A couple of weeks ago, an editor at the Evening Standard asked me to write a letter in relation to the Standard's campaign to have Linford Christie removed from the Olympic torch relay nominations. I think he expected a letter in support of their campaign. He didn't get it. Here's what they didn't publish. I didn't hear back from him after sending it:
Dear Josh, I submit the following. It probably isn't what you expected or, perhaps, wanted....
The campaign to remove Linford Christie from the Olympic torch relay for Beijing in London later this year highlights one of the longstanding inconsistencies within the Olympic Movement. As an aspiring judicial system - with its own Court to boot - it fails miserably as a mechanism of rehabilitation, since no amount of recompense an athlete makes after a doping infraction is enough to allow them entry back into the social world of athletics. While it might appear to be bad PR to bring Linford into the ceremony, this fact invites further questions over why such a decision was taken. In part, the answer lies in recent years when Linford became a mentor for the British Olympic team. At the same time, he was also a witness for a pioneering British inquiry into developing more robust policies to address doping in sport, especially taking into account claims from athletes, like him, who say that they have ingested banned substances by poorly labeled nutritional supplements. When we see Linford with the torch in April, we should not look upon him as a villain who has been celebrated despite his infractions - not as a bad guy who finished first - but as a symbol of rehabilitation, someone from whom greater achievements are possible by learning the hard way. Much better for London to do this than to utilize a clean athlete who has yet to be found guilty of doping. At least with Linford, we all know where we stand. There can be no subsequent betrayal, which could occur if any, supposedly, clean athlete is asked to perform such duties. London should be different and it is right that the IOC does not intervene on these matters. While it might appear to be consistent with the moral outrage that surrounds doping in sport to request Linford's absence, it is thoroughly inconsistent with the aspirations of achieving justice, which are the deeper values at stake when we appeal to fair play as a guiding norm within competitive performance cultures like sport. So, I say let him carry the torch. His permanent exclusion from the BOA as an athlete is mandatory under its policy, not a definitive statement on his present character. Perhaps his presence will encourage a deeper level of debate about what doping means, why it matters and how we should deal with it. However, any such inquiry is lost if we limit our conversations to the simplistic signifier of Linford Christie as doped athlete.
Dr Andy Miah, Author of 'Genetically Modified Athletes' Reader, University of the West of Scotland.