In an acronym-fuelled controversy, the BOA (British Olympic Association) has lost its case against WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) at CAS (Court for Arbitration in Sport). Debates so far have focused on whether a lifetime ban on selection to the Olympic team for doping offences (which the BOA has insisted on) was fair to athletes. They may have done the crime, but they’ve done their time, the argument goes. That’s two years’ time. Then they can be selected again, says WADA.
The mission of WADA has been to globalise anti-doping policies, even putting pressure on governments to change the laws on drug offences aimed at the general population. They are in business to make sure that we are all made constantly aware of the problem of doping, and that the solution lies solely with their draconian testing regime. Apparently, there will be 5,000 drug tests at London 2012. How much will that cost? How much does it cost also to monitor every elite athlete 365 days a year and subject them to random testing? Is it worth the money (and a level of invasion of privacy that would be unimaginable for any other section of society)? Let’s see: at Daegu last summer, every athlete was tested and not one was found positive. Is that a success, or a monumental failure? Impossible to know – it depends what spin you want to put on it.
If there are no athletes testing positive, WADA says that justifies spending vast sums on its monitoring procedures. If athletes do test positive, WADA says that justifies spending vast sums on its monitoring procedures. Then they impose a two year ban, and after that the athlete returns to Olympic competition as normal.
So why the excessive monitoring and then the paltry bans? Is it because WADA are trying to keep everybody happy? They want to give sport a drug free image for governments, health agencies, advertisers, but they don’t want to damage the industry of record breaking sports performances that keep us spending our scant world resources on spectacular sporting competitions. A lifetime ban gets in the way of that one.
There are many sides to this debate, but on this issue, the BOA seems to have a bit more integrity than WADA. Now, whether we should be punishing the individual athletes for an institutionalised problem at all, that’s a different matter….