Thursday, June 14, 2012
How to kill sport
I've no idea whether Lance Armstrong is innocent or whether he has or does "dope". Either way I can't help finding it very sad to read this article in the Washington post which says that his 7 wins in the Tour de France are at stake due to allegations of doping from the USADA (US Anti-Doping Agency) from blood tests performed in 2009 and 2010. What upsets me most is to see that this accusation alone is enough for him to be banned from participating in Ironman competitions with immediate effect. And he was doing so well: he had just won Ironman 70,3 Hawaii and was looking like a good bet for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, later this year. What better way to raise the profile of Ironman?
I must confess that I haven't followed Lance's saga of doping charges. I care about the end result once it has been confirmed but I don't want to know about all the ins and outs (because you never know them all anyway). I'd rather leave it to the professionals to judge whether he is innocent or guilty and trust that they have made a fair and proper decision. If I can't trust them to do this then it spoils my enjoyment of the whole sport because it becomes instead an endless speculation of "who is and who isn't" that some people, unfortunately, seem to find more interesting than the sport itself.
Perhaps if I had been following the story all along I might not be so surprised by this piece of news. To me it seems like there is a serious departure from how he would have been treated in a criminal case. Firstly, it would not be possible to open up an old case without there being fresh evidence - this is important because an innocent person can be considered as good as guilty by association if he is dragged through the courts time and time again. If there is fresh evidence, then what is it and why was it not available previously? And secondly, what ever happened to "innocent until proven guilty?". Was it a decision by the WTC (organizers of the Ironman) to ban him pre-emptively, or was it imposed by the USADA? Either way, it doesn't make anyone look good.
How can I be excited about who wins the next Tour de France when there seems to be a good chance that they will be stripped of their honours anything up to ten years later? What faith can I have in the anti-doping authorities if it takes so long to bring these cases to conclusion, especially the high profile ones? I'm not suggesting that there should be a cover up but the process should be handled in a way that minimizes the damage to the credibility of the accused-but-not-yet-convicted athletes and, by association, the sports in which they compete.