Chemical cheats: Athletics has become sport’s latest dope casualty

Even after radical reforms, there will be more doping and more cheating in sport. It was ever thus

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the latest doping scandal to hit the world of sport is that anyone is much surprised by it. After Ben Johnson and Lance Armstrong we are more accustomed to sports people with feet of clay. It is news, of course, because it further erodes our already shaky faith in athletics – where it appears to be more common than in other sports. The public, who not least as taxpayers who subsidise sport, have a right to know whether what they are watching is rigged or not.

What is truly startling is the apparent feebleness of the very body tasked with driving out – or at least minimising – this kind of cheating. The grandly named World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), for whatever reason, seems to have done very little about many hundreds of athletes and races where there were suspect results. The time has come for the public to learn the reasons for this official inertia on a grand scale.

The obvious answer is an independent review of these cases and the events they covered, a line-by-line, race-by-race event-by-event investigation into each and every medal won in such circumstances. That is only fair for the public and the “losers”, if such they were. Then Wada, like other discredited sporting bodies, such as Fifa, needs to be replaced. Perhaps the International Association of Athletics Federations, which held the records, does too.

Even after such radical reforms, there will be more doping and more cheating. It was ever thus. The financial rewards, personal glory and celebrity associated with sporting success provide all the incentive to try it on. As sporting records push at the barriers of human capacity and the laws of physics and biology, that too adds to the pressures. The ingenuity of chemists and sports managers provides the means for cheating to evade detection. That much is inevitable. But we can at least try to make sure that the policing of athletics and other sports is no longer a joke.