LONDON -- Everybody has family pictures. One in our house was taken in the Hawaiian Islands in October of 2000. This was when I was on my way back from the Sydney Olympics. My wife and three kids flew out from California, and we had a little vacation. In that picture, our oldest daughter was 6. Her brother had just weeks before turned 4. Their baby sister was literally a baby; she was 1.
I was reminded of that photo on Saturday when the International Olympic Committee announced it had re-allocated the medals from the U.S. men's 4x400-meter relay team from the Sydney Games because of admitted doping by Antonio Pettigrew. The IOC bumped Nigeria to gold, Jamaica to silver and the Bahamas from fourth to bronze.
It's all way too late.
So much time has passed that my oldest daughter has just graduated from high school; her brother now has his California driver's permit; and the baby is a teen-ager, in her fourth year of the Los Angeles County junior lifeguard program, swimming for three hours each morning in the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean.
If that's not enough to prove the passage of time, to show just how ridiculous it is the IOC is only now getting around to this, here is the emphatic point of all points:
Antonio Pettigrew is dead.
He died in 2010 from an overdose of sleeping pills, found dead in his car in North Carolina. He was 42.
I have been to, and successfully completed, law school. I understand civilized society depends on a framework of laws. But we cannot live in a society in which lawyering, and rules, carry on for 12 long years until there is resolution over a relay race.
It is a basic principle of the anti-doping system that it depends on credibility and the good faith of those involved in it.
I am not suggesting here -- not for even a second -- that this devolved into a matter of bad faith. Not at all. This process was carried out in good faith.
It simply took 12 years.
And that plain fact tends to significantly undermine the credibility of the system.
Justice delayed -- as in this instance -- is no justice whatsoever.
How do you think the Nigerians are feeling now about Saturday's move? Exultant? Gratified?
Or -- hollow?
There is always a tension between, on the one hand, the reality that all things are revealed in the fullness of time and, on the other, the essential need to say, OK, enough, let's move along.
The IOC executive board's other actions Saturday further underscored the intersections and frustrations at issue when it comes to juridical resolution in anti-doping matters, where a variety of complex interests are often on the table:
-- American Crystal Cox, who has admitted to doping, was stripped of her gold medal from the Athens 2004 4x400 relay. But the board put off a decision on whether to disqualify the relay team itself. It said it's now up to the rules of track and field's governing body, the IAAF, whether to disqualify the team.
A factor that may be at work: Cox ran in the preliminaries of the relay, not the finals.
Another: were the relevant IAAF rules in effect at the time of the 2004 Games?
-- The board said it is waiting for more documents in the case of American cyclist Tyler Hamilton, who won the time-trial gold medal in Athens. President Jacques Rogge said at a news conference that the matter would be decided within two weeks, the IOC apparently still waiting for more information from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Hamilton, who for years steadfastly denied doping, abruptly told CBS' "60 Minutes" last year that he had repeatedly used performance-enhancing drugs.
-- The IOC apparently took no action on suspicious results uncovered during recent re-testing of Athens Games samples. The chairman of the IOC medical commission, Sweden's Arne Ljungqvist, told Associated Press a few days ago that he is investigating up to five possible positive results.
The backup "B" samples have not yet been tested. No one yet knows the identities of the athletes involved. The IOC stores doping samples from each Games for eight years to allow for re-tests.
One can only imagine what will happen if those samples turn out positive.
As Rogge said at the news conference, when asked about Hamilton, "Have some patience. It will come."