Sunday, November 1, 2009

WADA’s Fahey: Agassi and the ATP Should be Accountable for Something That Happened in 1997

WADA’s Fahey: Agassi and the ATP Should be Accountable for Something That Happened in 1997

By Evan Weiner

November 1, 2009

8:30 PM EST

(New York, N. Y.) – Andre Agassi’s revelation that he used crystal meth in 1997 has attracted the attention of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), a group that was formed in 1999 in an effort to get rid of drugs in the sports world. It is not unusual for the head of WADA to run his mouth and John Fahey is certainly following in the tradition of the former head Dick Pound in barking.

In November 2005, Pound made a baseless accusation of doping in hockey. Pound estimated that a third of the players in the National Hockey League were taking enhancers. Only a handful of players have ever been suspended for drug usage

Of course there is nothing Fahey can do to Agassi but that doesn’t mean Fahey and WADA cannot complain. Agassi’s crystal meth usage took place 12 years ago and even though he tested positive for using a banned substance, a recreational drug as opposed to a performance-enhancing drug, the Association of Tennis Professionals bought his story that he drank something that was provided to him by his assistant Slim who “spiked” his drink.

Agassi was cleared of any wrong doing and resumed his career.

But WADA doesn’t want the story to end when Agassi’s autobiography hits the stands in this month. WADA would love to go after Agassi because WADA thinks it is a law enforcement agency. Pound, Fahey and others want to weed out the bad guys, the steroids, guys, the meth guys, the cocaine users and that is all well and good, but WADA is not a law enforcement group.

WADA also only has elite athletes in mind. The meth user on the street is of no concern to Fahey or Pound. They don’t sell tickets to athletic events or are compelling enough to fetch the IOC billions from American TV money and corporate sponsors. The drugged out entertainer, whether it is an actor, comedic or singer, is also of no concern to the group. They don’t sell tickets to athletic events or are compelling enough to fetch billions from American TV money and corporate sponsors.

Athletes are an elite group of people and that makes them different in the eyes of say WADA or the International Olympic Committee, a pair of non-government agencies who think they are in charge of enforcing some sort of justice in the elite athlete doping world. The International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge told Italian officials prior to the 2006 Turin Winter Games that the IOC, not Italian law enforcement officials should police the Olympic Village because the athletes were not really breaking laws by using banned substances rather they were cheating if they were taking illegal performance enhancing drugs and that the IOC should hand out punishment not Italian authorities for possessing illegal substances. Rogge and his minions felt that suspending an athlete for two years from competition was more meaningful than having a jail term.

It is the IOC’s view of the world. Cheating by an elite athlete is more of an offense than law breaking.

The IOC demands governments genuflect in front of them. Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and other world leaders have to come to IOC functions and be seen or risk not getting a chance at winning a sure money loser for taxpayers, the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee created WADA and that group provided the agency with funding. But somehow this independent agency gained funding from countries around the world beginning in 2002.

In 2003, Pound started throwing barbs at United States George W. Bush and suggested that sporting events should not be held in America because United States pro leagues were not handing out stiff enough penalties to athletes caught using banned substances and also that the Bush Administration was rather slow in sending money to the anti-doping agency.

Eventually the United States and other countries mailed their checks with payments to Pound and his gang. The Bush Administration cut what American taxpayers gave to WADA by $200,000 reducing the commitment to $800,000.

Needless to say that did not please Pound.

Pound wanted to turn the United States into a sports “pariah.”

Of course had that happened, WADA and the Olympics movement would be out of business as the International Olympic Committee lives on the dime of the American broadcast network, General Electric’s NBCUniversal has endowed Rogge’s group with billions of dollars.

It is highly unlikely that Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer would have been handing Rogge money if Rogge reduced the United States into a pariah sports state.

The IOC also has not opened negotiations for the American TV rights for the 2014 Sochi and 2016 Rio games as of yet because of the American economic collapse. The IOC figures if it waits until 2010, they might be in a better negotiating climate but Rupert Murdoch has already ruled out that his American TV network FOX will bid on the Games, NBCUniversal may be sold, Disney and ESPN may go after the rights but will the huge sums of money be available? If the answer is no that, not Mark McGwire returning to baseball to be a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, will turn America into a sports “pariah.”

Strangely enough, WADA does concede it has no power even if Pound and Fahey make demands.

The WADA website points out that “Governments have many responsibilities in the fight against doping in sport. They also have powers that sport organizations do not have.

“For example, governments can facilitate doping controls and support national testing programs: encourage the establishment of ‘best practice’ in the labeling, marketing and distribution of productions that might contain prohibited substances, withhold financial support from those who engage in or support doping, take measures against the manufacturing and trafficking of doping substances: encourage the establishment of codes of conduct for professions relating to sport and anti-doping and fund anti-doping education and research.”

WADA though has a major limitation – “Many governments cannot be legally bound by a non-governmental document such as the World Anti-Doping Code (Code). Accordingly, governments prepared the Copenhagen Declaration on Anti-Doping in Sport, a political document through which they signalled their intention to formally recognize and implement the Code through an international treaty. The Copenhagen Declaration was finalized in 2003.”

WADA is not a law enforcement agency and cannot be a law enforcement agency or can it?

WADA tramples on human rights by demanding athletes be available seven days a week and giving the agency an hour so they can do a drug test. This has not sat well with Belgium’s Sporta, a sports union, which claims that WADA has violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human rights that includes “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence” and “There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Other groups that have opposed include the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels, a group of 42 football (soccer) players associations around the globe, the Australian Cricketers Association, the international football (soccer) governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the European governing body for football (soccer), Union of European Football Associations, and a panel of the European Union which said WADA’s “whereabouts” rule might violate privacy rules.

Rogge and his cronies suspect that every athlete is a possible drug user and that invasion of privacy is not big deal.

Elite athletes are treated differently. Privacy invasion is no big deal. Perhaps Madrid lost race to land the 2016 Olympics because they have gone soft on the war on drugs in sports. Any elite athlete living in Spain doesn’t have to be bothered by WADA’s troops that come knocking on the door between 11 PM and 8 AM looking for a urine sample and there is nothing WADA can do.

It is the law in Spain.

It is no surprise that WADA wants to go after Agassi and the Association of Tennis Professions even though the group has nothing to do with what happened in 1997. That is what WADA does best, perhaps it is time that countries take the matter of doping in their own hands and let law enforcement not a bunch of old jocks and jock sniffers handle criminal activities. After all, taking an illegal substance, whether it is a steroid (which is not illegally in every country in the world and that causes another ethical problem for the IOC/WADA) or crystal meth, should be handled by law enformance not Jacques Rogge or John Fahey.

1 comment:

Greg Delaney said...

it's too bad about Agassi -- here I thought Tennis was one of the cleaner pro sports out there... looks like water polo is all there is left