“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer,” said the 18th century eminent jurist William Blackstone. He was repeating a universal doctrine that is in enshrined in law, a doctrine that has existed since the book of Genesis and been endorsed down the centuries by many eminent men including Socrates, Benjamin Franklin and more recently by the eminent English former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf.
What does the Chief Executive of UK Athletics, Niels de Vos think? “[Life suspensions]…would mean,” he has reportedly said,” one or two people who accidentally get themselves into difficulty might be caught but I’d rather have that than allowing the guilty to get off.”
It is small wonder then that de Vos is arguing that “there is a problem of the law versus sport.” Is this a suggestion that sport should be above the law? It sounds like it and we have to suppose that he has the support of the UKA Board and his Chairman in making these quite extraordinary and ridiculous pronouncements. Who is advising this man?
Now he is to try and set up a bylaw that would preclude all athletics drug cheats from gaining international selection. He is clearly mesmerised by the sanctimonious British Olympic Association’s bylaw that bans those guilty of drug misuse from ever competing for Britain in the Olympic Games but before he follows that organisation’s path he should heed the words of the hard-line former President of WADA, Dick Pound. Pound opined that he felt a legal challenge to the BOA bylaw would succeed in the courts.
All this has been sparked by Dwain Chambers wishing to return to athletics. He was of course part of the BALCO scandal and, in 2004, received a two year ban for testing positive for the designer drug tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). He served his ban and came back to the sport in 2006, coming second in the European Cup and reaching the final of the European Championship. Probably disillusioned with his form he decided to try his luck at American football but it did not work out. He has decided to return to athletics. It is unfortunate for him that the cases of Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin have hit the headlines in the interim so stirring up fierce moral indignation in the heart of some, most particularly Nils de Vos.
They tried to cite the fact that Chambers had not been tested since November 2006 as a reason to prevent him running but have kept singularly quiet about the fact that that was clearly the fault of UKA. The point really is that in picking Chambers to run in major international events in 2006 they set a precedent and so any non-selection following this weekend’s Trials in Sheffield would be retrospective as well as vindictive. Presumably if de Vos has his way Carl Myerscough would also be dropped from international teams and Christine Ohuruogu may well also be in line for the chop.
A number of cases in the past like Modahl and Hylton and the evidence in the Paul Edwards’ case as well as internationally that of Bernard Lagat show that drug testing in sport is far from perfect. In the Modahl case the panel decided that she was guilty without their hardly looking at the evidence. But that, according to de Vos, is unfortunate; the end must justify the means.
Come Sunday all will be revealed.