Take your marks - and your drugs - for the Games

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The Independent Online
I WAS surprised to bump into my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street up here in Edinburgh during the last week of the Festival, as I don't associate the king of public relations with the sort of cultural overload you get in Edinburgh this time of year.

'Blimey,' he told me, 'I haven't come up here for the Festival. I've come here to get away from it all.'

'Why on earth would you come to Edinburgh at peak period to relax?' I asked him as we tottered into one of the many bars that stay open until 2am. It was only 6.30pm at the time, but as Adrian said, it does no harm to plan ahead.

'For the same reason that it's very relaxing to be in Waterloo or Paddington when you haven't got a train to catch. The sight of all those thousands of people under stress is very tranquillising if you're not one of them. Similarly, if you're at the Festival with not the slightest intention of seeing a show, you don't half unwind. Especially when you've got a big problem.'

'So, what's the big problem?' I said, scenting a story.

'The Commonwealth Games,' he said.

'They're over,' I said. 'The last partially disabled person has rolled his last garden bowl, the last British hurdler has knocked over his last hurdle and the last drugged athlete has been sent home in disgrace.'

'That's our problem,' he said. 'Drugs. I'm on a very hush-hush panel - you won't breathe a word of this to anyone?'

'As Bertolt Brecht is alive and well,' I swore, knowing Adrian wouldn't have the slightest idea.

'Well, I'm on this panel which is looking into the future of athletics and how to get rid of the drugs scandal. I was seconded because of my PR expertise, and it became pretty clear to me early on that they hadn't got the slightest idea how to clear up the drugs thing. If the tests were effective, the athletes would have stopped taking drugs by now, right?'

'Right.'

'So, I said to them, look, I'm only a PR man, but one thing I do know is that you can't get away with a bright image if the reality is shoddy, and what you have got here is a shoddy product. Well, they got a bit shirty at this, and asked what was so shoddy about athletics, and I told them that it was their own fault. They promoted a sport that was done for love, not money, clean in thought, word and deed, and what they actually produced was a sport which gained the participants large sums of money, so large that they were prepared to take drugs to get them.'

'That's telling 'em, Adrian,' I said. 'What did they say to that?'

'Only one thing they could say. 'You're absolutely right, Adrian, so what do we do about it?'. So I told them that the only thing they could do was make drugs legal, just like they had made vast sums of money legal. Shock, horror] Oh, no they couldn't do that] Couldn't endorse drugged athletes running against non-drug-takers, never, never, never . . .

'You don't have to, I told them. All you do is set up two games, one for athletes who can take any drugs they want, the other for athletes who don't. The Drugs Games and the Clean Games. There was a moment's silence and then they started coming out with horrified objections. On no, they said, they couldn't possibly set up parallel games, as that would introduce an element of segregation.

'But you've got that already]' I told them. You segregate all athletics meetings into men's and women's games. You have started segregating disabled from able-bodied. You segregate Commonwealth from non-Commonwealth. All athletics is streamed and categorised] Drugs and Clean would just be another one - but it's what the public wants] The public is longing to know if today's athletics records are gained fairly or not, and this way you'd finally find out. You'd also find out if world records on drugs were better than those without . . .

'Well, the more they thought about it, the more they could see I was talking sense. They had objections, of course. They said, what about the illegality? I said, these drugs aren't illegal except by your rulings. They're not against any other law. They said, what if people go in for the Clean Games and turn out to be taking steroids? Believe me, I said, nobody will take the Clean Games that seriously. They'll all go in for the Drugs Games. And you won't get any cheating there - nobody claiming to take drugs and actually being clean]

'So anyway, they've given me the job of coming up with a blueprint for the first Drugs/Clean Games - and that's the reason I need relaxing . . .'

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