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Everyone knows

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(Column by UKA Chairman Ed Warner, as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine)

 

29 October 2007

 

“Everyone knows that it goes on”. Andy Murray subsequently backtracked on his allegation of match fixing in tennis, but the cat was out of the bag. “Everyone knows” are perhaps the two most emotive words one can use about a sporting scandal. They say everything and nothing – giving their author wriggle room to back out of a confrontation.

 

In my short time at UK Athletics I’ve frequently heard that “everyone knows” about drug abuse in our sport. Not so much about abuse going on today, but certainly that “everyone knew” it was rife in the so-called ‘golden age’ of global athletics. And not simply among the heavy throwers from behind the old Iron Curtain either.

 

One official, relatively new to the sport, told me he was depressed at the tales he now heard about the sporting idols of his youth. I encouraged him to ask why the ‘insiders’ he was listening to were happy to peddle their gossip by the water cooler rather than confronting those “everyone knew” to have cheated. As in all walks of life, spite comes cheap and is often cowardly.

 

The finger of suspicion is once again ranging widely across athletics, given renewed vigour by Marion Jones’s shamefully belated confession of her drug abuse. Michael Johnson, in his newspaper column last week, said: “I honestly don't know if I could blame someone at this point for questioning whether I, or any athlete who has accomplished greatness, was in fact clean.”

 

In the current febrile atmosphere, at UKA we must focus not on what “everyone knew” in days gone by, but on now and the future, ensuring that a drugs testing system is in place that catches cheats, and that allows clean athletes to demonstrate that fact as easily as possible on a global and domestic basis, the current inconsistencies from sport to sport and country to country are not acceptable.  

 

I don't believe we are where we should be yet, however superior the UK might think its system is to that in some other nations. The British Olympic Association has established a commission to examine anti-doping matters. UK Sport, rightly, has a constant challenge to maintain its dual roles as both lottery funder and doping policeman.

  

In the midst of all this, Christine Ohuruogu submitted her appeal to the British Olympic Association against her lifetime ban from the Olympics and UK Athletics wrote to the independent appeals panel in support of Christine.

 

This support is not  popular in all quarters, both within and outside athletics, but to my mind it does not mean UKA is soft on drug abuse. It’s recognition that we need an anti-doping regime that is efficient in all respects, and that results in punishments that are suitably severe but that are always proportionate to the offence.