Sebastian Newbold Coe, Baron Coe, KBE, must have been a right pain in the rear end while at school. I can envisage the ne’er do wells and miscreants of Abbeydale Grange school sneaking behind the bike sheds at lunchtime for a quick puff on a shared Benson & Hedges cigarette before facing the horrors of an afternoon spent chasing a rugby ball around a frozen playing field. Unfortunately for our young ruffians, head-boy and prefect, Sebastian, has been watching them all along and has reported them to the Games Master who will, undoubtedly, give them a sound thrashing with a cricket bat - sadistic bastard that he is.
And should those now suffering bruised butt cheeks decide to exact their revenge once the home time bell rings, it turns out that young Master Coe is rather good at running away. So good, in fact, that several years later Seb went on to win four Olympic medals, including the 1500 metres gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1980and 1984, and set eight outdoor and three indoor world records in middle distance track events.
Once Coe had finished breaking world records with the same kind of ease that a Vegan breaks wind he went to become a member of parliament for the Conservative Party (well, with a name like Sebastian he was hardly likely to be a Communist, was he?!). After becoming a life peer, hence the Lord Coe, he headed up the bid to host the Olympic Games in London for 2012. When London was awarded the games, Lord Coe became the chairman of the London Organising Committee. He is also the vice-president of the International Association of Athletics Federations
An article on Cyclingnews.com caught my eye yesterday which detailed Lord Coe’s objections to UK Anti-Doping’s petition to WADA to re-classify recreational drugs such as cocaine and MDMA (Ecstasy).
UK Anti-Doping issued a statement saying:
“WADA annually reviews the Prohibited List and as part of this, UK Anti-Doping undertakes an annual domestic consultation process to seek expert opinion and make suitable suggestions. Consequently, among those recommendations we submitted this year, was for some stimulants, such as Cocaine, BZP and MDMA, to be reclassified as Specified, in recognition of the fact that the use of these substances is almost exclusively for recreational, and not performance-enhancing reasons.”
“These substances would and should remain prohibited. However, we want the Prohibited List to distinguish those substances used exclusively for performance-enhancement, and any sanctions should reflect this accordingly.”
Lord Coe, who is an advocate of four year bans, is having none of this:
“Let’s get real. What are the messages we are giving out here to young people? There is no ambiguity. If you want to be part of this project then don’t take drugs. Full stop.”
“There is no place for drugs in sport. You can’t mix the message up. I don’t even think a two-year-ban is appropriate. If we’re in a position in track and field to do something about it, I would move it to four years,”
OK, Seb, let’s get real. Athletes are routinely submitting themselves to invasive testing procedures in order to prove to sporting organisations that they have not used performance enhancing drugs or substances that could be used to mask such. They do this to prove that they are not cheating their way to success. They do not do this to allow other aspects of their private lives to be revealed - regardless of the illegality of actions perpetrated .
The thing is, Lord Coe and those who seek to send a zero tolerance message on all drugs, must surely be arguing on very shaky grounds. For example, the following is taken from The Citizens Advice Bureau website, a UK charity that gives free legal advice to anyone that needs it:
The police do not have the power to take fingerprints, palm prints or body samples, such as a blood sample, unless you have been arrested and detained.
So if the police have no right to intimate samples from anyone that can be used to test for the presence of illegal substances unless they have been arrested and detained, what makes WADA or Lord Coe think they can?
From the WADA website:
WADA was established in 1999 as an international independent agency composed and funded equally by the sport movement and governments of the world. Its key activities include scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti Doping Code (Code) – the document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries.
Anti-doping. Not recreational drug use. And I haven’t as yet, seen any evidence that dancing in a field for 8 hours, off your tits on Ecstasy, is of any benefit in the Individual Track Pursuit.
No one is advocating the use of illegal recreational drugs, merely the desire by some people to use athletes submission to be tested, so that they can prove they are not cheating, in order to also show the presence of other substances. WADA, as far as I can tell, was not set up as an adjunct to individual national governments, their police forces or their prosecution services. So if it is the case that WADA reveal the details of recreational use and, presumably, forwards this to the police there are a few questions to be answered.
First of all, we’re not actually talking about ALL drugs here, when Sebastian Coe says “If you want to be part of this project then don’t take drugs. Full stop”. We’re just talking about those that the government have decided, for legitimate reasons, are illegal. Lord Coe, one would assume, wouldn’t grudge an athlete a glass of red wine or, even though he might think immensely stupid, a cigarette. But, what if an athlete, before flying into London for the Games, has a joint while at home in Holland? Cannabis is decriminalized in The Netherlands but not in the UK. In fact the presence of cannabinoids in urine merely signifies that the person had used or been exposed to cannabis at some point prior to the test. So the athlete is banned from competition and reported to the police. But the police won’t be able to determine if the drug, illegal in the UK where it was detected, found it’s way into the body in Amsterdam.
Taking that point to a rather troubling conclusion: what if we rewind 4 years and play a similar scenario whereby the athlete has used recreational drugs but is attending the Games held in China? Those convicted of drug-related crimes in China face harsh penalties, in some cases capital punishment. Drug abusers and addicts must undergo rehabilitation at police-run facilities or labor camps.
So if Lord Coe wants to go back to grassing up kids to the games master for using drugs, in their own time, and that have no beneficial effect on their sporting abilities, it may not be a few whacks on the backside that they will face. And, I imagine, like those who stupidly indulged a quick ciggie behind the bike sheds all those years ago, we too should be asking, “What the hell has it got do with you, Coe?”