Friday 19 January 2018

Athletics: Chambers saga paints disturbing picture of modern sport

Sean Diffley

So, despite the attempts by the British Olympic Association (BOA) to ban Dwain Chambers from competing at the forthcoming London Games, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ruled that he is eligible to run.

Chambers tested positive for Tetrahydrogestrinone back in 2003 and was banned for two years. The BOA argued that drug cheats should be banned for life, a verdict that was overturned in court, to the joy, in varying degrees, of Chambers, his lawyer and incredibly WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency.

WADA lashed the BOA and declared that the suggested lifetime ban was "not compliant with the global anti-doping code".

Lord Moynihan, the BOA chairman, said he accepted the court ruling and Chambers would have full support.

But he then added that little could be done if Chambers was targeted by spectators during the Games.

Taking action against drug abusers is a relatively new movement in the history of sport.

The first intrusion by officialdom at the Olympics was in the Mexico Games in 1968. It was a strange occurrence and considering recent events, against an appropriately risible backdrop to the melodrama that has afflicted so much sport.

The athlete disqualified was a competitor in the modern pentathlon and his name was Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, a member of the Swedish team.

Sweden were consistent winners at the Games back then, but the 1968 team were disqualified after finishing third, because Hans-Gunnar failed a drug test for consuming too much alcohol.

He claimed he had only taken two beers prior to competing, but that explanation was not accepted. Why alcohol was considered by Hans-Gunnar as an aid in the five elements of the modern pentathlon of swimming, shooting, fencing, horse-riding and running, is a bit of a mystery to this column.

And why his actions were deserving of a disqualification might discommode even WADA.

Hans-Gunnar had competed in the previous Games in Tokyo and, four years after taking too much sauce, he was sober enough to compete in 1972 in Munich.

So, there was no ban for life. WADA is not considered to be winning the battle against drugs in sport and there is a large volume of opinion that believes that coaches, doctors and other scientific people are way ahead of the International Federations and WADA.

To judge by the recent attitudes towards Chambers, one wonders how serious WADA are about eliminating performance-enhancing substances from Olympic sport.

Incidentally, UK Athletics, the body which runs track and field in Britain and will also be so much involved with the staging of the athletics events in London, also supported the call for a lifetime ban on drug cheats.

Overall, the recent events involving Chambers have painted a very disturbing picture of our sports and have arguably devalued WADA as our supposed protector against cheats.

Irish Independent

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