Honesty a saving grace

Just as the Ebola virus equals death and Adolf Hitler equals evil, Canadian athlete surely equals steroid-riddled fiend–at least since 1988. That’s Ben Johnson’s grim legacy to this nation, and it’s an image Canadian athletes have since done their best to escape.

For the most part, they’ve done a good job. Canada had a very good record until its second high-profile embarrassment, snowboarder Ross Rebagliati. Rebagliati did not use steroids, but he had traces of marijuana in his system following a surprise gold medal victory at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Most of us laughed, even said that he deserved two gold medals for flying down the hill stoned. However, this was not a funny matter when considering the reputation of Canadian snowboarders and Canadian athletes on the whole.

Since then, Canada has taken many steps to avoid future embarrassments. One look at the ongoing Commonwealth Games shows us how serious Canadians are about drugs. For example, triathlete Kelly Guest tested positive for Nandrolone, exceeding the allowable limit by 1.06ng/ml. As Guest himself stated, that is not a lot. However, Triathlon Canada and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport conducted the test following a July 14, 2002 track meet and blew the whistle on their own athlete. Guest was told to come home from the Commonwealth Games before he ever got a chance to compete.

Rugby player Fred Asselin blew the whistle on himself when he suspected his toothache medicine may have contained a banned substance. He too stayed home, and his case came before the aforementioned Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport which deemed there was no infraction.

Compare and contrast with the rest of the world. How many would expect the Americans, the Russians or the Chinese to police their own? Do we see the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation take action against its "athletes" or "doctors?"

When it comes to a tough stance against doping, Canadian officials are in a league of their own. This is a combination of Ben Johnson-induced morality and a strange (by world standards) commitment to honesty ahead of results. And even though Kelly Guest provided Canada with minor embarrassment, we should not look at their cases in a negative light. We should instead look at Guest and Asselin as a triumph for morality and ethics in sport, a triumph possible in Canada and perhaps nowhere else.

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