Shaking Not Stirring Doping in Sport

Monday 9th November 2015- the revealing of a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission report into Russia and doping.

Two weeks earlier, Monday 26th October 2015- the release of the anticipated instalment of the James Bond franchise film- Spectre.

In a tongue in cheek manner, with undertones of critical thought, I see a number of parallels between the WADA independent commission and the latest James Bond film.

The WADA Independent Commission was a response to a documentary aired in Germany in 2014, evidencing and accusing Russia of systemic use of drugs in their sport program. Such accusations are becoming more frequent, especially with sports such as cycling attempting publicly to dissipate the murky cloud of performance enhancing drugs. However, the independent commission (all 325 pages of it) paint and illustrate a dramatic narrative comparable to a James Bond film.

I do not intend to argue that Dick Pound (former WADA President and lead on the commission) should be in line to audition to take over from Daniel Craig as James Bond. Or that any of the findings within the report are false. But, instead I am critical of the language used by the commission to build a particular account. The choice of which implies that doping in sport is equivalent to espionage or other black market international crime. Furthermore, there are considerable overtones of a Cold War scenario, as if Russia is still behind an iron curtain and the West must investigate their devious activities.

A couple of quotes from the report to evidence my thoughts:

  • The Independent Commission found examples of the use of false identities for purposes of evading testing (page 16).

  • There was intimidation of the doping control officers, both direct and in relation to the drug control officer’s family members (page 16).

  • The inaccuracy and non-compliance of the “whereabouts” information for Russian athletes is obstructing out-of-competition testing (page 17).

Now a quote from a scene in Spectre where M and team confront the villain C:

M: Not a good feeling being watched, is it?

C: Don’t tell me you’re responsible for this.

M: No, but my quartermaster is and he’s extremely talented.

C: Oh, bravo. But in case you hadn’t realized it, you two are out of a job so you’re trespassing.

M: I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, Max. We’re going to stop this system going online, and then I’m going to bring you in.

C: On what grounds, exactly?

M: Poor taste in friends.

The WADA report using words and phrases of false identities, intimidation and whereabouts for me irresponsibly dramatizes the report. It is similar to the Spectre extract that uses watched, trespassing and bring you in to create the drama around the situation. The report builds in stereotypes of crimes, villains and activity, rather than being, an objective and diffusing account of a sporting scenario.

Do not get me wrong, the investigation and reviewing of drugs in sport should be actively happening. However, it should not be in a war or crime description, as this spells trouble for both the individuals involved in judging and governing. But, also trouble for sports continuing defence that it is not political or mixed up in agendas that have non-sporting aims.

Wider research must be done into how and what sports organisations are doing to be transparent and tackle the evident issue of doping. Jack Anderson makes some productive points around this in an article in the Conversation, if you are interested in further points of view. My ending thought is that: commissions, reports, organisations and any other crusades against doping in sport should seek to shake up the landscape, not stir it into the realms of a crime drama.

Having written this I am off to find a decent Vodka martini.


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