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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 20:56 GMT 21:56 UK
Was Radcliffe right to protest?
Britain's Paula Radcliffe made the headlines with her trackside protest against Olga Yegorova's participation in the 5000m at the World Championships.
Was Radcliffe right to demonstrate her outrage so openly?
Paula Radcliffe was watching the 5000m heats in Edmonton.
But the British athlete wasn't there to admire the show and turned up with a prominent placard reading 'EPO cheats out'.
Her outrage was directed at Olga Yegorova.
The Russian runner tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug last month but was reinstated by the IAAF due to a legal blunder.
All eyes and cameras turned to the cardboard, homemade sign but security officials stepped in to take it away.
Was Paula's banner the best way to express her opinion?
Freedom of speech for Paula Radcliffe, perhaps she could complain that the security people infringed her rights. But then perhaps she doesn't quite realise that 'innocent until proven guilty' is also a right.....
As captain of the GB women's team, Paula had a duty to protest as she did. She has long been a campaigner for clean sport. We should support her efforts - for the future of sport.
Paula has every right to protest but I fear that EPO is an unfortunate face of life in modern track & field. For every athlete caught, many more are slipping through the net. The IAAF's programme is too little, too late.
The behaviour of Paula and Szabo and the rest is shameful. One would think that athletes should either sympathise with their colleagues in such circumstances or just keep quiet and concentrate on their sport. We know these tests have been proven wrong in the past! As the saying goes, what goes around comes around, and who knows who is going to be next to find themselves in such a situation!
This is no different than any other doping case. Although I agree with Paula's protest, I would have preferred to see Yegerova running round the track on her own. Doping gives any individual an unfair advantage, over someone who is clean. To escape a ban by a technicality is also common when law gets involved. It is infuriating to see this happen so often as it naturally favours the offender.
It is time to make sure that any athlete who is found guilty of doping receives an automatic lifetime ban, and the scratching of all previous performances. Perhaps by making the punishment fit the crime it will make an athlete think before taking drugs.
These top athletes should win on their own strength not on the strength of drugs although there have been times where athletes have taken medication that was not known to them to be a banned substance.
Any athlete who plays fair and follows the rules of their sport has a right to become angry when others cheat. Even more so when the officials knowingly fail to enforce those rules!
Paula's placard merely stated what everybody who is interested in athletics wants - a clean sport. Her message is aimed not only at Yegerova, but at all drugs cheats in athletics. It is unsurprising that her placard was taken away, as it seems that the IAAF want to keep this issue as quiet as possible. Her stance is not, as some people below have suggested, one of sour grapes, but one which needs to be embraced by both the athletes and the governing body.
I think Paula has taken one step too far on this occasion. I believe she was right to protest but not in the manner she has conducted herself. She should get on with her race instead of protesting and demoralising other athletes. She should be a sportsman and let the IAAF do the testing.
Paula seemed to be more intense when she was with the banner than she was when she was racing. Like most British sports-people, she needs to get her attitude right or not get selected. She has received massive media coverage for laughing behind a banner but she came fourth in the event that she went to Canada to compete in.
Paula has demonstrated courage and determination equal to her 10,000m attempts. Her efforts can only be beneficial to everybody, not just for the benefit of their opponents. Being a distance runner myself, I know the hard training involved to be a quality athlete, and those who cut corners by taking drugs must be ousted.
Will Ross, Scotland
Great Britain has had its fair share of alleged drug cheats in athletics. Of course, the difference between British drug use and the rest of the world is that our athletes are all innocent! Frankly, none of us can be really sure who is and who isn't taking drugs in all sports - therefore I just always assume that the majority of finalists have some sort of chemical assistance and so it's a fairly level playing field. Cynical? Maybe, but I still enjoy watching most of the events - it's great theatre - all that human emotion and drama. Paula should take a peep at the women's world records in every event. Could she name one that (in her criteria) she would be confident calling clean?
It's hard not to be sympathetic with Paula's protest and the general tone of comments seems to suggest public support. Of course, the 'drugs cheat' in this case is a foreign athlete, but would Paula still have been protesting if it had been one of her own team members. As team captain she would have an interesting conflict between supporting an athlete who claims to be innocent and isn't yet proven guilty, whilst also trying to bring about summary 'justice'. It wouldn't be a good position for the GB captain to find herself in.
Not content with making a fool of herself on the track, Radcliffe managed to do the same off it. This was one of the most pitiful protests I can ever remember - a 'crowd' of two with a tatty banner shouting at the track. Are we saying all the other countries were not bothered or could it perhaps be they were making more appropriate but less public forms of protest.
It's about time the athletes reacted against the cheats in a more positive way and the officials should not let these athletes get away with technical faults and make sure that all tests are done in the correct way so that such predicaments do not arise in the future.
It seems ironic that most of the people who have criticised Paula accuse her of being unsportsmanlike. And taking drugs to enhance your performance isn't? The Russian tested positive for a banned substance and only escaped a ban on a technicality. Of course she was right, the IAAF should be ashamed of themselves and so should those people who have criticised her.
If the athletics authorities were half as devoted to getting rid of the drugs problem as the likes of Paula Radcliffe are, there would not be a problem. How it is possible for a multi-million pound sport to spend £1000 per test and still get incorrectly carried out tests is beyond me. If those who are critical of an athlete who holds up a placard cannot see the harm that drugs will do to the sport, perhaps they'd like to see races between teams of pharmacists rather than athletes. As soon as Paula announces her retirement, put her in charge of the IAAF's testing programme.
What people seem to have forgotten is that Olga failed the EPO drug test and this substance cannot be made in the body like nandralone can. Olga is guilty of a doping offence and if it were not for the incompetence of the lab in France she would, quite rightly, have been banned. All of the clean athletes in this race have now been put at a disadvantage due to Olga's blatant cheating. Paula was absolutely right to make her protest and she had the guts to say what all the other clean athletes were thinking.
Of course she was right,
but that should be the end of it in public. A festering feud between competitors would be great copy for the media but would not be in any sport's long-term interest.
Paula should do what she can through official channels and by encouraging other athletes to boycott events (on and off the track) that invite recognised cheats.
But this must be done privately.
Good on you Paula! You should be applauded for standing up for what you believe in. The drug testing system has to be sorted out, and blood testing must be introduced.
Of course Paula was right to protest in the way she did, which demonstrates that she is as courageous off the track as she is on it. She has a long history of attempting to persuade the IAAF to introduce compulsorily blood tests in order to weed out the cheats, so it's entirely unfair and churlish to accuse her of a cheap publicity stunt. It is also entirely to the discredit of the IAAF that they continue to drag their feet on this issue
It was an excellent way of bringing publicity to a disgraceful state of affairs. When are the authorities going to accept their responsibilities and stop cheats from using technicalities to worm their way back into top-class athletics. The damage that this kind of thing does to the sport's image is incalculable.
Paula has expressed her opinions
before and made little difference. The
world certainly noticed this and with
luck something will be done.
Well done Paula.
No, I don't think that was the best way to express her opinion. I am sure all the people have heard about something called 'sportsmanship'. If there was a point Paula wanted to prove against some bad decisions by the IAAF, then she should have proved it by winning the race and not by some banner. Nobody likes the fact that Olga was allowed to run though she was tested positive or whatever, but is that the way to react for an athlete of her calibre? Shame on you Paula.
It's a shame that sportsmen and women are moved to act in this way. It looks a bit like sour grapes and unsporting and it is hardly the kind of image athletics wants to portray. However, Radcliffe's point is wholly valid and I'd have done the same. To stop her doing what she did, they should tackle doping and cheats, not merely take her placard away.
I admired Paula's protest as it was courageous. It was considerate to her fellow competitors taking part in the race she attended and it seems common sense to say that until sports' governing bodies really get to grips with cheating, the only people to benefit are the cheats themselves. It isn't just the honest competitors being cheated, it's the general public, who want to see fair competition.
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