Thursday, 30 August 2007

Olympic Role model or British Embarrassment

I have posted my latest blog entry over at the Wardman Wire...

Until yesterday you probably hadn’t heard of Christine Ohuruogu – I certainly hadn’t. It may be that you still haven’t! Christine Ohuruogu is our first female athlete to win a gold medal in a sprint track and field event for so many years hardly anyone can remember. Woo and yay for her – it is about time Britain had a female role model to look up to in the extra-ordinarily competitive world of sprinting. Only Paula Radcliffe can claim to have had any success in recent years for the female team (though the men aren’t doing much better – in fact this year they are doing worse). So let’s build her up and get the 2012 meddle haul up based upon success stories like Christine. Only there is a small problem…

Until just over three weeks ago Ms Ohuruogu was serving a 12 month ban from athletics for missing three – count them, three – drugs tests. Now rules is rules and if you miss a test you are presumed guilty and I can see no other way. She deserved her ban. What is most confusing is that she managed to miss three tests. An air of suspicion is surely going to hang over her for the rest of her career. Imagine if this was a Chinese or Russian athlete. We would be shouting foul play so loud they would hear us in Shanghai or Moscow. So why the difference just because she is an honest, plucky Brit? Now I don’t want to be the one to poor cold water over her achievement, but she was found guilty, 2012 Olympics or no 2012 Olympics, surely we can find a more clean cut role model than Christine Ohuruogu? The press are reporting the whole affair as some kind of redemption – as if by now winning we can all forget the past. But the fact that she has only been back for three weeks and already beaten the best the world has to offer only adds to the suspicion for me. Would we forget the past if say Ben Johnson had returned and started winning medals again against our own Linford Christie back in the 1990s?

Gordon Brown doesn’t seem to mind. He faxed her after the race (I know: faxed, how old fashioned is he?) with the words “You have made the whole of Britain proud and I now hope you can go on to win gold together in the relay.” Should we be ashamed of this hollow victory or should we be backing an outstanding achievement? As a massive supporter of all British athletes this one doesn’t sit too comfortably with me at all and I am in two minds as to whether she should be reinstated to the Olympic team.

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