May 2nd, 2012
It’s the dawn of a brand new day for the Olympic Games. In time to come the London 2012 Olympic Games may well be viewed as a watershed moment for the Olympic movement. Credit will have to be given to the World Anti-doping Agency’ (WADA), the global body charged with policing anti-doping in sport, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ( CAS) and Dwain Chambers, who will all earn legendary status in Olympic history. Yesterday, CAS released its judgment against the British Olympic Association (BOA) by-law that bars all athletes who have failed a dope test from competing in the Games.
The three-member CAS panel decided that the BOA’s lifetime Olympic ban was non-compliant with the World Anti-doping Agency’s code. The CAS ruling follows its decision last year to find in favour of the American runner LaShawn Merritt, who with the support of the US Olympic Committee, challenged the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) so-called “Osaka rule”, rule 45, that barred any athlete who tested positive from at least one Games.
The BOA’s argument revolved around it being an eligibility issue rather than a sanction and that the BOA should be able to consider whoever it wanted for the British Olympic team. WADA’s challenge to the BOA and the ruling by CAS is a strong signal that the drug cheats are winning the battle. The BOA by-law was adopted in 1992 and must now be dropped. In 2003, Dwain Chambers after testing positive for THG, an anabolic steroid served a two-year ban but the BOA by-law also meant he was barred for life from competing in the Olympics. He tried to have it overturned in the High Court ahead of the Beijing Olympics but failed. In a 2007 interview with Matthew Pinsent on the BBC, Chambers made it abundantly clear what his true feelings were when he stated that athletes cannot win medals unless they take drugs. There are those who believe, and believe strongly, it is only a matter of time until the IOC will have no choice but to accept the reality that drug-free sport is a sham and the battle for clean sport is in a shambles.
In 1971, the IOC allowed athletes to receive compensation for time away from work during training and competition. Amateurism was dubbed Shamateurism but it was only in the 1980s did the IOC acknowledge that all elite sportspeople were in fact being paid in some way. The battle against doping in sport is seen by some as hypocritical and contrived as the battle to keep professionals out of the Olympics. That WADA can dictate to a National Olympic Committee (NOC) who it can select and that it is able to do so is due to a leadership failure on the part of the IOC. Harmonisation, proportionate and respect for the rights of individuals within in the framework of international law is the academic utterances and legal jargon that has done a disservice to those who prefer to compete clean. Never forget that the law is not concerned about morality. As always principle is expedient in the face of commerce.
Why would WADA believe that two years is a fair sanction for someone who knowingly takes performance enhancing drugs? The fight against doping in sport needs tougher sanctions against drug cheats. Further to that the role of WADA needs to be reviewed. If an NOC is of the view that it has a zero tolerance policy with regard to drug taking and will not select any athlete found guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs, that is its right. However, the truth may very well be that Chambers, WADA and CAS maybe visionaries who have seen the future while the rest of us remain naive, dumb and impotent in the futile fight to keep doping out of Olympic sport. It’s unfortunate that CAS did not announce its decision one month ago to the day.