Mon | Nov 11, 2019

Still no approved list

Published:Thursday | November 21, 2013 | 12:00 AM
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The centrepiece of the improved World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code is increased punishment for first-time offenders. Instead of a maximum of two years, the first-time offender will endure four years away from the sport.

It adds muscle to WADA's resolve to ensure sport is clean. There is still, nevertheless, something missing.

Perhaps it is the extreme measure that extreme situations require. Perhaps not. The old punishment - two years away - had guilty athletes return too quickly for some people's liking. For these people, a longer ban will almost certainly block them from a staging of the greatest show on earth, the Olympics.

Apparently, the successful appeal by British sprinter Dwain Chambers against a lifetime Olympic ban didn't sit well with them.

Perhaps the code will evolve to vary the ban with the type of drug used. To this point, steroids, human growth hormones and blood doping are among the high grade drugs cheats use. In an evolved WADA, maybe use of those types of substances will deserve long first-time bans.

CLAIMS OF INNOCENCE

The high-grade cheat, first-timer or not, can hardly claim innocence. The situation is different for those who claim to imbibe illegal stimulants in cold remedies and nutritional supplements. They can claim, often with justification, to be misled by incomplete labelling.

There have been cases where manufacturers claim that their products are compliant, only to yield positive tests for banned substances.

Since positive tests are viewed the same, whether high-grade drugs are involved or not, the public views Lance Armstrong through the same prism as an athlete with a cold medicine positive. That's one heck of a public relations (PR) problem.

Take Jamaica, for example. Until six track and field athletes tested positive this year, only 16 Jamaicans - by my count - have ever been guilty of violations. Two others have tested positive, but were exonerated.

That's since Jamaica first contested international athletics in 1930.

The majority ran afoul of the rules because of inadvertent use of stimulants, mainly through nutritional supplements and cold remedies.

It's like a man scaling your fence to steal a bag of mangoes. It's just not the same as aggravated assault.

The only way forward is for WADA to develop an approved list of supplements. That would guide good people to safe harbour and would shelter the sport from the PR nightmare that surrounds low-grade positives.

As things stand, expensive tests are needed to discern the legality of nutritional supplements. In this new regime, WADA would be sport's FDA. It would test and certify supplements and medication, thus creating a list that would be renewed each year.

INFORMATION BANK

A user-friendly bank of information would help good people to steer clear of danger. That's what the approved list would do. WADA and its affiliates could focus on catching the really bad guys and chasing them from the sport.

This fight against drug use is a fight for the future of athletics. Cheats must be driven out, but good people must be given every chance to survive.

In the continued absence of an approved list, the sport is stepping closer to the abyss.

Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce may both have stepped out of their lanes in Monaco.

In frustration over the lack of a stout defence of Jamaica's historically clean record, Fraser-Pryce suggested she might lead a strike.

While Bolt shied away from strike action, the tall man revealed that the shadow hanging over Jamaica's track and field has hurt him financially.

Most people have reacted more strongly to Bolt talk of money, but a few worry about the proposed strike action as well. Truth is, athletes compete for Jamaica and not just their local organising body.

Bolt's revelation adds a reason why he is only No. 40 on the 2013 Forbes Magazine top 100 Highest Paid Athletes list. It's not just because athletics is only big in Olympic year. Fraser-Pryce isn't even on that list. The doubts hurt.

They hurt so much that Fraser-Pryce would be willing to not run for Jamaica at major championships to stand her ground. She loves running for Jamaica so much that when her temper cools, she will probably retreat from that extreme. But it's clear that she, like so many of us, is smarting from the bombardment that started in June.

Simply put, she is cross and angry about the lack of cover provided for Jamaican athletics at a time when the nation is under fire.

The adoption of an approved list would save good people from this kind of sufferation. Enough is definitely enough.

Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.