Wednesday, 16 January 2008

WADA used Gold Medals?

Many world–shaking events from 2007 are currently fermenting like good Swiss wine, slowly turning into the garish headlines of 2008; the world of anti–doping and sport is certainly one of these.

Since the Marion Jones confessions, one of the most salient problems has become what to do with the tarnished gold medals that are held by teammates of doping athletes. Self–righteously, some say, egotistically to others. Does an Athlete who's honest efforts in a team sport, forfeit her or his glory for the depredations of another?

How are the legal scales of justice balancing the issues of fairness?

No question but that what Marion chose to pursue was wrong from DayD (for Doped) onward, from 'whenever' until her 2007 confessions.

But in the hyper–mediatronized world that exposes the work efforts of WADA and the IOC, it appears safe to say that the negligent regard for forward–planning efforts (during the reign of Richard Pound) is now coming full circle.

Witness the case surrounding Jones' teammates for the 1,600 meter relay, including Oregon native LaTasha Colander–Clark.

WADAwatch seeks the rule promulgated by the IOC and in force prior to the Sydney Olympics, that informs medal–winning athletes of the lifetime nature and legal relationship to Gold, Silver or Bronze medal–winning status.

Here is the decision of the IOC Disciplinary Panel:


We live now in an age where many of us will pay good money for products, often ignoring that we've only acquired a 'license' for media or computer items: software, movies or music, rather than purchasing them (read the 'I accept' screen next time you're installing a new program).

It appears comparable to the trend by certain bodies such as the IOC, WADA or the US Olympic Committee, who believe that clear solutions are at hand, by osmosis, to extricate their 'august Institutions' from the tawdry reputations of doping athletes.

Ms Colander–Clark and her teammates of the 1,600 meter race, as well as Jones' 400 m relay partners, are facing pressure by the IOC and USOC to 'voluntarily return' their medals. Look at the three eternally happy faces below...

(From left: Jearl Miles-Clark, Monique Hennagan, LaTasha Colander-Clark and Marion Jones)

What would you choose? What's the applicable rule for this situation?

Four women crying today, for distinctly different (Ww hopes!) reasons?

Crying: because nobody can show them on paper the (IOC or USOC) RULE that allows their medals to be erased and redistributed?

WADA didn't have a CODE in place until 2003; it had been birthed (or divorced?) from the IOC in 1999, and in its first year was in the process of determining what to do and how best to achieve this.

Now, after eight years of existence, many headlines and little to show for standardization of its laboratory network, it comes to light that the power of confession has turned upside down the staid world of the Olympic Movement, not to mention other commercial sporting events such as the US professional sports leagues, the cycling Tour de France, and others.

We learn that the IOC had 'recommended' (says the site) that all of Jones' Sydney relay teammates be disqualified and those gold medals be returned. Although the nature of the legal situation is unclear, the IOC has given the USOC until the end of January 'to submit a defense'.

Peter Ueberroth, normally an admired and respected catalyst in the US Olympic world, and President of the USOC, 'has already publicly asked Jones' relay teammates to voluntarily return their medals.

At WADAwatch, there is only one word of advice to offer to LaTasha and her other obliquely–tarnished teammates:


WADA entered the global fight against sport–doping, as the 'bastard' child of the IOC (perfectly personified by Dick Pound...), and had ample time, resources and support to choose its battles and position itself strategically.

It appears that none of the major players: the IOC, WADA, UNESCO or powerhouse Federations (such as the IAAF, for athleticism, or the IOC athletes' commission) have begun to codify a responsible and accepted, standardized response to certain cases. That is what the world expects of WADA, in such cases where confession or other acceptable means produce an acknowledgement of past wrongs.

LaTasha! You and teammates are being forced to accept a choice that removes the necessary burden of the IOC, or WADA to take a lead for global development of standard practices in the cases that are to come.

The Hampton Roads website quotes Ms Colander–Clark: “Sometimes you have to fight for your destiny and remember not to let anyone walk over you”.

WADAwatch agrees; we at Ww would have preferred that your case be well–defended by the USOC, which realistically has no case against you if no law existed, in force during the Sydney Olympics, that expressly told medal–winners what to expect if ever their teammates were found out as doping Athletes.

The USOC, rather than 'submitting a defense', could and should have led the way in knowing that the system needs a regulation, and forged a global agreement that satisfied legal needs. Instead, it appears that USOC followed a 'lead' one could have predicted for Dick Pound: it only issued a publicized demand for the medals to be returned, and then did nothing, didn't contact the athletes themselves, until the IOC told them to do so.

LaTasha! Are you, and those team mates of yours collective victims of 'retroactively enforced, non–enforceable non–regulations'?

Can't anyone write a rule?

This could be (we won't know until the results from these closed proceedings are publicly announced, sometime after the end of January 2008) a case tainted by nationalism, and as the USOC mounts the anticipated defense, its attorneys and legal drafters ought to consider the role, as a comment to the above–cited article stated, had the US won only the Silver medals in the 1,600m race.

WADAwatch wants systemic stability in this new growth industry of sport–doping investigation and punishment.

Stability in the system could be found, if a NON–retroactive rule was applied, starting with the 2008 Summer Olympics.

To create a fair and objective rule for the confession of past acts, requires a lot of footwork and balanced input from stakeholders: governments, athletes' commissions and the IOC.

Creating bad precedent, as another comment offered, is the key to be avoided. The world of sports has become accustomed to the placement of ** asterisks near records or championships whose performance was later revealed to have 'imperfections of title': I'm sure that LaTasha would rather live WITH an *asterisk, rather than WITHOUT her medal.

WADAwatch will monitor the coming developments in this case, that will have great effect on the lives of many clean Athletes. With
WADAwatch watching, hopes increase that a rule governing this situation, transitionally based (where a express rule for the future has a temporary 'what to do' provision covering this decade of change...) or permanent, will be drafted prior to Beijing 2008.

The opinions expressed by WADAwatch are strictly formed with the purpose of inciting WADA to adhere to its Fundamental Rationale, achieve its goals and fulfil the aspirations of its Signatories, in achieving the highest possible level of objective, neutral science in sport-doping control.


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