned on its head and now lies stricken with a terminal affliction.

If the present scenario leads to confusion, that space is shared with Foster's Fairplay. Like the tag line of a security-concerned firm operated by a long lasting friend, "the name says it all".

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its anti-doping and drug-testing sidekick, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), have plunged headlong into an initiative to expose and punish drug cheats who would have believed they had beaten the system.

Based on what has been so far revealed by the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), a so far unnamed athlete won a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but now seems on the doorstep of being discredited and disgraced.

With the benefit of new technology, unavailable at the time of testing, a stimulant, methylhexaneamine, has been detected.

The implications and repercussions are scary. These apply not only to the athlete himself, but to each member of any relay team on which he ran, piloting Jamaica to a podium finish.

According to standard regulations and practice, his teammates, including alternates, stand to lose their medals as well.

The verbal battle rages. How fair is this?

There are shouts of double jeopardy, but is it really?

Wikipedia describes the legal term as "a procedural defence that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges in the same case following a legitimate acquittal or conviction".

The question will arise as to whether the now cornered athlete was at anytime a defendant.

Surely, having not had an adverse analytical finding, as the drug-testing protocol defines it, there were no allegations. By extension, he was not charged, but stood free, as was his privilege - nothing was found.




The IOC/WADA cluster, holding tightly to a law-enforcement mantra, would have been deflated, defeated even. Their mandate to rid the sport of cheats by catching and punishing would have been obstructed by a lack of the proper tools to carry out that function.

Unjustifiably, the clean athletes were being asked to negotiate extra obstacles to the success the entire participatory group is seeking. Now, a way has been found, temporary as it might yet prove to be.

Should the new moves by the global governing entities - administrative or doping control - be seen as good for the sport?

No country takes delight in seeing its athletes go down. They have been nurtured and hand-held through crises in their preparation for the big time as injuries and other trauma either plague or swirl around their careers.

It takes strength and sacrifice afforded only the soundest of heart and character, to make it to the top. In times of strife - retests certainly qualify - support is essential.

However, the coin has two sides. Foster's Fairplay asks that the emotions be taken from the mix. Is it not the right in fact duty, of the authorities, having discovered their own frailties, to regroup, retool and come again?

Would it not be foolhardy and dilute their own protective efforts by giving in to what they deem to be forces of evil?

Every legitimate method to protect the integrity of the sport and clean athletes needs to be explored. To put their combat against drugs on hold until they are able to improve their ability to win the war is acceptable, in the view of this columnist.

Perpetrators of crime will always work. Those empowered to enforce the law must work harder.

That is the nature of law enforcement, like it or not.

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