The Curious Case of Dwain Chambers

The University of Buckingham hosted a very interesting public debate last Thursday [19 July 2012] on the issue of performance enhancing substances and methods in sport. I had the honour of chairing this debate and be part of the panel which comprised of my two esteemed colleagues, Professor Geoffrey Alderman and Professor bob Watt [who prefers to use a small 'b' for his first name!]. My two colleagues fully analysed the moral and ethical issues in favour and against the use of performance enhancing substances and answered questions from the public. 

Dwain Chambers
The discussion inevitably focused on the ability of sporting governing bodies to regulate sport and the surrounding issues were explicitly illustrated with the complicated and controversial use of the example of  sprinter Dwain Chambers. Both colleagues analysed their case in the most eloquent and persuasive way. Professor Alderman's submissions centred around the notion of individual liberty and one's ability to make choices, without any form of extreme paternalistic interference, whereas Professor Watt fully explained that the intentional cheating in sport must be punished with the utmost harshness the regulations of the relevant sporting governing body allow.

It is this last point of Professor Watt's analysis that offers me the opportunity to expand further on this discussion. In the Dwain Chambers case, the regulations did not offer the opportunity to BOA to preclude the athlete from a further participation in the Olympics. Their relevant Bye-Law may have incorporated such preclusion, but, at the same time, BOA had ratified the WADA Code and they were, therefore, bound by it. Under the circumstances, where a conflict exists between the national regulation [BOA Bye-Law] and the international regulation [WADA Code], the international regulation prevails. The acceptance of the WADA Code and its ratification by the BOA, had created a contractual relationship and a binding agreement that the BOA had to follow. CAS simply interpreted this binding agreement and explained that rules may be interpreted purposefully and not pedantically.

Court of Arbitration for Sport

The above argument also serves as a catalyst for the submission that self-regulation does not always offer  sporting bodies immunisation from judicial intervention. As CAS suggested, this is not a moral question as to whether an athlete should be allowed to return to competition, upon completion of their ban. This is a question of a purposeful and equal application of the regulatory framework. CAS certainly made the case that if sporting bodies wish to preclude previously banned athletes from the Olympics, they should create appropriate rules that clearly describe their aim and sanctions.

Finally, I noted with immense interest the point made by Professor Watt in his closing speech. This point suggested that Dwain Chambers intentionally cheated his way through to victory, precluded other athletes from an opportunity to taste such victory and as such he must be banned forever. It is not my intention to disagree or agree with Professor Watt. But I would like my readers to examine the situation where Dwain Chambers may have only cheated other cheaters on his way to glory...

Think about it...

Dr Gregory Ioannidis

21 July 2012


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