Simon Turnbull: It's a sorry state to have sympathy for the devil

The Way I See It: When Gatlin was banned he blamed a grudge-bearing masseur for administering some dodgy cream

The verdict is almost in. Any day now – by the end of the month at the latest – the Court of Arbitration for Sport will announce whether the British Olympic Association can maintain the by-law that precludes athletes from all sports who have served doping suspensions of six months or longer from selection for the British Olympic team.

It seems a foregone conclusion. Ever since CAS pronounced last October that the International Olympic Committee rule barring returning drug offenders was "invalid and unenforceable", the BOA by-law has been living on borrowed time.

Sadly so, it has to be said. "Sport loses out to cheaters," the British 400 metres champion Martyn Rooney tweeted on the day the IOC ban was lifted. "It's not a good day for people who don't take drugs."

Indeed, it was not. It meant that Rooney, a Croydon boy blessed with natural talent as huge as his 6ft 5in frame, would have to face LaShawn Merritt in the Olympic arena on the other side of his hometown this summer. And that Justin Gatlin, Merritt's US team-mate, and the rest of the drug takers reinstated in Olympic sports since the Beijing Games, would be free to go for gold.

It also meant that only former British dopers, such as the 100m runner Dwain Chambers and the cyclist David Millar, would be regarded as persona non grata at the London Games. It meant, inevitably, that pressure would be brought to bear upon the BOA and ultimately the Court of Arbitration for Sport to ensure the one-time cheats from these shores were treated the same as the one-time cheats from the rest of the world.

And rightly so. It was not right that Gatlin, a man who has served not one but two drugs bans, could sit in the press conference room after winning the 60m final at the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul last month talking about challenging Usain Bolt for the 100m title in London while Chambers, the bronze medallist in the 60m race in Turkey, faced the prospect of kicking his heels in frustration when the Olympics came to his hometown.

It is a sorry state of affairs when sport has come to this: feeling sympathy for the devil – Chambers was banned from athletics for two years after testing positive for a frightening range of banned performance-enhancing products from the Balco drug factory run by Victor Conte. But there you have it. Such is the sporting world we inhabit.

There was a time, in the aftermath of Ben Johnson's positive test at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, when there was hope of a level playing field being found for the benefit of the countless number of athletes from all sports who have spent their lives toiling to the limit to maximise their natural talent.

As a club athlete, I used to join in with the training of a female athlete who competed in those Olympic Games, and in Barcelona in 1992. She could not have toiled any harder, pushing herself to the limit twice a day – sometimes three times – on the track, in the gym, on the roads, in the woods, even up and down sand dunes.

She knew that a good many of her rivals on the world stage were cheating, and that was a source of no little frustration to her. However, she always said: "Unfortunately, I can do nothing about that. I can only concentrate on getting the very best out of myself."

Thus it has been for the rest of the good guys and gals of Olympic sport ever since. Big bad Ben might have been caught in the drugs net in Seoul 24 years ago but athletes from all sports have kept on trying to beat the system – as Chambers, Millar, Merritt and Gatlin can all testify. Or not, as the case may be.

When Gatlin tested positive for amphetamines in 1999 he was banned but reinstated, after pleading that they were contained in medication he was taking to treat attention deficit disorder. When he was banned for excessive levels of testosterone in 2006 he blamed a grudge-bearing masseur for administering some dodgy cream.

Similarly, although Merritt served a 21-month ban after testing positive three times for dehydroepiandrostrerone, he maintained that he was unaware he was ingesting the anabolic steroid as one of the ingredients contained in ExtenZe, a male enhancement product.

A silver medal winner at the World Championships in Daegu after returning to the track last summer, Merritt still insists: "I did not take any performance-enhancing drugs – nothing to enhance my performance on the track."

It was much the same when Brazilian long jumper Maurren Maggi tested positive for clostebol in 2003. She claimed the anabolic steroid was contained in anti-scaring gel she was using. She was suspended for two years but was back in action in time to compete in Beijing in 2008, and win.

So the rest of the world's former drug offenders – and, indeed, our own – would not be the first to win tarnished Olympic gold. Sadly.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Recruitment Genius: Chef

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Chef is required to join one of the largest ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is required to jo...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor