Deterring doping requires game plan from elite sports people
Instead there is a readiness to pass the buck – blaming media for not digging or officialdom for not enforcing, which is fair enough, but also something of a cop-out.
The just finished Australian Open had persistent tinnitus of off-court speculation as to the extent of a possible doping problem within tennis. Old yarns and suspicions were re-aired, in private, or on the cosy anonymity of social media. The name Fuentes came up frequently, alongside some of the most famous names in the sport. No one could advocate wild accusations being put out there and no one wants trial by troll. But there seems to be an acceptance from players that suspicion is inevitable, just as inevitable as their being people willing to cheat in order to win. What can you do?
Well, there is one thing: you can take the initiative yourself.
Bloods on random dates
Increasing public scepticism about drugs in sport is going to cast an even greater pall, not less, in the coming years. Too much has been revealed already for it to be otherwise. The old “sure, they’re all at it” dismissal will always be flung, infuriatingly even at those who’ve played fair and clean. And there’ll be no point talking about having never failed a test; Armstrong has made sure of that.
So here’s what this corner would do, given sufficient sporting talent, skill, dedication, youth and a waist size that didn’t begin with the digit four.
Privately organise with the relevant doping agency to take bloods on random dates every month and store them. Test them if necessary, but it’s the storing that’s important. Since the suspicion will always be there that dopers are ahead of the detection process, it is important to allow an opportunity for samples to be tested in future.
All of which might sound logistically onerous but would allow any sports figure, either still playing, or in retirement, to invite any accuser to take his pick of the samples – “you might find substances in there, but they won’t be performance enhancing!”
Is that such an improbable scenario? There may be individual civil rights questions raised but it wouldn’t have to be compulsory. And the public could deduce what they want from anyone refusing to pony up their blood.
The temptation to cheat and remain a step ahead of the testing game would still remain. But retrospective steps could be taken and, as the Armstrong case has proven, publicly shattering a reputation is still a forceful deterrent, even if it is late.
Most importantly of all, it would encourage sports figures to take responsibility. After all, it is their reputations, and their sport’s.