Friday, 11 April 2008

Updated, Corrected: the Marion Jones Teammates issue(s)

In January of 2008, WADAwatch published a column, "WADA used Gold Medals?" which discussed a then-future, now-realized decision, taken by the Executive Board (EB) of the IOC.

That decision concerns the relay-team teammates of Marion Jones, and focused on a news item from the HamptonRoads website, which featured local resident and soon-to-be-stripped Olympic Gold Medal relayer LaTasha Colander-Clark, of Portsmouth.

News updates require an update to the above Ww article. On the IOC website, at their Press Releases page, the following item has these as the last paragraphs of a 2pg document discussing recent IOC Executive Board actions:

In another doping related decision taken today, the Executive Board disqualified the team mates of Marion Jones (previously disqualified from the Sydney 2000 Games) in the United States Women Relay team from the 4x100 meters race where the team placed third and the 4x400 meters race where the team placed first.

The USOC has been asked to return to the IOC all medals and diplomas awarded to the athletes involved.

The issue of reallocating the medals and diplomas – including those of Marion Jones’ – will be addressed by the Executive Board in due course pending further information in the BALCO affair.

WADAwatch had gone on record, in January, noting that between the IOC, and WADA, there appeared to be no published 'rule' on which the legal basis to overturn that Decision.

That may have been an improper presumption on our part.
The rules surely do exist, yet apparently the IOC doesn't have the Sydney rules still on line. WADAwatch has found the following rules, which may or may not be applicable: we cannot determine if the IOC rules were similar to those in effect for the Sydney Games, and the IAAF rules do not seem to have any 'in effect' date, within the document or on the site.

A relay team, as were Jones and her now devestated running partners, is not considered a Team event (itself an interesting WADA definition) by WADA:

Team sport: A sport in which the substitution of players is permitted during a Competition.

Thus relay team members are not participating in a Team Sport. Under what regulatory basis are they competing?

The Olympic rules are a very difficult document to track down (Note to IOC: Let's put the Anti-Doping Olympic rules on the website, please?) This page lists "
all documents published on this website"; they have a link down halfway to "Medical". There is a link there to the PDF for the 2006 Turin Olympics Rules. There is no link to 'permanent' or 'Beijing' rules that we could find.

Is it safe to determine that, if they'd made a great change from Sydney, via Turin, we'd find it online by now? Maybe, maybe not. So we analyse from a step away, perhaps, from the rules invoked in the IOC Executive Board determinations. The nature of these rules ('what is a Team', 'what is a relay team?') do not suggest having any radical updates.

Interesting Rules, nevertheless: the IOC Anti-Doping Rules applicable to the XX Olympic Winter Games in Turin, 2006, Article 5 governs Doping Controls. Sub-Article 5.6 is titled Selection of Athletes to be Tested, and if we jump next to, there we see the IOC stating:

For Pursuit, Relay and Team Sprint competitions: one randomly selected Athlete in all top five teams plus one randomly selected athlete in the two randomly selected teams.

Seems to be an interesting concept, these arbitrary, random 'selections' for Testing purposes. However there is another Article to note closely. Article 10: Consequences to Teams controls that which Ww is seeking:

In sports which are not Team Sports but where awards are given to teams disqualification or other disciplinary action against the team when one or more team members have committed an anti-doping rule violation shall be as provided in the applicable rules of the relevant International Federation.

Thus if we can presume a functioning legal basis out of the IOC Turin Olympic rules, we are safe to presume we should look to the IAAF Rules, as the applicable IF. Again, we are taking some risks in presuming the Rules that apply are very similar to those published, if not the same, from the Sydney Olympics (and again, the nature of a definition of a relay squad could reasonably suggest carrying a stable definition for decades).

If that presumption holds, then Article 39.2 is our baby (on PDF file page 30, "57"):

2. Where the athlete who commits an anti-doping rule violation under Rule 39.1 is a member of a relay team, the relay team shall be automatically disqualified from the event in question, with all resulting consequences for the relay team, including the forfeiture of all titles, awards, medals, points and prize and appearance money. If the athlete who has committed an anti-doping rule violation competes for a relay team in a subsequent event in the competition, the relay team shall be disqualified from the subsequent event, with all the same resulting consequences for the relay team, including the forfeiture of all titles, awards, medals, points and prize and appearance money.

Sadly, WADAwatch must remind its audience that the 'Jones teammates' case is probably going to pass through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (currently awaiting the final documents admissions for the Floyd Landis case). If the Arbitrators have to work the magic wand of 'Judicial Interpretation', still there appears to be ample justification for the rendered decision.

WADAwatch reminds these three Organizations (WADA, IOC, CAS), that they must strive to create a harmonious legal system, that their rules must be clear, and, as we see in the case of this Relay squad, that it is neither found to be a 'Team Sport', nor can it possibly remain as a 'non-individual, non-team' sport, at least in the WADA CODE.

This may be a clear-case, in the eyes of the Organizations; it cannot be clear to a woman in tears, why the medal over her fireplace, or wherever, has to disappear, and to wear the crown of thorns here and after...

The limbo dance... when Teams are not Teams, and when individuals that have not fallen afoul of any rule, are losing medals; that is the time to clearly move forward, under WADA president John Fahey, and tackle an issue head on, so that future Medallists don't have nightmares attacking them out of the blue sky.

Last thought. There is no one else to blame but Jones... and there are now four former medalists from the 4X100, and a separate four from the 4X400 (as there were evidently substitutions made, from the preliminary to final heats: all participants shared their glory, temporarily)

Not afraid to clarify the record...


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