Tag Archives: drugs

Frighten them, drug them or shock them… (Women’s Voice, 1977)

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MY PROBLEMS had their origin in my upbringing – of course.

The initial damage was done at home, and then it was reinforced by years of being a ‘charity’ pupil in a convent. There every flickering of individuality and independent thought was crushed as a matter of policy.

My doctor sent me to an ‘expert’ because I was having crying fits after having two operations in a year, and because I suffered from lapses of awareness. I would ‘come to’ in the middle of the road, feeling lost and disoriented.

I wonder how many years of training it took to create this expert on mental health? I wonder how big a salary he gets for saying, as he said to me, ‘You’re a student, eh? Fancy teachings about sociology and psychology, eh? I suppose they’ve been teaching you that freedom stuff. I don’t hold with that. What you are is genetically determined. There’s nothing I can do for you.’

The sum time of that bit of ‘treatment’ was two minutes, including the time it took me to go in and out of the room.

When I left that ‘psychiatric unit’ I walked straight in front of a car. I can remember the screeching brakes. I remember feeling grazed and hearing shouting, but to this day I don’t know where I was for the next 89 hours.

I had to leave the degree course I was on – and I’d grafted years at night-school to get on that course.

I struggled through a few years of mundane office and factory work with the help of fags and booze and occasional drugs. Then I just caved in.

I found I would just work and then go home to bed. I spent my weekends in bed. I was unwilling to go near the medical profession because from experience I knew they had three basic solutions to people’s problems: frighten them, drug them, shock them.

Eventually I became unable to get out of bed at all, and my husband called in the doctor. He gave me drugs which left me in constant sleep.

When I took overdoses, the hospital doctor asked me if I didn’t feel silly putting them to all that trouble. I told him that I used to be an auxiliary nurse and that I knew he might be overworked, but it was no good trying to make me feel guilty about that! I guessed from his reaction that he wasn’t used to such an attitude in his patients.

I turned to private ‘therapists’, who didn’t know an arse from an elbow, but who certainly knew a ten pound note from a fiver.

Then three things happened.

I read the books of Arthur Janov, where he describes that human beings are not naturally destructive, aggressive, grasping and frantic. It’s the way we are screwed up that causes us to suppress our true nature and needs – leading to tension and neurosis. Uninterfered with, we would be peaceful and co-operative. We survive at the price of conformity to false, imposed values, the values of those who have power over us.

The second thing that happened to me was that I met a woman psychologist who wasn’t interested in lining her pockets. She related to people as feeling individuals with unmet needs, not as morally inferior deviants who threaten society’s order.

The third thing was the construction of a ‘shelter’ of mattresses and bedding where, in cushioned, sound-proofed surroundings, I can experience all those suppressed pains of stifled individuality and needs.

The more I experienced the suppressed ME, the more I got rid of the imposed muck.

A warning though, this shouldn’t be undertaken without some supervision. It’s a long and painful process. But where are people to have such treatment and be psychologically liberated?

Where are the ‘feeling-centres’ where in-touch therapists can assist us? Where we do most of the treatment ourselves, helping each other to feel and express our most deep-felt needs, so they are no longer blocked and filling us with tension?

Such an approach calls for taking away much of the almighty power and control of the doctors and ‘experts’. That needs to be done. It is our lives, our sanity that are threatened. It is our needs to be whole and happy human beings. Treatment should be in our interests, with our full and willing participation.

I’ve spent two years slowly and painfully dismantling the phoney me that was conditioned into being for the sake of survival and acceptance. I’ve come a long way. During that time I’ve read Socialist Worker and other socialist publications, keeping in touch with the struggles against repression and for freedom, more and more convinced of the necessity for people to control their own lives.

The freedom of the capitalists stinks. It’s the selling out of true individuality to the man-made symbols of profit and prestige – the ‘freedom’ to crush one’s fellow beings.

The we’ll-provide-it-for-you reformers have missed the point.

Freedom isn’t given. Freedom is what we naturally and automatically have, individually and socially, until someone starts defining our freedom for us and imposing their own limitations on its expression.

By Marie, from Manchester

Women’s Voice 12, December 1977

Johnson, Maradona, Tyson: defiance through sport

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Guest post by Sam Grove

Today is the 25th anniversary of Ben Johnson’s run of 9.79 at the Seoul Olympics; a race in many ways more glorious and shocking than Usain Bolt’s 100m in Beijing or his 9.58 run a year later in Berlin. If Bolt had both races won within 50 meters, Johnson had destroyed the field within 10 meters. Caught up in the exhilaration of the race I took a look at the splits for Johnson and Bolt’s respective records

Bolt_Johnson

Reaction Time 0.146_0.132

0-10m                1.89_1.83

10-20m              0.99_1.04

20-30m              0.90_0.93

30-40m              0.86_0.86

40-50m              0.83_0.84

50-60m              0.82_0.83

60-70m              0.81_0.84

70-80m              0.82_0.85

80-90m              0.83_0.87

90-100m            0.83_0.90

=                          9.58_9.79

There are a number of things to note from these splits:

– Johnson would have had a lead of 0.07 seconds translating to approximately 0.7m after just 10metres. It was the greatest start in the history of the 100m.

– However Johnson’s lead was down to 0.02 seconds at the 20m mark, approximately 0.2m. That is Bolt pulled back half a meter on Johnson in just 10 meters.

– From 10m mark onwards Bolt took 3 meters off of Johnson.

– Johnson’s pick up was what won him the race in Seoul. From 30-60m he was almost stride for stride with Bolt. He left his rivals, Carl Lewis among them, completely behind in those 30m.

– Bolt’s 60-70m is the fasted 10meters anyone has ever run (0.81). By quite a margin. The fastest anyone else has ever gone is 0.83.

Of course the statistics don’t tell the whole story; or at least not in Johnson’s case. The story of Bolt’s race really did last less than ten seconds. Johnson’s run in Seoul had a prologue and postscript which prolonged its narrative for many years. The story arguably began back in the 1984 Olympics when the rivalry with Lewis started (Johnson was run into third place by Lewis), and continued to build over the next four years culminating in their last ever race together. The story then obviously continued when Johnson failed a drugs test a couple of days later. Arguably the story continues today as the shadow cast over the sport has not gone away. If anyone ever runs faster than 9.58 Bolt’s legend will be tarnished. Johnson’s notoriety is timeless.

If I was ever to write a book about sport it would be to draw upon the elective affinity between Mike Tyson, Diego Maradona, and Ben Johnson. All three were short explosive men that would literally tear through much larger taller men. Watching Johnson run, Tyson fight, and Maradona play football is unlike anything else their respective sport has ever seen. Before or since. It isn’t beautiful, its obscene.

Their sporting peaks were as shocking as much as beautiful, as outrageous as they were dominant. Maradona’s finest hour was the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. In the quarter final against England the first goal was brazen, the second majestic. England were left cheated and humiliated. Tyson’s destruction of Michael Spinks a couple of months before Johnson’s run in Seoul lasted for about as much time. Within twenty seconds the referee, Frank Capuccino, was already warning Tyson for throwing elbows. A minute later Spinks was down for the first time in his career. Seconds later he was down for the second time and lying through the ropes. If Johnson in hindsight had the race won in 10m, that wasn’t the expectation. Everyone knew Johnson had a great start, but Lewis was the fastest finisher in the world. For Johnson to have extended his lead over Lewis from 30-70m was impertinent.

Their performances were as much defined by the manner of their opponents defeat. The two moments that stand out in the England/Argentina quarter final were the wretched look on the England manager Bobby Robson’s face when the referee awarded the first goal, and Peter Reid’s somnambulation for Maradona’s second goal. If many experts had picked Spinks to win before the fight, they weren’t by the time the fighters touched gloves. Spinks had the look of a man condemned giving the iconic end picture a sense of inevitability. Lewis was so flustered by Johnson’s start that he twice ran out of his lane. If the defining moment of Johnson’s career was his raising his hand in victory with 10meters to go, what made it so emphatic was the anguish on Lewis’s face as he looked across to witness Johnson’s celebration.

All three performances were within a two year period of each other. It was the latter half of the 1980s when the commercialisation of sport was really taking off. All three represented huge commercial prospects, but none of them were equipped to handle what this entailed. These were basically young troubled kids from very poor backgrounds. Tyson grew up in the notorious district of Brownsville in Brooklyn New York where from a young age he had got into trouble with gangs. Johnson was a Jamaican immigrant living in Canada who had turned to sprinting as a defence against being bullied. Maradona was from a shanty town in Lanus, with an indigenous heritage. All three had their problems with drugs. Johnson infamously so. Maradona was also on steroids from an early age and then was a cocaine addict for most of his career. He was sent home from the ’94 World Cup in similar circumstances to Johnson. Tyson was a drug addict for his whole career (although there isn’t any evidence he used performance enhancing drugs).

All three saw themselves as outsiders to the sports that wanted to make them their public face. And of course they were outsiders. Despite being money making machines the authorities quickly became highly ambivalent about them; an ambivalence that climaxed with their peak performances. They had provided the defining moments of their respective sports for a generation, but the authorities were not prepared to accept them. Tyson had originally been marketed as the troubled kid come good. By the time he fought Spinks and with a host of tabloid scandals behind him he was ‘the baddest man on the planet’. Maradona had only recently left Barcelona having fallen out with the president. This was his last game for the club. The scandal surrounding Johnson began at the 1987 World Championships. Upset at the manner of his defeat, Lewis, the biggest name in the sport, initially claimed that Johnson had false-started, then complained of a stomach virus, before finally making this famous allegation—‘There are a lot of people coming out of nowhere. I don’t think they are doing it without drugs.’ It later transpired that Lewis himself had failed a drugs test the following Olympic year. The golden boy of athletics kept his gold medal.

Johnson, Tyson and Maradona were far more comfortable playing the roles of rebels. Tyson and Maradona embraced this status in a much more overt political way than Johnson ever did. Both sport Che Guevara tattoos and have spoken out harshly against racism and imperialism respectively. Johnson kept to the micropolitics of his sport – claiming, with some justification, that he was a scapegoat for a problem that is endemic.

The Seoul Olympics spelled the end for Johnson as a competitive sprinter. He made a forlorn attempt to make a comeback in 1992 only to stumble in the heats. Maradona enjoyed a few more successful years with Napoli before being effectively chased out of Italy and then Spain. Tyson defended his title a couple of times, before succumbing to the greatest upset in boxing history when he was knocked out by a 40-1 underdog. In the same year that Johnson retired and Maradona left Napoli, Tyson was convicted of the rape of Desiree Washington, an 18 year old beauty contestant from Rhode Island. She was just 18 years old. Her treatment, both by Tyson and subsequently by the media (who having spent years character assassinating Tyson were suddenly hellbent on closing ranks behind him) casts light on some of the contradictions within the concept of “defiance” presented here and serves as a reminder that the roles of victim and victimizer aren’t invariable. By the time he came out of prison he was a shadow of his former self.

Of course Maradona, Johnson and Tyson defeated themselves. No one made them take drugs or commit rape. However the drug addictions they were afflicted by and the violence at least Tyson inflicted were symptoms of a larger system of exploitation they were born into. When they became athletes they encountered this same system only more intimately. Their sports chewed them up and spat them out. What is more, all three of them understood this. This meant that even at their peak, when they had the appearance of being unstoppable, their display of power and domination had an element of defiance and rebellion to it. For one summer’s day in Seoul, Mexico City and New Jersey the tables had been turned—‘three small men tearing through much larger opponents’ is both graphic depiction and political metaphor. It is this that makes them and their performances so compelling.

Dwain Chambers: why BOA lost

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Geneva has now published the reasons for its decision in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s complaint against the British Olympic Association (BOA). The case was WADA’s complaint against BOA rules that ban an athlete caught taking drugs for life. WADA said these rules are unhelpful, and it was inappropiate for different national associations to divert from the global rules set out in the World Anti-Doping Code which precribe a two-year ban. The case, as will be clear from the above summary (and contrary to the impression given by the UK press in particular), was not brought by Dwain Chambers, who did judicially review the BOA prior to the 2008 Olympics, but lost at an interim hearing (the litigation is described in detail in Chamber’s memoirs, about which I’ve posted before; the decision itself is on bailii here). 

But Dwain Chambers is the best-know athlete whose current Olympic ban will be determined by the CAS proceedings, and for that reason it’s worth recalling the context to his current ban. Chambers is 34. His best distance is the 100 metres and his fastest time was recorded in 1999, at 9.97 seconds. He came fourth at the Sydney 2000 summer Olympics. In August 2003, Chambers tested positive for Tetrahydrogestrinone (“THG”) a banned substance. Chambers admitted to using THG, indeed went further and admitted to having used it for 18 months before it was detected, with a cocktail of six other banned drugs: testosterone/epitestosterone cream; erythropoietin; insulin; human growth hormone; modafinil; and liothyronine.

The drugs were administered to him as a salve (“the clear” – THG) and a cream (“the cream” – testosterone). Chambers was advised by other athletes not to take drugs, but ignored their advice. He lied about drugs use to his friends, even his physiotherapist. And the drugs had a relatively modest effect. They did not directly increase his body mass, but they enabled him to recover faster from heavy work and thus train dramatically harder. After 18 months of drugs use and an intensified fitness regime, Chambers was able to reduce his best time over 100  metres from 9.97 to 9.87 seconds. As a result of his positive test, Chambers was stripped of all the medals he won during the period when he ran on drugs. He reimbursed over £100,000 in prize money he won during the period of his drugs use.

After his ban ended he returned to athletics in the 2006 season and won gold with the 4 x 100 relay team at the European Championships. After an unhappy spell during which he experimented with becoming a professional athlete in other sports, in 2008 he returned to track athletics and he won the silver medal in the World Indoor Games. He won a gold over 60 metres at the 2010 World Indoor Championships and silver in the European event in 201o. Chambers is fast; no so fast that he will win the Olympics if selected, but fast enough so that he has a realistic expectation of making the final.

I’ve written before previously – here and here – that I hoped WADA would win its case and Chambers woudl be selected. My reasoning was essentially this: that Chambers has admitted his guilt and apologised for it. It is clear from his memoirs that he is honest about the reasons he took drugs and he has insight into the selfishness and stupidity of that original decision. Where a person is contrite, I believe their punishment shoudl be less. And I find his case morally no worse, but if anything rather more sympathetic than the myriad British athletes, in many different sports, who have found ways to avoid drugs tests.

Chambers, in his memoirs, makes much of the hypocrisy of certain former athletes who have campaigned against him – he names in particular Lord Moynihan, the (other) 2nd-rate Conservative politican at the head of UK sport, whose record within British rowing, Chambers argues, is very different from the simple anti-drugs stance Moynihan takes when asked about Chambers. He gives other examples, some of which I have also used in my previous piece.

The decision

Reading the judgment, the following considerations struck me:

Although the BOA ban is officially, an immediate life-time ban, without exception (para 8.24), for all UK athletes caught taking drugs, in practice the rule is applied leniently in the extreme against athletes who say that they failed a drug test accidentally: 24 of the last 25 athletes who have sought to challenge the ban have been successful. (para 2.7)

The effect of appealing to the BOA is to generate relatively minor sanctions – Christine Ohurougu who failed to attend 3 drugs tests was punished with just a one year ban (para 2.8).

CAS’s position is that in order to get all national bodies to implement the anti-doping codes, it is better to have a single consistent sanction rather than a multitude of different rules, “the international anti-doping movement has recognized the crucial importance of aworldwide harmonized and consistent fight against doping in sport” (para 8.41). Under the present system, it followed, BOA had to lose.

Finally, my own view: I have already stated my opposition to the present ban. The one real relevation for me, on reading the judgment, was the generosity of the BOA to other UK athletes who have appealed. This does reinforce the sense I had already that Chambers was being treated differently – not because he was a drug cheat, but because he admitted that he did something wrong.

In the tabloid-generated ethical universe that is British sport, it is better to deny cheating and to give a shallow and unconvincing excuse than to face your fault directly. Chambers’ route is a different one. Personally, I would rather live in a moral universe that allowed for both fault and contrition.

Dwain Chambers and the politics of drugs use

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The Mail and the Guardia are reporting this morning that the World Anti-Doping Agency has won its challenge the British Olympic Association’s lifetime ban on some athletes found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs. Knowing that the decision was due, I recently read Dwain Chambers’ biography Race Against Me.

I write “some” deliberately. Of course, the BOA would strenuously deny that it applied its policy selectively. One compelling theme of Chambers’ book however is the arbitrariness of the BOA’s enforcement of the ban. He shows that where a person accused of drug use tells the BOA that a banned substance was in their body accidentally, as a result of a one-off fluke (which was Linford Christie’s line in both 1988 and 1999) or insists that they had innocent motives for repeatedly missing drugs tests (e.g. Christine Ohuruogu), the BOA does not impose a life-time ban. In practice, the ban is applied only to that smaller group of athletes who accept and admit their guilt.

The lawyer in me knows that there are all sorts of reasons why you might get to this situation. If a person says that they deliberately took drugs then the wrong they have committed is greater than that of someone who did so accidentally. In court cases about motive, juries always struggle to deciphere what a person intended. Because a positive drugs test will inevitably lead to suspension, it is usually open to any drugs user to say they were caught the very first time they cheated. Without a culture of whistleblowing in the sport, inevitably decision-makers have to take what they are told with a certain degree of trust.

But, however you get there, it’s offensive to penalise those who admit to drug taking while not penalising those (not Christie, of course, and not Ohuruogo, but others must exist) who take drugs and falsely deny that they did so deliberately.

The most interesting sections of the book are the one which deal with Chambers’ motives for drug-taking. A key moment for him was the 2001 World Championships at Edmonton, at which an injured Maurice Green won the 100 metres with a time of 9.82 seconds (three hundredths of a second outside his own world record), with another American Tim Montgomery in third. Chambers describes thinking: “By the time I’d run the first twenty metres I was done! What was happening? Within those first twenty metres the Americans Maurice Green and Tim Montgomery had taken yards out of the field … What were the Americans doing that I wasn’t?”

The following year, Chambers accepted an invitation to work with a Miami-based coach Remi Korchemny: as he explains the decision, to catch up with the American sprinters. Kirchemny introduced him in turn to the nutritionist Victor Conte, who told Chambers “You need pharmacology, Dwain.”

John Regis warned Chambers but he refused to listen.

Chambers met Conte again and told him that he had been clean all his life. Conte’s replied; “They’re cheating you, Dwain … You’re a very talented athlete, but you are not competing on a level playing field, my friend. Most of the top sprinters are on steroids; every time you race them, you are at a disadvantage.”

Chambers recalls: “I was thinking I had been conned and cheated; I felt as if I’d been mugged off since I’d started competing as a junior. At that point in the proceedings I was seething and I was thinking how many medals and how many championships I’d been cheated out of because the men who I was running against had been able to train harder, longer and smarter than me. thanks to the help of THG and other undetectable substances.”

Reading this passage, I believe it is an honest description of the mental state of false victimhood which allows someone to cheat, steal, etc. It’s not an attractive admission – on Chambers’ own account, he did not quiz Conte on what he was saying, but accepted it as truthful (when probably it is not). In all of this, Chamberlain, was very clearly lying to himself. As people do.

Chambers says that in 18 months of drug use he was training harder than he ever had before, but his track best for the 100 metres was reduced by just 0.1 seconds, from 9.97 to 9.87 seconds. This is the sort of improvement that a sprinter might well achieve anyway, by training and competing at the top level for an extra year.

A number of people come out badly from this book. One is Seb Coe, who Chambers describes as having encouraged him privately, before later condemning him publicly, in order to play up to the image the media likes to have of him.

The BOA apparatus also comes over badly. Chambers says that he made considerable efforts to offer his, and Conte’s, services in order to give drugs testers an insight into the techniques used by drugs cheats and to improve enforcement. The BOA took no interest in his offer. It may be that they felt that they already knew all they could need to know about the circumstances of his drugs use. Chambers’ own conclusion is while athletics officials undoubtedly care about their sport looking clean, they do not care in the least about the actuality of drugs use.

I hope, as I’ve written before, that the challenge to the BOA life-time succeeds. I do so because in my professional life I am confronted repeatedly with people who are punished more than once for a wrongdoing which they acknowledge (people who are jailed and lose their house, people who do something stupid and lose access to their child), and I am very strongly of the view that – in general – people should get second chances.

But there’s more to it than that.

Let me end with what may seem like a detour, but isn’t:

In my teens I began to read up on the history of the British left. Imagine my disappointment to discover that the first British Marxist, Henry Myers Hyndman, was a former stockbroker and that Hyndman’s standard device when he spoke to public audiences was to attend dressed in a frock coat and top hat. Hyndman would thank the audience for so generously supporting “my class”, i.e. the boss class. But socialism, if it is to mean anything, should mean the majority of people taking control of their lives. How could they do this, if they had to be led by a boasting toff? Hyndman’s approach struck me as flagrantly wrong.

Somewhere around my mid-thirties, my view of Hyndman changed. I didn’t stop being a socialist; I hadn’t read any more of Hyndman’s work. The penny that dropped was rather this: Hyndman was far from the only middle-class socialist in the 1880s or 1890s (his party the Social Democratic Federation included at various times George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells and dozens more of a similar stripe). The style of most left-wing journalists, teachers, etc was – even then – to “prole up”, speaking in regional accents, emphasising their supposed personal poverty (think Ken Livingstone’s tax affairs but 120 years earlier), etc. Hyndman could not by himself solve the problems of poverty and class which really explained why many workers deferred to the middle classes even in the meetings of the socialist groups, which tried to be better and failed.

Simply from the vantage of personal integrity, HM Hyndman’s approach was truer to who he was. And this has increasingly seemed a virtue to me.

Chambers has been brutally honest about his drug use; and it is that honesty which explains why he, unlike other athlets (Christie, Ohuruogu) is still being punished, years after he stopped doing anything wrong.