By Robert Taylor, Special toTrackAlerts.Com
Recently the issue of illegal drugs in athletics roars its ugly head again. A German media company published a documentary or docudrama about the widespread and extensive system of doping in Russia. This documentary listed that the Russian athletic bureaucracy which includes those responsible for weeding out unscrupulous athletes and coaches who use illegal drugs, were themselves, providing ways to conceal drug usage.
One of the interviewee in the documentary actually stated that around 99% of Russian athletes were taking illegal drugs; in my view this number is farfetched. It is one thing to say kids unknowingly get drugs from a state sponsored system but it cannot be the same for athletes who have a certain level of independence, and know the cause and effects of drug usage. Though one can question the number of athletes in Russia purported to take drugs, it is hard to question the allegation.
Those giving statements are all Russians who are either athletes or were once part of the Russian athletic system. The fact that all the athletes were on suspension for positive doping can be interpreted that they know what they are saying, or they are being vindictive because the Russian federation left them to fend for themselves. Nevertheless, it is hard to conclude that there is no truth to the story.
|Lord Coe had said the Russian allegation may be as big as Ben Johnson situation, but nothing about their two athletes.|
As usual, this episode of doping allegations gets a lot of coverage from the usual suspects. I remember the coverage that was given when it was Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson. It was done in such a way I find lacking in objectivity and reason-nothing was put in its proper context. It was as if all three were tested positive with steroids. Then the Jamaica testing body turned it into a media nightmare for their two athletes with a so called open hearing. The British media had a field day with the coverage. Fast forward to what is taking place now.
Two British athletes, Rhys Williams, a 400m hurdler and Gareth Warburton, an 800m runner both tested positive leading up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Their hearing took place December 15, 2014 and there was nothing on BBC site to indicate such. Unlike the Jamaican anti-doping body action, this hearing was kept in secrecy. To be fair, this is an indictment against the Jamaican anti-doping body than of the media.
Lord Coe had said the Russian allegation may be as big as Ben Johnson situation, but nothing about their two athletes. For BBC, a media company that is quick to publish positive tests with an aggressive spin, but yet they're silent about these two British athletes. This makes me see duplicity, hypocrisy and lack of journalistic integrity. I grew up with BBC and lived with a belief in the British journalistic integrity but now they seem to be more a tabloid media, especially when it comes to drug related matters in track and field. It was never more evident than when there was a so called research that concluded that some athletes carry a gene that makes performance enhancing drugs very difficult to detect.
The report stated the Asians seem to be the group with that gene and the Koreans with the highest concentration of the gene. Somehow they found a way to post Jamaicans and USA sprinters' faces along this headline. The Koreans do not even have a marginal performance at the youth and junior level much less the senior level, yet they have the gene highest rate dominance. I guess posting top sprinters who are of African descent would grant credibility to the research.
The Russian's allegation is as bad as it gets, and I am hoping it is not as widespread as the German documentary report stated. Even if it turn out to be as bad, I hope effective measures are taken to allow drug testing be more uniform than it currrently is. The Russian situation only proves that asking countries to test their athletes can be subject to biases that can override integrity.
There should be a push to have uniformity by at least having the various countries collect the sample with WADA, IOC, IAAF and other sports governing bodies’ supervision. The governing bodies should determine the labs and have control over the testing and results. In other words, make the countries have as small a role as possible. This should follow with a movement to demand media objectivity.
At this point, it is a shame to see a respected media house like BBC turn into a tabloid media. It seems like we are living in a world of regressing towards mediocrity (or in the case of the media, MEDIAOCRITY). I agree unclean athletes should be exposed, but I cannot agree with reporting with no context or duplicity in reporting.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, TrackAlerts.Com