Are we standing still or moving forward? (Part 1)

June 22, 2015
Baton is passed to another runner during a relay race

The cost of standing still versus the benefits of moving forward is well understood in sport. We would do well to remember this tactical advice as we respond to the harm that doping causes to sport. When athletes cheat by doping, they harm themselves, they harm their sport and they harm their fellow athletes. They also harm the individuals, communities and the country that cheers them on.

As Canada prepares to host the Toronto Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, our nation will again stand behind and support Canadian athletes striving to be the best – just as we did during the Vancouver Games of 2010.

Will the Toronto Games motivate, inspire and unite us, as the Vancouver Games did? The answer will in no small way depend on how free from doping these Games turn out to be. Such is the magnitude of the harm doping can cause. It is timely, therefore, to reflect on Canada’s history with doping to see where we came from, how far we’ve come and where we go from here. To ask ourselves the question, as a sport community and a country, are we content to stand still or are we committed to moving forward to protect our athletes’ rights to clean sport?

The 1988 Seoul Olympics and Ben Johnson’s fall from grace was a pivotal time for Canada and for sport in this country. This defining moment not only challenged our commitment to clean sport, it challenged our very character as a country. It led to the “Dubin Inquiry” and Justice Dubin’s penetrating insight that the doping issue in Canada had its roots in a sport system that had lost its moral compass. Back then, it appeared many were very comfortable with the belief that winning was all that mattered.

Justice Dubin effectively held up to us this flawed belief and challenged us to confront what was really going on:

 “If winning a gold medal in Olympic competition is the only achievement worthy of recognition, then everything else is permissible in order to win. Such a proposition is completely unacceptable. But I do not mean that we must now strive for mediocrity. We must strive for true excellence, not the hollow victory of the cheater!”

In tomorrow’s post we’ll look at Canada’s reaction to the Dubin Inquiry and where we are today.