A THORNY ISSUE: Sportsmen must avoid cloud of doubt
BEN JOHNSON may never be athletics’ perfect role model, but he has been proven right on one score.
He was not the only one who had been doped, he was made a scapegoat to cover up the doping sins of others.
That was from as far back as 1988 when he was first caught cheating at the Seoul Olympics and subsequently banned for the use of an anabolic steroid.
Johnson was caught again after that first strike and was thrown out of the sport for life.
Since then there were revelations about the United States covering up for several of their athletes, including the legendary Carl Lewis, even if his alleged violation was not for a banned steroid.
The point is that Johnson wasn’t alone, but it seems that if the athletics authorities had their way the impression may have remained like that.
Cycling’s Lance Armstrong was another who became notorious for cheating as well, but yet again he was not the only one. It appearedas though cheating was a culture in cycling, especially in endurance events.
Even a couple of Bajans have paid the penalty for doping infractions in the sport. At least, there were no attempts to cover up their issues. The same could not be said for systemic doping in Russian and this only came to the fore in the two years leading up to the Rio Olympics last year.
Some very high ranking officials have lost their jobs and their reputations coming out of the Russian exposé.
Surely, nobody should support those who seek an unfair advantage to beat their rivals, but it must also be said that it is even sadder that some appear to be aided and abetted by those who say one thing in public and do something different in private.
The various institutions overseeing anti-doping programmes must be above board at all times, otherwise what they do will continue to be counter productive. The problem is that apart from the politics, there are too many opportunities for financial gain, so blinkers can be used conveniently.
It sounds plausible and holistic that they are introducing different measures and strategies to outfox the potential violators, even have retroactive testing and so on, but their own transparency in dealing with these matters are pivotal in the fight.
In the meantime, athletes should not abdicate their own responsibility and vigilance to ensure their end is clean wherever possible.
The Andre Russell situation seems to be a clear cut violation that he missed three tests in such a short space of time. He would have contributed greatly to any doubts surrounding his whereabouts.
I don’t agree that his one-year sanction is proof that Jamaicans are being targeted for special scrutiny, although there must be some jealousy, particularly from First World countries about their dominance in athletics since 2008. They, too, have contributed to any doubt cast because at one point there was concern even from their own members about the infrequency in which testing, in and out of competition, was done.
Some athletes, too, have tested positive for banned substances. Generally, though I have my concerns about how the whole testing system is administered. I don’t want regional sportsmen and women to put themselves in a position where they will have fingers pointing at them.
• Andi Thornhill is a veteran sports journalist. Email [email protected]