Friday, November 14, 2014

Everyone at fault


Level Field

(H) Everyone at fault
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is guilty in the current doping episode involving Datuk Lee Chong Wei?
The chances are whoever stands in front of the mirror and asks the question will get the same reply: you are all guilty.
Yes, this includes the player himself, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), the National Sports Institute (NSI), the coaches, sponsors, the media and the fans themselves.
We have to get to the bottom of who administered the dexamethasone (a drug used to aid an athlete’s rehabilitation and which is permitted outside competition because it is not performance-enhancing) and when.
It is pointless looking for a scapegoat because everyone involved in Chong Wei’s preparations and recovery for competition should be held responsible.
Personally, I think the matter has been blown out of proportions and is just complicating matters.
Let’s be honest with ourselves.
Officials, coaches and associations always want their injured athletes back in competition as soon as possible. The athletes are seldom given enough time to recover through the normal process with treatment and physiotherapy.
Chong Wei, for one, has on countless occasions been required to be on the court for crucial competitions because he is our only hope for success and our back-up players are not good enough.
Now, whose fault is it that we don’t have a crop of top players but just one who is pressured to play without looking at the consequences?
Chong Wei too is to be blamed for agreeing to compete in almost every competition. Whether he had the option to skip some of the tournaments or was compelled to compete by BAM or the sponsors or he wanted the money is a question left to be answered.
The World Badminton Federation requires top ten ranked players to compete in tournaments and skipping tournaments will see them fined. But if a player is genuinely injured, he surely must be given the option to skip.
Probably, Chong Wei was under pressure to compete in the BWF World Championship in Copenhagen in August (he lost to China's Chen Long in the final), where the fiasco began after his urine sample tested positive.
He claims that he has undergone 124 doping tests over the last 15 years of playing badminton, all of which tested negative. So, he should have known better than to allow dexamethasone to be injected into him so close to or during a championship.
Maybe it was a rare case of the drug lingering in his body longer than the expected 36 to 54 hours.
Now, to call Chong Wei a cheat is indeed unfair because, for starters, dexamethasone is not a performance-enhancing drug. It is a form of medication that is widely used to aid in recovery from surgery and the fact that it is allowed to be administered by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) out of competition for rehabilitation certainly has to be taken into account.
WADA has listed out clearly all the procedures that need to be taken to handle such cases.
But almost everyone is talking about Chong Wei facing a two-year ban if found guilty.
The world-governing body imposed a provisional suspension on the player last week after his B sample also tested positive due to an adverse analytical finding.
The BWF has referred the matter to its doping hearing panel and in due course, the chair of the panel will set the time, date and location for a hearing.
The panel will determine whether or not the athlete violated an anti-doping regulation.
So, let us just wait for the hearing. With his unblemished image and the fact that the drug was an anti-inflammatory substance, Chong Wei could just be given a reduced sentence or even let off the hook with a severe warning.
Whatever happens, let’s give Chong Wei a chance to prove his innocence, or ignorance in this particular case, and see what the BWF hearing panel decides.
Chong Wei, in the meantime, should take this whole ugly episode in his stride as much as it is troubling and stressful. He should come out of this a stronger person and prove all his critics wrong.
If a reduced suspension is meted out, he should use the time to recharge himself and come back even stronger and try to complete some of his unfinished business, including winning the Olympic gold medal.
It will not be an impossible task for the player, who is known for his discipline, dedication and determination.
But if ever Chong Wei decides to call it quits, he would indeed be a disappointed man as he will bow out a tainted player after all the achievements he has under his belt.
But whatever decision he makes must be respected for he has given so much to this nation all these years.
Meantime, this episode should serve as a timely warning to not only badminton but all others sports – the national associations cannot depend on just one or two players and ‘abuse’ them. They have to seriously undertake development programmes for a constant flow of athletes to carry our flag.
Just look at China. In any sports, they have a pool of players who can become world champions any time.
So, let us all take the blame for what has happened to Chong Wei and not allow something like this to happen again.
TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than three
decades of experience and is ­­­­­
passionate about local sports. He
can be reached at tmariadass@ Twitter handle: @

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