Worldwide life bans key, says Gunnell

Former Olympic hurdles champion believes four-year doping bans aren’t enough

Posted on November 30, 2012 by
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Sally Gunnell

Sally Gunnell has warned tougher worldwide sanctions are needed to deter athletes from doping in future.

Recent plans from the World Anti-Doping Agency detail a four-year minimum suspension for athletes found guilty of using drugs such as steroids to enhance their performance.

Although Gunnell believes an increase from the current two-year minimum suspension is a step in the right direction, she continues to advocate a life ban with rules applicable across the globe.

“I’ve always had strong views about a life ban,” said the 1992 Olympic 400m hurdles champion. “I think the two years was never deterring enough. People think it’s worth the gamble because they’ll only miss the two years and can come back.

“That’s why I’m for a life ban. You want people to say ‘it’s not worth it’. I just wish the whole of the world would have the same rules as we do because I do believe we are very strict over here and you’d like to see the rules that are stuck and it’s worldwide almost.”

Speaking in a week which has seen Russian discus thrower Darya Pishchalnikova set to be stripped of her London 2012 silver medal after a second doping offence, Gunnell continued: “So many of those countries, they just think two years is worth the gamble. Because actually in those two years they can go away, train hard and come back out a better athlete.

“So it has to be four years or life, because four years, in athletics terms, you can’t return from that, you’re out of the sport for too long. I think that’s a really strong message and rightly so.”

Gunnell reinforced that the anti-doping message needs to be a strong one when you are trying to encourage youngsters to get involved in sport.

“It often worries me that in some countries there’s that culture almost through high school, especially with American football and baseball and things. You just think it’s such a wrong culture to be brought up in, as though it is almost acceptable.

“I think we have to really stick together and it has to be worldwide that you’re sending that message out. There’s no point in abusing your body and cheating because you won’t win or get away from it. I think that’s a really strong message.”

» Sally has joined forces with Sport England and cruise line Royal Caribbean International on a campaign to get more people involved in running www.royalcaribbean.co.uk/runners

One Response to “Worldwide life bans key, says Gunnell”

  1. JAGS says:

    Sally's point about career dope cheats being able to return, unfazed, after a relatively short 2 year ban is beyond argument and requires very little imagination to understand why. Pishchalnikova's outrageous case, alone, is sufficient confirmation of that. But Gunnell's kneejerk "life ban" assertion is far too old and obvious an answer when the problem she's identified clearly demands at least some imagination. It's also obvious that dope cheats no longer exist as maverick daredevils randomly playing games of do-or-dare with their careers. Doping is an advanced – practically industrialised – culture of cheating, involving many different types of people, that is extensively organised and extremely sophisticated. It, like any other illegitimate industry, exists to generate bald cash. Anyone, including the athletes concerned, who becomes involved with it is doing so for one cynical reason and one cynical reason only – to shamelessly make lots of money. The fact that winning titles and breaking records is involved is relatively immaterial. Pride in becoming a sporting champion means nothing when compared to the prospect of becoming criminally wealthy. In this sense, titles and records serve only as virtual means towards the despicable end of attracting lucrative endorsements and becoming, quite literally, filthy rich. If the money is the overwhelming incentive then it's the loss of that money (and not being stripped of titles, records or time) that must serve as the basis of a major deterrent. It's true that if we ban athletes for life then we'll remove some cheats from the sport …but only after they've cheated first! A lifetime ban will quite possibly deter a further number of individuals who might otherwise take the risk in the face of a shorter 2 year ban but it can never remove the doping industry that would continue to produce the other cheats who won't care at all about being banned if they can first get their hands on a few million dollars without fear of losing it later. After all, what's a life ban when the luxury home, the high-powered cars and the lavish holidays have already been guaranteed. The implementation of a life ban as a solution to what is, admittedly, an overwhelmingly powerful problem would nonetheless be the reaction only of someone who is more fearful than resourceful and understanding of that problem. It would ultimately solve nothing. Criminals exist because the incentive for them to function essentially remains in place …despite the level of deterrent in place.

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