12 November 2015

The pressure to conform……..

I watched a repeat of 'The Lance Armstrong Story' on BBC4 last evening and I found it probably more depressing this time than I found it the first time around. Armstrong's socio-pathic self-belief was frightening to behold, particularly when he went on Oprah to admit his guilt. He did that with exactly the same determination that he applied to his serial cheating and it left me with the belief that he had no feelings of guilt whatsoever. Admitting guilt, in his eyes, was just one more step down the road to recovering his reputation.

What I also found somewhat frightening was the manner in which he was willing to threaten, damage and destroy people's lives if they presented any sort of threat to him. That in itself made it all the more remarkable that a small number of individuals tried repeatedly to expose his activities at great personal cost. And it made me think about the position of Lord Coe with regard to the 'state sponsored doping programmes' which are now in the news.

In August, just 3 months ago, Lord Coe dismissed the Sunday Times/ARD-WDR article about the IAAF failures regarding drug offences as a 'declaration of war on athletics' and the IAAF sought to dismiss the article and its contents. Today we know that the information was accurate and well researched and has led directly to the exposure of the 'state sponsored doping programme' organised by the Russian Federation and reminiscent of the East German programmes of the 1970s and 1980s.

And my question is, why does Lord Coe attack the whistle-blowers when it is pretty clear that doping programmes are endemic in athletics (and other sports)? I cannot imagine that Lord Coe was unaware of the suspicions and possibly also had better information than the Sunday Times yet he chose to attack those he saw as 'detractors'. Read a pithy commentary on Lord Coe's position here.

But Lord Coe isn't the first 'leader' who seems unwilling to lead as we have seen with regard to Jimmy Savile, delinquent bankers, corrupt politicians (both local, national and international), peadophile priests, the list goes on and on and in every case, those in positions of power choose to protect the edifice of the establishment rather than recognising some common moral compass.

Many years ago, when I was at junior school I watched somewhat helplessly as a friend of mine was beaten up in the school playground. Being something of a weedy child I saw that I would take a beating myself if I tried to intervene so I went to get help from the available 'authority figure', a teacher on playground duty. The teacher in question stepped in and sorted the situation out and then turned on me and told me not to 'tell tales'. To say that this left me hugely confused is an understatement but it seems to sum up the adult world rather neatly. Conform, don't rock the boat and definitely don't expect to be thanked for sticking your head above the parapet. Somerton tried to teach me that and, possibly stupidly, I still reject the lesson.