Published on April 30th, 2012 | by Alan Abrahamson4
The BOA’s slam-dunk loser of a case
Rarely in my sportswriting life do I acknowledge that I not only have been to law school (the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco) but passed the California Bar Exam (first try, thank you).
Any first-year law student could have told you the outcome before it was issued Monday by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport in the case of the British Olympic Assn.’s “lifetime” ban against dopers.
They could have told you the outcome because the BOA was dead wrong and its full-throated defense of the ban off-base, and that’s what a three-member CAS panel unanimously ruled.
Lawyers and tribunals are not often given to such plain-spoken language. They teach you in law school that it’s best to avoid such talk.
Nor, for that matter, does it out-and-out call the case, brought by a defiant BOA after being declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency rules, a thorough and complete waste of time, money and energy that proved a point that in the first instance was thoroughly obvious.
The reason they don’t teach you that in law school is because that’s what journalism school is for.
Another thing they teach you in journalism school is to identify the instant winners in court cases.
Here, that’s easy:
Dwain Chambers, for one. The British sprinter was the first athlete to test positive for the designer steroid THG in 2003 amid the BALCO scandal. He received the mandatory two-year ban from running track; the BOA also imposed its lifetime Olympic ban.
Since returning to the track, Chambers has won the 2010 world indoor sprint title; he is the 2012 world indoor sprint bronze medalist.
There are some who think Chambers is still a cheat and doesn’t belong at the Olympics.
Like Dai Greene, the British 400-meter world champion. He told the Daily Mail, the British newspaper, “Like Dwain Chambers as a person but he knowingly broke the rules and he should be made to pay. We should not soften the punishments. This will not help to rid our sport of drugs. Think of the messages this is sending to doping cheats and to those thinking of traveling down that risky route.”
Dai Greene is of course entitled to his opinion. He’s also entitled to be wrong.
This space has been aggressive in calling for track and field to rid itself of doping. It is perhaps the most egregious problem the sport faces. But Chambers has not only been made to pay in serving his time, he has been fully and completely forthcoming not only about what he did, but about how and why.
That is how you earn a shot at redemption. Maybe Dwain Chambers earns a medal or more in London. Maybe not. But he deserves every chance to try.
Moreover, you don’t think the doping authorities learn real-world stuff from a guy like Chambers?
Victor Conte, the man at the center of the BALCO scandal, issued a statement a few days ago that said of Chambers, “He trusted me like a father and I will forever be remorseful regarding the pain and suffering that I caused him and his entire family. Dwain has been punished in many ways over the last nine years and yet he has somehow found forgiveness in his heart for me.
“… Dwain has rebounded from the serious mistakes he made to become a man of strong moral character. Those who know him as I do have enormous respect and admiration for his distinct ability to overcome adversity.”
As Usain Bolt’s coach, Glen Mills, put it in a conference call last week with reporters: “I don’t believe that somebody should be sentenced to death or banned for life. They should be given an opportunity to redeem himself.”
Meanwhile, the potential big-time loser:
Colin Moynihan, the chairman of the BOA. There’s a way to argue, and style points matter if one might want to keep advancing one’s career in international sport.
Last November, Moynihan said the World Anti-Doping Agency had “failed to catch the major drug cheats of our time,” and in calling for an “informed review” of the global body, said “Regrettably, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the 10 years since its creation, WADA has been unable to achieve its own, well-intentioned objectives.”
Typically, that’s not the way to get ahead, especially with the International Olympic Committee.
Just to make sure there was no misunderstanding, the CAS panel on Monday ordered the BOA to pay some of WADA’s legal costs. Again, it didn’t say the case was a complete and total waste of time. But pretty close. it went so far as to say that the matter was “unnecessarily increased by the voluminous and largely irrelevant submissions and evidence submitted by the BOA on this appeal.”
WADA, after Monday’s ruling, issued its own statement that said it “regrets the many hysterical and inaccurate statements from the BOA in the course of challenging the WADA decision,” adding a few paragraphs later, rules “are not based on emotive arguments or the wishes of any one signatory or,” for emphasis, “individual.”
The underlying question is why this case ever got to this point.
For one, if the BOA was non-compliant, why — in the build-up to a home Olympics — divert time and money on litigation? Everyone knows litigation is adversarial. Why be so confrontational? To reiterate, surely that reflects leadership style.
For another, all you had to do was read the ruling issued last Oct. 6 by the very same three-member panel in the case of American 400-meter runner LaShawn Merritt.
In that instance, the panel ruled “invalid and unenforceable” the IOC’s Rule 45, which sought to ban any athlete hit with a doping-related suspension of more than six months from competing in the next Summer or Winter Games.
Why did it so rule?
Because the WADA code is the controlling policy.
If the IOC had wanted to enact that kind of extra sanction, the way to do it would have been to seek an amendment to the WADA code. The IOC didn’t do so, and thus the “six-month rule” was blatantly a dud.
Same goes here.
The BOA is a signer to the WADA code. The BOA couldn’t have one rule and everybody else have another. Its lifetime ban was out of “harmony,” to use the legal terminology, with the rest of the world. The BOA rule thus could not stand.
To return to square one: why, then, was the BOA only too happy to see this case end up before CAS?
Assuming people act logically, did the logic tree work like this:
The BOA got to argue the case, not only before CAS but in the newspapers, and preach that it was occupying the moral high ground …
And now, having been shot down, it gets to send the likes of Chambers, and cyclist David Millar (who admitted to using the blood-booster EPO in the wake of a French polce investigation) to the Olympics …
Where if these world-class athletes win medals, those medals add to the home-team count …
In which case this whole thing was — for the BOA itself and the British team — a no-lose proposition from the get-go, right?
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
That’s the thing about law school. They teach you there that in the search for clarity you often learn that life is — and the means and method of motive are — mysterious, indeed.