James Lawton: Shameless lie that threatens to destroy Athens Games

Drugs Scandal: Pretence that only a few competitors resort to cheating needs confronting before next year's Olympics are fatally undermined

The drug for which our erstwhile hero Dwain Chambers tested positive is a sexy, state-of-the-art designer number named tetrahydrogestrinone - otherwise known as THG, but let's stick to the longer version. It's a big, ugly word - and that's right for the big, ugly lie it represents.

The drug for which our erstwhile hero Dwain Chambers tested positive is a sexy, state-of-the-art designer number named tetrahydrogestrinone - otherwise known as THG, but let's stick to the longer version. It's a big, ugly word - and that's right for the big, ugly lie it represents.

How big? It knows no bounds. It eats into every corner of the Olympic sport that has the concrete mixers whirring against the clock in Athens and the London bidding committee flexing its puny muscles in anticipation of the Games of 2012 and, perhaps most dismaying of all, it does so with an ever-declining power to shock.

So many lies, so many deceits have piled up to make fools of those who still see in track and field the noble possibility of some great redemption, some dawning of the light.

For 27 years now, since the blood-doping spectre that dominated the Montreal Games which some, romantically, choose to remember for the awesome Alberto Juantorena and the exquisite 10s of Nadia Comaneci, there hasn't been an Olympics free of the heaviest doubts, and this week's news that a performance-enhancing drug sailed through the defences of the recent World Championships in Paris makes matchwood of claims of serious reform.

The lie is relentless, shameless and is bought so guilelessly by those who want to believe it, and who are always made to look, when the latest scandal hits, like befuddled victims of some marathon three-card trick.

Athletics coaches swear on the bible and their mother's tombstones that the drug cheats are a minority. Here in Britain. we are the masters of self-delusion. British athletes are never cheats. They take the wrong cough drops, they are caught in some testing malfunction, their dietary supplements have been taken on bad advice. And so it goes... After Chambers' disappointments in Paris, we were given the picture of a thwarted hero, gazing into the middle distance and contemplating fresh attacks on the mountain top. But how would he get there? His first positive test simply returns us to another cycle of doubt.

The remarks of Lynn Davies, the long jump hero of the Tokyo Olympics in a more innocent age who is now president of UK Athletics, come from the litany of denial. He says: "Sadly again, the perception of our sport is suffering. But I would rather have this in the open. If athletes are found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs they should be banned for two years - even if they are British."

Even if they are British! Especially if they are British, he might have said, because where does any true cleansing of sport have to begin? At home, in our own values and our own belief in what is right, and damn the medals that Ben Johnson's coach, Charlie Francis, said were beyond him if he didn't take the fast, chemical track to glory.

Some of us who greeted that grey dawn in Seoul when Johnson was unmasked as the ultimate drug cheat, bought, at least to a degree, the platitude that fell from the lips of the IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch. He said that a war against drugs would be fought to the death. But whose death? The latest news says that it is more than ever likely to be that of the ideal of clean sport.

For the moment we can only be inordinately grateful to the scientist who oversaw the tests that exposed the new designer drug which showed up in Chambers' sample. Not because he has come up with some fail-safe system to bring down the cheats, but because he may have nailed a few... and cut through the latest tissue of lies. He may, for a little while at least, have brought scorn to the notion that the drugs battle was being won.

That Britain's most talented sprinter should have tested positive at this time, of course, carries resonance way beyond the already deeply tainted waters of track and field.

It puts into the sharpest perspective the firmness of the recent response by the Football Association to the offence of Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand when he failed to attend a routine drugs test. That the FA stance should have provoked the possibility of a strike by England players, and the fevered protests of his union, told us a dismal story about the overall state of discipline and responsibility in one of the richest corners of our sporting life.

The message of the Ferdinand case is simply compounded by the news of the Chambers situation. It provokes the alarm that came when the Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis blithely declared her indifference to the drug background of her East German coach, Dr Ekkart Arbeit, from whom she parted company only after a prolonged bout of adverse publicity. It says that winning is the thing, and that accountability and public sensitivity can be cheerfully discounted.

Well, of course, it cannot be. How long will parents be prepared to entrust their sons and daughters to a sport that is so frequently exposed as rotten to its core? How long will the bromide talk of a "small minority" of cheats be treated with other than outright disdain? Yes, it is tragic that even such an overt anti-drug campaigner as Paula Radcliffe cannot improve her performance dramatically without running into the shadows of doubt. Yes, maybe there are athletes and coaches who dream of winning clean. But how can we ever celebrate them in the climate of deceit that simply will not, and perhaps cannot, shift?

The announcement by the International Association of Athletics Federations that they are to re-test 400 or so samples taken at the recent World Championships has surely made the blood of the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, run cold. In less than a year he is due to proclaim a new Olympiad in the birthplace of the games of youth and hope. The usual obligation is to talk of a new era and new standards. He might as well whistle in the wind.

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
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
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before