Not getting tough on drugs cheats children

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In a world when the birth of a celebrity’s child or a Royal haircut are deemed worthy of a ‘breaking’ label, it is fair to say news values have changed.

There was a time when families sat down together to watch news events such as political assassinations, moon landings, the fall of communism, the outbreak of wars, the deaths of icons and any number of terrorist atrocities such as 9/11.

Since 24-hour news conquered the world and found its way onto all manner of mediums, it is less likely future generations will be able to remember where they were when news of great importance broke.

One of my first news memories may not be an obvious one. I can vividly recall sitting in my bedroom as an 11-year-old, watching Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson sensationally smash the world record for the 100 metres in the Seoul Olympic Games.

I was mesmerised by the power and pace of the Canadian athlete, who left the rest of the stellar field trailing in a flash of red. We all now know that Johnson, like many other top performers since, was a drugs cheat and his career at the top finished there and then.

It sticks in my memory because it was the first time I’d been exposed to the murky facts of life: that certain people, even sporting superstars, cheat. These days, this avid armchair fan watches sport with cynicism, which is partly why I cannot recall being less excited by the start of a major sporting event than I am about the Rio Olympics, which begin this week.

My apathy stems from the fact that, 28 years since Johnson tarnished the reputation of elite sport, little progress has been made in eradicating drugs from sport.

Last week the International Olympic Committee damaged its reputation permanently with its baffling decision not to impose a blanket ban on the Russian team, despite an earlier report revealing it had uncovered state-sponsored doping.

The best chance to make a stand against the scourge of drugs in sport was lost forever and it is inconceivable to think there won’t be cheats taking both plaudits and medals on the podium in the coming weeks.

Sadly, it is a message which will be received loud and clear by impressionable schoolchildren everywhere.