Drug body needs to fight fair

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - LETTERS - Jon Swi

Rus­sia and its pres­i­dent, Vladimir Putin, might have more press­ing prob­lems to cen­tre at­ten­tion on – a cer­tain nu­clear-en­abled despot in East Asia and a grow­ing im­passe with a Mr D Trump spring to mind – but it would be in­ter­est­ing to plumb the thoughts of the po-faced mod­ern day Tsar on the volte face en­acted on banned Rus­sian ath­letes.

There is enough com­pelling ev­i­dence of a sys­tem­atic cor­rupt and fraud­u­lent ca­bal of in­sti­tu­tion­alised dop­ing in Rus­sia to show that this was en­trenched in the coun­try’s sport­ing psy­che. Yet the World Anti-dop­ing Agency (Wada) has dropped its ban on 95 of the 96 ath­letes – none of them named – who were ef­fec­tively banned from com­pe­ti­tion.

But as the New York Times points out: “Richard McLaren, the in­ves­ti­ga­tor who spent much of the last two years de­con­struct­ing Rus­sia’s schemes and iden­ti­fy­ing about 1 000 im­pli­cated ath­letes, in­di­cated that many cases would be hard to pros­e­cute given Rus­sia’s lack of co­op­er­a­tion in pro­vid­ing lab data, and its prac­tice of de­stroy­ing tainted urine sam­ples that would be in­crim­i­nat­ing.

“Still, sports of­fi­cials charged with build­ing cases against the 95 ath­letes in ques­tion ap­pear to have never fol­lowed up on cer­tain leads. Most no­tably, none re­quested in­ter­views with the whis­tle-blower, Dr Grig­ory Rod­chenkov – Rus­sia’s for­mer an­tidop­ing lab chief now liv­ing in the United States, whose tell-all ac­count prompted McLaren’s in­quiry re­port – rais­ing ques­tions about their will­ing­ness to dis­ci­pline a ma­jor sports power.”

It also raises se­ri­ous doubts about the kind of ex­tra-ju­di­ciary power Wada is ca­pa­ble of wield­ing in ban­ning ath­letes with­out a proper hear­ing. We are not talk­ing here about cases they can­not defini­tively prove, but a mound – no mat­ter how nox­ious it might seem – of cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence and hearsay. Ar­bi­trary en­forced in­jus­tice. Who in re­al­ity guards the guards?

Any fair-minded per­son must surely want drug-free sport. But surely jus­tice must also pre­vail. It is galling that two-time doper Justin Gatlin was con­firmed as the world 100m cham­pion in London, eclips­ing Usain Bolt in his last solo race. If you’ll ex­cuse the phrase, it re­mains a bit­ter pill to swal­low.

Wada re­mains an es­sen­tial el­e­ment in the fight for fair­ness. But some­how there lingers the thought that they must also fight fair.

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