“…no commentator dares to mention his name without prefacing it with ‘drugs cheat’.”
Let’s boo the whole rotten sport
If Justin Gatlin was roundly booed by the near-capacity crowd at the World Athletics championships in London last Saturday, most people think he has only himself to blame.
The 35-year-old sprinter is a controversial character who has twice served penalty bans for drug offences. Most people if asked would say they favour a lifetime ban on athletes caught cheating even once, but then people are an unforgiving lot until they get into trouble themselves, or their children and best mates do, and then it’s always somebody else’s fault.
Few, one suspects, are capable of unpacking the words ‘drugs cheat’ to understand the differences between substances that might in other circumstances be considered perfectly innocuous, and those that genuinely enhance performance. Perhaps they even take medication themselves that would fail a WADA test. The rules for athletes are pretty harsh, as is the testing regime.
One infringement might have been forgiven but two has made Gatlin the Mephistopheles of athletics. A shame, because without this monkey on his back, the powerful Floridan could well have been among the greats of the 100 and 200 metre sprints. Instead, he’s in a sinkhole.
So detested is Gatlin, so toxic the climate within athletics over the doping issue that no commentator dares to mention his name without prefacing it with ‘drugs cheat’. That he was being booed more possibly because he had the bad manners to beat the hugely popular Usain Bolt in his farewell 100 metres final , running what was actually a clever tactical race against an under-par champion – is a secondary consideration.
British athletics is furious that the 2012 London Olympics produced some 23 subsequent revisions of drug test results leading to the withdrawal of medals and the cancelling of record times, weights and throws. A hundred and seventeen more athletes were disqualified before the games had even begun. It’s been claimed by insiders that one in ten athletes are probably cheating.
Those results and the hideous sham that was Vladimir Putin’s personally sponsored cheating programme at the Sochi Winter Olympics have led to a two-year (so far) ban on official Russian teams and a major upheaval in the International Athletics Federation.
Gatlin’s first ban resulted from a trace of an amphetamine he claimed must have been in a prescription drug he’d been taking since childhood for ADHD. His appeal against a two-year ban was successful. The second offence was for testosterone, a muscle-building hormone detected six years later, which he could not explain.
My own view is that it takes more than one person to cheat in athletics. According to Wikipedia:
“Gatlin was coached by Trevor Graham. Among athletes Graham has coached, eight have tested positive or received bans for performance-enhancing drugs. After Gatlin’s failed test, Graham stated in an interview that Gatlin had been sabotaged. He blamed massage therapist Christopher Whetstine for rubbing a creme with testosterone onto Gatlin’s buttocks without his knowledge. The therapist denied the claim, saying: “Trevor Graham is not speaking on behalf of Justin Gatlin and the story about me is not true.”
“On August 22, 2006, Gatlin accepted an eight-year ban from track and field, avoiding a lifetime ban in exchange for his cooperation with the doping authorities, and because of the “exceptional circumstances” surrounding his first positive drug test. Gatlin appealed against the ban; an arbitration panel reduced it to four years at a hearing in December 2007.”
How easy is it for sport-addicted youngsters to challenge what their coaches tell them to do, or have the knowledge to question the legality of substances they are being administered by physiotherapists and team doctors?
While lesser rival athletes continue to twist the knife, raising eyebrows publicly whenever Gatlin runs, there is no denying his prowess and there have been no further testing problems since his return to the track seven years ago. He is undoubtedly a great athlete. He beat Bolt by one-hundredth of a second to win the 100 metres at the Golden Gala meet in Rome in June 2013, and lost to the taller, younger man by just 0.1 of a second at both the Beijing and Rio Olympics. The rivalry was similarly close over 200 metres.
One could describe the booing as unsportsmanlike and unfair. The British press has manifested its usual revolting partisanship. It has been harder to know whether they disapprove of his past cheating or of a ‘gatecrasher’ (as The Telegraph called Gatlin, who holds many records in a long if interrupted career) having the gall to beat their people’s hero. Which is to ignore the fact that Bolt was also beaten into third place by another American, the promising youngster Chris Coleman – who barely rates a mention in any of the press coverage.
It was almost as if the other runners were expected to throw the race to let the hero Bolt go out on one last high. Wouldn’t that have been as bad as cheating? Typical was The Sunday Sun:
Usain Bolt sunk as drugs cheat Justin Gatlin ruins golden goodbye by storming to 100m gold
Gatlin is probably no more a ‘drugs cheat’ than hundreds of other athletes, and in a different time would have been regarded even on his reduced record as a great sprinter. The minefield of anti-doping regulations makes conforming to an absolute ideal virtually impossible for most ‘human’ beings, who are subject to illness, injuries, wear and tear.
Testosterone taken over time builds the kind of fast muscle that enables a sprinter to explode out of the blocks and is therefore an obvious candidate to be banned, although it occurs naturally in the body. Amphetamines can stimulate performance and stamina, but don’t persist.
So there are grounds for questioning Gatlin’s right to run. But he ran within the rules, apparently clean for the past six years. Despite that, 24 hours later the BBC Sports unit is still discussing what they are calling his ‘controversial win’. It seems he has a right to run, but not to win.
The sneers and jeers and evident distrust of a man who came from a deprived background in rural Florida to become the oldest man ever to win an individual Olympic sprint medal and one of the five fastest men in Olympic history do little credit to the armchair athletes.
Nor to veteran miler Lord Coe, the IAAF president, whose own position as regards ‘who knew – and how much was in the envelope?’ over the doping scandal in the past has previously been questioned, along with his well-funded years as a global ambassador for Nike sportswear.
Coe made clear at the trackside his distaste that Gatlin was allowed to run. But doping violations are just the tip of an iceberg of corruption in international sport, that goes all the way up to national federation officials motivated by easy money and the desire for medals and national glory at any cost.
If we’re going to boo Justin Gatland, let’s boo the whole rotten sport.
Just another woman, making a go of it
Worse if anything than the media hoopla over Bolt’s ruined Last Run, Gatlin’s disgraceful victory, Sir Mo Farah’s amazingly predictable third World Championship win in his last-ever 10,ooo metres on Friday night, is the curious fact that the media has barely acknowledged the arrival of an athlete who seems destined to become one of the great female distance runners of all time.
The tiny Almaz Ayana, 25, running in only her first race of the 2017 season owing to injuries, set off after ten laps and over the next twenty minutes totally demolished a field of 30 supposedly top athletes to win the women’s 10,000 metres by a distance of 330 metres – more than half a lap. In the process she lapped the entire field apart from the small following pack, some of them twice.
After a few admiring words, no fuss at all has been made of the dominant young Ethiopian. Not our idea of a celebrity, perhaps.
And the amazing thing is, her London performance – though not another world record – repeated her incredible run in Rio last year, when she trashed another world-class field to break the existing 23-years-old record by an incredible 14 seconds, and still appeared to be accelerating effortlessly at the finish. It left your Uncle Bogler in tears, again. Oh dear. As the Mail on Sunday reported:
“Olympic champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia produced an extraordinary display in her first race of the season winning the world 10,000 metres title by almost a minute on Saturday. The 25-year-old, who smashed the world record when winning in Rio last year, finished over 46 seconds clear of her legendary compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba, the three-time Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion.”
Why wasn’t this THE story from the weekend? Maybe the clue was in the Mail story that greeted her win at Rio 2016: “Disbelief at amazing 10,000m. world record: a hefty dose of scepticism accompanied Almaz Ayana’s gobsmacking victory…” Or maybe it was just that it wasn’t the men’s 100 metres, a 9.8-seconds thriller in an era when attention spans are getting shorter by the hour?
The story went on to quote Sarah Lahti, who finished 12th and set a Swedish record of 31:28.43: ‘I do not really believe she is 100 per cent. It is too easy for her. We see no facial expressions.’ So that’s proof then. Although I don’t think Botox is on the banned substances list? Doubt was further cast when an Ethiopian squad coach was found with drugs in his hotel room. And even the previous women’s world record, set by China’s Wang Jungxia in 1993, was suspected at the time to have been drug-assisted.
Oh, well, I guess she’s just another woman.
But Lahti’s kind of reaction has become typical, any ebullience over a possibly unlikely sporting success now being tempered with a heavy dose of cynicism. Gatlin may not be entirely responsible – we’re sceptical enough about our own national cycling hero Sir Bradley Wiggins and his mystery Deliveroo pharmaceuticals – but his story is symptomatic of how money and greed have poisoned the well for the entire sporting sphere.
“…we don’t have an automatic right to win everything.”
As if our moral outrage over other sprinters being allowed to beat a below-par Usain Bolt into third place weren’t enough, we’re now being enjoined to hate the South African Caster Semenya, who pipped Britain’s sweetheart Laura Muir into fourth place in the women’s 1500 metres heats last night.
Never mind that after taking on the role of pacemaker right from the start, Muir made the tactical error of slowing the race from a 64-seconds first lap to a 71-seconds second lap, thus failing to break the field, and left herself too little in reserve for a final sprint to the tape after she was swallowed up by the chasing pack.
Ho no, the fact that she did well to hang on for fourth place and qualify for the final in which she managed sixth was entirely eclipsed by Semenya’s hyperandrogenism, a hormonal condition that makes her look all big and muscly and flat-chested, and run like a bloke.
No matter that the race was actually won by the distinctly female-looking world champion, the Kenyan Kipyegon, over whose gender there can surely be no quibble; and that America’s experienced 30-year-old Simpson ran a near-perfect race, darting through in the final split-second to take silver.
No, as far as some sections of the British media and partisan crowd were concerned Muir’s failure to medal was entirely down to the cheating of Semenya, who should be taken away and force-fed with oestrogen until she grows a pair. Worse, this response has become a regular feature of the coverage whenever she runs: ‘is she or isn’t she?’, despite the IAAF clearing her after successive medical examinatiuons.
Remarkably, the Daily Mail leapt to her defence, arguing: “The treatment of Caster Semenya has been shameful… show her some respect and let her run.”
Will we ever grow up and understand that just because we’re British, or in this case Scottish, we don’t necessarily have an automatic God-given right to win everything all the time?
Keepin’ it cool with Granny Weatherwax
The Lancet reports, excess heat could kill up to 150,000 more people a year by the end of the century – very possibly within your children’s lifetime. That’s just in Europe. Though it rather presupposes the Sixth Great Extinction won’t have run its course long before then.
Europe: still in the grip of a 40 deg+ heatwave, expected to relent gradually after Wednesday.
Italy: Extreme heat, storms in north. More fires across south. Drought persists in Italy’s grainbelt, 60% + crop losses across all outputs. Deliveries to northern markets failing. Water shortages looming.
Greece: extreme heat. Island of Kythira ablaze. The entire Aegean area has been plagued by earthquake swarms in recent weeks.
Austria: powerful thunderstorms trigger flash floods affecting mountain communities.
Russia: noonday temperature currently (7 Aug) in Norilsk, northernmost city in Siberia, 21C, 72.6F. Recklessly, desperate authorities have started chemically seeding clouds to combat wildfires consuming the Taiga.
Japan: Typhoon Noru claims two lives in Kyushu, moves on over Honshu main island, bringing 60cm rain in 48 hours. Flash floods in Osaka area. More heavy rain following on behind.
China: Heavy rain affecting the northeast up into Mongolia. Flash flooding, 100 thousand people affected, 25,000 acres of crops damaged. Liaoning – 1,000 flood refugees trapped on higher ground by rising water, being rescued again. Two dead, 350,000 affected in Jiling province. Damage estimated at $700 million.
India: Ten dead, new widespread flooding in Uttarakhand. ‘Huge loss’ of property. More heavy rain forecast.
Pakistan: “At least 5 killed and others injured after floods and landslides in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. Meteorological Department issued warnings for glacial lake outburst floods after heavy rain and temperatures up to 5 degrees higher than normal (caused) ice to melt.” 116 people have died as a result of flooding or landslides in Pakistan since the start of this year’s monsoon.
Korea: extreme heatwave continues.
USA: again, New Orleans experiences flooding with up to 3ft of water as a tropical storm brings up to 10 inches of rain in 4 hrs to the city. “The rate of rainfall in many neighborhoods of the city was one of the highest recorded in recent history.” New York State is on flash flood alert, as is Manhattan, with more heavy rain also forecast across Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware. A ‘rare’, out-of-season tornado causes casualties and damage in Toledo, Ohio.
USA: Las Vegas, Nevada – one victim died and 7 others were rescued after flash floods in two areas of the city. Flash flooding submerged parts of Kansas City, shutting down parts of highway I-35 and flooding other streets across the city. Vehicles were submerged and drivers left stranded by flood water.
USA: Staff at the US Department of Agriculture have been told to avoid using the term “climate change” in their work, with officials instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead. The primary cause of human-driven climate change is also targeted, with the term “reduce greenhouse gases” blacklisted in favor of “build soil organic matter”.* Sound policy indeed. Dig more shit in, the BogPo says. (The Guardian, 7 Aug.)
Mexico: Tropical storm Franklin now building over the Caribbean is expected to head across the Yucatan Peninsula towards the capital, Mexico City, bringing up to 300mm of rain.
Venezuela: as if the country doesn’t have enough to worry about, severe flooding after days of torrential rain has caused several major rivers including the Orinoco to burst their banks, with about ten thousand people affected. Well done Floodlist for reporting this four days after the event.
Arabian peninsula: It’s currently 43C, 117F in Baghdad and Kuwait, a little cooler in Riyadh – only 40C. Across North Africa temperatures are in the high 30s to mid 40s currently: 95 – 100F. Not as bad as July and August the last two years when searing 50C + heat killed hundreds. The forecast is for temperatures ‘building across the week’. Satellite map shows virtually no cloud cover across the region. Long drought is causing severe crop losses in Egypt.
Africa: heavy rains persisting across mid-western and central Africa, eg. Nigeria. Bad news for elusive anteaters:
“Hotter temperatures are taking their toll on the aardvark, whose diet of ants and termites is becoming scarcer in some areas because of reduced rainfall, according to a study released Monday. Drought in the Kalahari desert killed five out of six aardvarks that were being monitored for a year, as well as 11 others in the area…”
World: despite the record heatwaves in Europe, Asia and the US west and midwest, provisional global weather data give July as only the second hottest on record, after 2016; it seems Antarctica has been letting the side down. The US NOAA report for June states:
“June 2017 was characterized by warmer to much-warmer-than-average conditions across much of the world’s land and ocean surface. The most notable warm temperature departures from average were present across much of central Asia, western and central Europe, and the southwestern contiguous U.S. where temperature departures from average were 2.0°C (3.6°F) or greater. … Overall, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature for June 2017 was 0.82°C (1.48°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F) and the third highest June temperature in the 138-year record, behind 2016 (+0.92°C / +1.66°F) and 2015 (+0.89°C / +1.60). June 2017 marks the 41st consecutive June and the 390th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average.”
The good news for climate-change deniers is that the mysterious North Atlantic Cold Spot is persisting; hence our indifferent summer here in the west of Britain. Scientists imagine it’s caused by the Gulf Stream losing energy and sinking, allowing colder water from the Arctic to move south. The bad news is, the cold water is being replaced by warmer water flooding from the Pacific up through the Bering Strait, leading to further loss of ice cover.
Strangest of all: U. of Ottawa’s much-Followed climatologist and vlogger, Prof Paul Beckwith reports that on July 20, for the first time he believes in history, the weakening and fragmenting northern and southern jetstreams both crossed the equator at various points all around the globe into one another’s hemispheres, pulling hot and cold air masses with them and creating a huge vortex over the Pacific. This chaotic mixing is attributable to rapidly warming water in the Arctic and has no predictable weather outcomes.
Climate and Extreme Weather News #51/ D Mail/ NW Global temperature report/ Floodwatch/ NOAA/ Paul Beckwith/ the Guardian/ local weather reports.
*Footnote: actually the BogPo finds the phrase ‘climate change’ to be far too wishy-washy and unthreatening a concept. What does it mean? It is itself the politically correct solution to the problem of what to call this existential threat to humanity. ‘Climate chaos’ or ‘weird weather’ would be a better description.
Scientists are far too cautious and media unsavvy. Precisely because they are not ‘a community’, have no organization or finance, they have as yet found no means of countering the slick PR messages, myth-making and outright lies of the denial conspiracy. Who cares about the ‘truth’ anymore? Let ’em have it with both barrels. We’re fucked, okay? Suck it up, people of Earth.
“I’m beginning to wonder if this is not some sort of metatextual situation comedy…”
Van News Weekly
An unmistakeable waft of cannabis hangs in the air of the busy street.
So he’s out there again today, my neighbour, fitting a green carpet into the back of his little white van, parked illegally as usual on the pavement, right on the corner of the main road.
(That’s the vehicle he sometimes advertises – though not today, your friendly ‘man and van’ – that he will use to cart your garbage off to the recycling centre a mile down the road. In palatial comfort, obviously.)
There are half a dozen bolts of carpeting piled on the pavement next to the van, that they’ve been trying out. The carpets presumably came from the same source as the motorbike they loaded into the back last week, i.e. very possibly off another van.
My neighbour and two younger ‘helpers’ in shorts, vests and baseball caps have been at it all morning, fitting that little piece of carpet in the back, flexing their tattoos in the sunny intervals, enjoying the bantz, assisted by loud music. After a break for lunch they’re back at it again.
Fitting 1.5 sq yd of carpet in the back of a van, were I moved to do such a thing, is a job that might take me an hour at the most to do really nicely. It would probably take my hi-to mate from over the estate, Gareth Carpets, about ten minutes. And I’m not even working-class.
I’m beginning to wonder if this is not some sort of metatextual situation comedy, like The Office, whose point I am clearly missing.
It’s twenty to ten at night, Day 4 of their holiday, and they’re still out in the garden having another fitful conversation I can hear through the wall. What do they find to argue about? Occasionally an angry young man can be heard going off the rails. Happily an entire day of rain is forecast for tomorrow.