The world of athletics is experiencing seismic tremors thanks to the recently unearthed Russian doping scandal. Even hard-nosed cynics have been taken aback by the sheer scale of the multi-layered operation.
Firstly, the doping was so widespread that it earned the moniker systemic. Then came the cover-up, where a key laboratory in Russia is under the scanner for fudging reports. Even Russian agents posed as lab staffers as part of the cover up.
The scandal has, of course, called for Russia to be banned from the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil. However, so endemic has doping become in sport that it has also led to some interesting reactions, with an expert writing in to make ‘doping’ legal, as cheats are inevitable in an age where winning is everything.
This gives sanction to cheating, or performance enhancers. The charm of sport would be lost if athletes were allowed to compete unfairly. Sport is about taking the science of the body to its highest form, not altering it even minutely or to different degrees for medals.
We need to bring the 'shame' back into doping, and not treat it as part of the system. The horse may have bolted from the stable, but the anti-doping lobby needs to be hot on its hooves. Today, the impression is that though doping may be wrong, we just have to live with it.
The sports fan has little choice but to watch dope cheats sashay to the podium, to be laughed at by skeptics and actually told that doping is not the problem, the inability to ‘mask’ the offence is. There seems to be little or no shame in doping, the bigger humiliation is to be caught while doing it.
The world athletics body now has to hammer home the message that clean sport is non-negotiable. When the denizens of world sport itself are complicit in cheating, there needs to be swift, comprehensive and stringent action. Let the 2016 Rio Olympics motto be Faster, Higher, Stronger and Cleaner.