Will this be the end of track and field as we know it?

Having been involved in track and field for 30 years, up to 2004, it is almost impossible to ignore the recent total confusion and the destruction of one of the most beautiful sports: track and field. Open any news medium and the scandals of doping and corruption will fly into your face.

Whenever the smoke will clear from this battlefield, we will see the real causes and the results of it.
Right now the cry for an intensified “War on Doping” is louder than ever before.

In my opinion, this so-called “War on Doping” is doomed to fail from the very start, it’s obvious if you look back into recent history.

Take the “War on Cancer”, the “War on Drugs” declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, or the “War on Terrorism”. Which of these have we won and if you see a victory somewhere, what price have we paid for that? Cancer is far from eradicated, more drugs are sold and used than when the “War on Drugs” started, and the “War on Terrorism” isn’t very successful either, if you ask me, just watch the news and get the hard data. The expression the War on…. always comes from clever politicians who want generate credibility, attention, more power, and of course money by just creating or enlarging a problem. No, I am far from a hippie, and politics is hardly my cup of tea for if it was only for this very reason described above. But at least I am a keen reader about history, psychology and biology.

Facts: think only about one of the biggest social experiments ever done in this area: the Prohibition in the US, banning alcohol for religious, social and health reasons, from 19 20-1933. But the final results of it were: more people died from alcohol than ever before, more people died from criminal violence, it was the springboard for the birth of organized crime, since it placed the production of alcohol in the hands of criminals, just as happened in the “War on Doping”. The Prohibition also created disrespect for the law, and corruption flourished, since crime and politics found each other really fast.

Not a miracle that the Prohibition was stopped after society paid a tremendous price. We can observe the same in the ban of cannabis or marihuana. It started with the brainwashing of the general public with “Reefer madness”, the idea that use of cannabis would lead to most awful mental derangements possible and would turn innocent youth into murderous thugs.

In the US, all use of cannabis was banned, starting in 1937. In Holland, however we got a lot of criticism for our tolerant view on cannabis use, calling it a “soft drug”, compared to hard drugs like cocaine, crack, alcohol, nicotine or heroine. At least it worked very well for our tourist industry, since millions of young US tourists have visited Amsterdam for smoking a joint in a coffee shop, and killing sprees from reefer madness have not been seen or went by unnoticed. Recently cannabis was legalized or decriminalized in some states in the US as well, saving society billions of dollars, if it was only for not having to put thousands of young people into prison for smoking a joint. Polls show that 58% of the US population in support of the legalization of cannabis. One expects legalization to happen in democratic society if the majority is for it.

It’s not up to me to choose for legalization of performance enhancing agents in elite sport.
It would be a bad choice, but I am old enough to know that many choices in life aren’t about “good” or “bad”, but about “bad” or “worse”. Even though it seems to be an out-of-the box-solution in a time where the sports politicians prefer to sit safely inside the box and keep the lid firmly closed. They prefer to keep themselves far away from reality in sports and from a better solution than the dead-end street of repression, They prefer draconic punishments to the extent of the destruction of elite sport, as it is happening right now. But even the end of elite sports will not lead to an end of the use of illegal substances in sports in general.

Far from being an expert in this matter I would like to ask some simple but uncomfortable questions, mostly answered by silence:
Is a total clean sport possible, can we put the ghost back into the bottle?

And if yes,at what price? A totalitarian police state springs to mind, a total control over the communication and even the lives of athletes?
But…. in the same line of thought: will we see “clean” sport officials and politicians being free of corruption, fraud, theft, whitewashing, and other criminal acts or will they still have to prevail.
Why is there a strict liability for athletes only and not for officials or sports officials and politicians?
Why do so few fraudulent sports politicians appear before court, why no draconic punishments there?
Why the call for so called “independent” control institutes or “integrity taskforces”, or “authorities”?
Does independent mean: there is nobody to control THEM? As the saying goes: “If it’s worth winning, it’s worth cheating”. This applies to athletes as well as to the people waging the “War on Doping”.
Why are they not controlled? Or like the expression goes: who chooses these individuals, who guards these “guardians”?

Sports organizations are ruled mainly by lawyers and politicians, who are very good in making rules for others and interpreting these rules as far as themselves are concerned. Do you still know somebody at that level who isn’t a lawyer of politician? Looking for the general and mutual benefits for everybody involved in sports is seldom an issue for them. One can hardly find a visionary person there, who is able to think and act beyond the predictable knee-jerk-reflex responses they display most of the time.

But here is the real bad thing about: it’s US that made all of this possible, by being ignorant, silent and allowed this system to persist. We gave away our control to people we rusted to do their job. In other words, all involved in athletics guilty to the situation that is developing now.

Bibliography:

Thornton, M: Alcohol Prohibition was a failure; Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 157, 1991.

Thornton, M: The Economics of Prohibition; University of Utah Press, USA, 1991.

Okrent, D: Last Call. The Rise and Fall of Prohibition; Simon & Schuster, USA, 2010.

Miron J.A; Zwiebel, J: Alcohol Consumption during Prohibition; The American Economic Review, Vol. 81, No. 2, 1991, pg. 242-247.

Blackwell, T: Is the war on cancer an ‘utter failure’?: A sobering look at how billions in research money is spent; National Post, Canada, March 15, 2013.

Faguet, G: The War on Cancer. An Anatomy of Failure, A Blueprint for the Future, Springer, 2005.

Lynch, T.(Ed.) After Prohibition – An adult approach to drug policies in the 21st century; CATO Institute, 2001.

Hari, J: Chasing the Scream; The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs; epub.

McVay, D.A: Drug War Facts; Common Sense for Drug Policy, 2006, http://www.csdp.org/

Mendoza, M: US War On Drugs Has Met None Of Its Goals: Associated Press , May 13, 2006.

“The drug war is lost”; Interview with Milton Friedman, in “Der Spiegel”, 14/1992.

Sekulic, D: Why are we losing the war against doping? In fact, do we want to win at all?; JAHR, European Journal of Bioethics, Vol.2, No.3, 2011, pg.293-301.

Lopez, B: Anti-doping cheating? The manufacture of truth in the war against drugs in
Sport;

Moeller, V: DiMeo, P: Anti-doping – the end of sport; International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2014, pg. 259–272.

Moeller, V; DiMeo, P: Anti-Doping: Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?; http://www.theouterline.com

Moeller, V: Who Guards the Guardians?; The International Journal of the History of Sport, 31:8; 2014, pg.934-950.

Lopez, B: Creating fear: the ‘doping deaths’, risk communication and the anti-doping
campaign; International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 2013.

Fincoeur, B; Van de Ven, K; Mulrooney, K.J.D; The symbiotic evolution of anti-doping and supply chains of doping substances: how criminal networks may benefit from anti-doping policy; Trends Organ Crim, 2014; DOI 10.1007/s12117-014-9235-7.

Dimeo, P; Moeller, V; Think the war on doping is a force for good? Its ideals have been compromised all along; The Conversation, March 4, 2015.

Hermann, A; Henneberg, M: Anti-Doping Systems in Sports are Doomed to Fail: A Probability and Cost Analysis; J Sports Med Doping Stud, Vol.4, No.5, 2014, pg. 1-12.

About Henk Kraaijenhof

My name is Henk Kraaijenhof and I started this blog as a random collection of concepts, ideas, stories and events that are important or interesting to me in my work as an international performance consultant in a wide range of fields, and sometimes outside of my work. I will try to post a new entry every 3-4 days. Feel free to comment if you like.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Will this be the end of track and field as we know it?

  1. Lorne Morrow says:

    After seeing you present in Toronto a couple of years ago, I have followed your blog. I hope that this does not end up being your last post. You have too many valuable insights to get bogged down with the obnoxious few who cheat. On the other hand, I fully understand and respect your decision if that is what it is. Thank you. It has been a pleasure reading your blogs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *