I first became aware of the hypocrisy that lies at the heart of the world-wide athletics fraternity when researching the role of drugs in sport with special reference to the case of the British sprinter Dwain Chambers.
In 2004, Chambers was given a two-year ban by UK Athletics as a punishment for having taken the so-called “designer steroid” THG. At that time, THG was not listed as a prohibited substance by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Undaunted, UK Athletics punished Chambers, using the argument that THG had given him an unfair advantage, which it deemed to be contrary to something called “the spirit of sport”.
I then discovered that, although the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) maintains a list of “prohibited” substances, some of these the body produces naturally. I asked WADA why tobacco was not on their banned list. All I got by way of reply was mindless waffle.
Nor does the madness end there. The athletics establishment has never given me a satisfactory explanation why many substances are not prohibited in spite of the fact that they are performance-enhancing. Some athletes are meticulous about their “secret” diets.
If the IAAF were true to its mission, it would rule that such diets are capable of “jeopardising the moral fabric of sport” (to quote from its pretentious website) and ban them, compelling all athletes instead to stick to identical IAAF-approved diets. And athletes who come from high-altitude countries (such as Ethiopia and Bolivia), and who are therefore accustomed to functioning on less oxygen, should surely have a handicap applied — say some lead weights affixed to their midriffs — when they compete at or near sea-level.
I set these matters before you by way of introduction to two scandals that surround the imminent 2012 London Olympics, and as a warning: expect little honesty from the athletics establishment, and none at all from the International Olympic Committee.
The first concerns the obstinate refusal of the IOC to sanction, during the 2012 games, a minute’s silence in memory of the 11 Jewish athletes and the German police officer murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago. The second concerns the obstinate agreement of the IOC to sanction the admission to the 2012 games of a team from Saudi Arabia that apparently will contain not one female competitor.
Concerning the Munich massacre I need hardly remind JC readers of the grim details: that, on September 5 1972, a Palestinian terrorist group took hostage and subsequently murdered members of Israel’s Olympic team in a failed bid to barter their freedom for that of 234 Arab prisoners in Israeli jails.
The Games were suspended, and a memorial service was held. But when 10 Arab states objected to their national flags being lowered to half-mast along with those of other competing nations, the flags were immediately raised. The IOC has consistently refused to erect a permanent memorial to the murdered athletes and it has this year refused to hold a minute’s silence.
Contrast this if you will with the IOC’s appeasement of Saudi Arabia. But, before you do so, let me remind you that, according to the IOC’s own charter, “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, only Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia sent male-only teams.
Qatar and Brunei have since agreed to include one or two token women, but not the Saudis, claiming that to do so would violate Sharia law. Whether it would indeed do so is not my business. The IOC’s charter is quite clear. But at a meeting in Quebec at the end of May, the IOC’s executive board decided that, rather than suspend Saudi participation, it would wash its hands of the matter.
Don’t tell me that the Olympics encapsulate noble ideals. The obsequious set of morals they encapsulate is rotten to the core.
And don’t be fooled by the warning just issued by the International Olympic Committee that athletes who boycott Israeli competitors in the forthcoming London Olympics will be in breach of IOC rules. The important question is: what genuine sanction will the IOC apply?