Protecting sport or an infringement of human rights?

Kate Smart Columnist

By , Kate Smart is a Roar Expert

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12 Have your say

    Over the weekend, the ABC reported on changes ASADA and the AOC are considering in the ‘fight against doping in sport’.

    The controversial proposal to force all athletes and officials to truthfully answer any questions from Australia’s anti-doping body or face exclusion from future Olympic Games sparked animated discussion amongst sports fans.

    John Coates, the AOC president, was quoted on the ABC’s news website as saying, “Failure to co-operate with and assist ASADA, in every way, can result in an athlete or official being ruled out of an Olympic team.”

    Coates’s proposals have the backing of Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy, who was quoted by the same news report as pushing for these policies being adopted internationally.

    So, is this attitude an over-reaction to doping scandals in cycling, AFL and NRL or are these proposals a reasonable tactic for stamping out cheating athletes?

    The main problem with Coates’s and Lundy’s argument is that it assumes all athletes and officials are guilty of doping.

    This surely is a smack in the face for those of us, and I assume it is most of us, who adhere to our societies fundamental viewpoint that people are innocent until proven guilty.

    Doping is a sad reality of sport but at the same time we have to ensure that those who participate in sport are afforded the basic rights afforded to all citizens.

    To my knowledge, and I am no lawyer, but the presumption of innocence is a basic right. The onus is on those prosecuting you is to prove your guilt.

    I think we have to assume athletes and officials are innocent of doping until an allegation is made and an investigation carried out by authorities makes a ruling, based on the evidence collected and a fair hearing.

    Then there is the question of how would such a policy be implemented?

    Presumably, if you are a doper, then you are someone who is already lying and therefore, one more lie to the AOC wouldn’t be out of the question.

    I’m obviously not an athlete, but if I was doping to get ahead of the competition, then I would possibly be firm in the belief that I’m not going to get caught anyway, so why not just tell the AOC whatever they want to hear. What have you got to lose?

    And quite frankly, who would voluntarily admit to doping in these circumstances?

    I think if there’s one thing we hopefully all have learned from these doping scandals, it is that drug cheats rarely come forward unless they are backed into a corner where there is no way out. And let’s face it, even then the truth doesn’t always emerge.

    There’s also the argument, and this may be a little perverse, but isn’t the current system of investigating and chasing down drug cheats the very thing that drives new scientific tests and investigative powers in the fight against doping?

    If everyone just signed a stat dec proclaiming, ‘Oh no, I’m not a cheat’, then we would no longer need advances in scientific testing and increased investigative powers for bodies such as ASADA. Clearly they would become obsolete.

    Am I the only one with images of Neville Chamberlain in 1937, waving a document with Hitler’s signature and the promise of not going to war?

    If anything, this trip down the path of history reminds us that those with questionable intentions can sign whatever we ask them to, but that doesn’t mean that signature is worth anything.

    There is no doubt that governments and sporting bodies have a duty to investigate and sanction dopers and drug cheats, but it must be done within the spirit of the laws that all citizens live under.