Ye Shiwen could be adversely affected by what appear to be unfounded public allegations
The Olympics always have generated heated views, political interference, unrealistic expectations, but also delivered some great sport and some outstanding performances. 2012 has seen a further expansion of media coverage to the point where some could be forgiven for suffering information overload. Some new Internet-based news output has added to the Olympic experience and some established broadcast media has been deeply disappointing. In the later case, the BBC is clearly going for a gold medal in naff coverage, building on the reputation established with some truly appalling coverage of the Queen’s Jubilee River Pageant earlier in the year.
On the downside, the Olympics always suffers from national governments and political parties who try to hijack a great international sporting event. As this has been a feature, and perhaps a justification, of the first Olympic Games in Ancient Greece, it is difficult to see how politics can be removed from the Olympics. It starts with the International Olympics Committee that falls far short of the standards it tries to hold competitors to. There is simply too much money and political power involved to avoid endemic corruption. One idea that surfaces periodically is for the competitors to elect a committee from amongst their number to serve for a period of 8 years, providing an overlap between committees, necessary because planning has to run 8 years ahead of competitions. From talking to competitors, this idea has some merit because in general, competitors exhibit strong sporting instincts and fairness to each other. However fierce the competition, those who fail to make the podium are genuinely pleased for those who achieve medals, and competitors recognize just how close the competition is. When someone undergoes the extreme preparation necessary to qualify, it gives them a unique insight into what their fellow competitors have been through to reach the Olympics.
On the upside, competitors have a culmination of years of preparation to look forward to. Those who win medals appreciate both the recognition and the good fortune that placed them at the head of high competition. Those who fail are naturally disappointed but most realize just how close they came and how much their performance is above the main competition within their particular sport.
An increasing difficulty is introduced by performance enhancing technologies. When competitors were naked, there were still some inequalities for those events that involved an object such as discus, javelin, or bow. In modern Olympic competition, great effort goes into developing clothing and equipment that offers performance increases without necessarily requiring any physical development of the competitor. There will always be complaints about a new running shoe, swimsuit or competing object. Bows can be further developed, as can sights and arrows. Firearms can vary from a mass produced model to a carefully hand crafted pistol or rifle that is then finely tuned by further work. Much as these issues will continue to generate complaints and emotion, physical enhancement of competitors will become a subject of heated debate.
Some countries have been so determined to win medals for national or political advantage, they are prepared to take very young children and train them continuously and under the cruelest conditions. They will also administer drugs and growth enhancers to produce what is almost a new species. To all of the established tricks, we now have genetic engineering that potentially provides methods of making changes to a body that make it fundamentally different from other people. When that is done over many years before the individual is able to compete in a chosen sport, the evidence of the methods involved is very difficult to prove. Against that, some competitors will use prohibited drugs later in their sporting career when they can be found out and punished for abusing the rules. Having been punished with a lifetime ban from competition, some competitors use every available legal appeal to have the lifetime ban overturned. There is no correct answer to identification, evidence collection and sanction. A competitor who has broken rules they agreed to and been punished according to rules they also agreed to can hardly plead discrimination when they are dealt with as the rules provide. There may also be practical issues where drug taking creates permanent and advantageous physical changes that remain even after the competitor stops taking the drugs and creates a similar personal condition to that achieved by a totalitarian regime that abuses young children in a cruel preparation for sporting competition.
The young Chinese swimmer who achieved spectacular results has been accused by a US coach of drug abuse. It appears that the only ‘proof’ the accuser had was a belief that a competitor can only achieve minor improvement, when there are many examples of individuals suddenly achieving a physical improvement beyond all expectation by training hard, seizing every advantage in competition and not making any mistakes. It is also possible for a sudden improvement to be limited to one brief period in a person’s life, never to be repeated and it is also possible for an individual to never again achieve that level of performance. The accuser should have made a private complaint, and produced any evidence he had collected, to the scrutineers. If they double checked on the particular competitor or conducted fresh testing of everyone competing in that class of event, it would have been justified. If no one was found to have abused the rules, the private checks would not have generated any adverse publicity for any competitor, or team, or sport. As it is, the Chinese swimmer has been subjected to allegations of a serious nature and an innocent competitor may be adversely affected for further competition, suffering a loss of confidence. In that situation, should the US coach be sanctioned for unfairly affecting the performance of a competitor?