Edition number 5; dateline 7 September 2007

Saucing the goose

Like many broadly sports-based columnists, Sideliner is struggling with the Ohurougu Question. Simply put, how are we to react to the gold medal Christine Ohurougo won at the Athletics World Championships following a year’s ban for missing not one but three drugs tests?

The question is immediately complicated by her reaction to the UK Athletics ban – sulky, defensive and truculent – and her initial response to her likely Olympics ban – she said she would run for Nigeria. Tim Don, who unsuccessfully defended his triathlon world title this weekend, was also banned under the ‘3 strikes rule’. His response was to admit that he missed the tests, apologise, go quietly through the appeals procedure and then set about helping others avoid the same cock up. “I plan to educate young triathletes, particularly those who have won the right to be fast-tracked to world and Olympic level” he said, adding, “I'm meeting up with the national under-23 squad and I'll be emphasising they must get to grips and understand the importance of the new system."

So how do we view Britain’s – or possibly Nigeria’s – golden girl? Sideliner is no athlete and has never wittingly run 400 metres one after the other since achieving adulthood so we sent our research team into the lycra-rich world of the hop, step and jump to find a corollary. And they got no farther than Ohurougu’s Osaka team mate Kelly Sotherton who won a bronze medal behind the genuinely golden Carolina Kluft and the base metal that is Ukrainian Lyudmila Blonska, who like ‘our Christine’ was returning to the sport after a drugs suspension. Ms Sotherton did not mince her words: “She has cheated once, who says she is not cheating again? It tarnishes our event.” Add Kelly’s response to that of American Dee Dee Trotter who finished fifth behind Ohurougo and a theme begins to emerge: "I am a 'test-me-I-am-clean’ advocate. I think once you are in trouble you should never be able to return. The rules are the rules. It is your responsibility as an athlete to say where you are going to be and be where you say you are going to be."

What is sauce for Sotherton’s goose must surely be sauce for Trotter’s gander and no amount of Union Jack waving and gold medal ogling can alter the fact. Ohurougo should never have even been in Japan and the likes of Dave Collins and Steve Cram who not only conveniently excuse her offence but even praise her resilience in the face of the draconian establishment do a disservice to clean athletes and the entire sport of athletics – a sport that the establishment is trying to keep clean.

Dial M for memories
And on the subject of the very likeable Dave Collins, Sideliner recalls an National Coaching Foundation senior coaches workshop held in Leeds back in the mists of time on some esoteric subject in the arena of ‘sports psych’. It must have been a long time ago because Collins, delivering the workshop alongside a table tennis guru, was yet to start his television career and Linford Christie was the name on everybody’s lips. Christie’s name came up and a delegate quoted his then novel expression: “You have to go on the ‘b’ in ‘bang’.” Collins smiled what could be construed as a knowing smile and retorted, “The ‘b’ in anabolic, you mean.”

Binding down with Dame Fortune
Moving on to more Corinthian sports where the taint of big money has yet to spoil the naivety of pure competition, we find ourselves at the Rugby World Cup. Clearly no South African has ever taken a steroid, no player has ever changed nationality under questionable circumstances just to secure an international cap (and wage) and no French referee has ever masqueraded as an Irishman solely in order to have the chance to officiate in a France V England RWC warm-up game and favour our European partners. And if they have, given that the whole game’s ethos is based on pushing the laws to the limits and ‘skullduggery’ is actually held to a good thing, we need detain ourselves no longer on questions of propriety. We will pause only long enough to offer one or two slaves to Dame Fortune. England will get to the semi-final – AT LEAST. Argentina will be the ‘dark horses’ of the tournament. Controversy will visit the Tongan camp. And the Welsh will be left with the empty feeling that inflated dreams leave behind when cold reality hits. First up could bring the first surprise: Les Bleus against the Pumas. Come on you blues.

Taking that running jump
Given that TLR is a hot news outfit, it seems unforgivable that we have completely missed the fact that our own Sport England have been running ROADSHOWS this summer. It must be our aversion to blogs and text alerts that caused us to miss such an important set of events because this is clearly aimed at ‘young people’ if the tenor of their website is any indicator. You require a taster? Ah me, how delightfully naïve. Buckle up: “This roadshow [in Newquay, Cornwall] has really raised the bar and goes down as one of the best so far. The key to success was not just the glorious weather and scenery, but the shear number of different sports available for people to try. Getting people to join in is exactly why we have the Olympics and Paralympics coming to England.” Shear! Ye Gods. And people wonder why society is imploding. But at least we know now why the arts in general and community sport in particular are being starved of funding for the next five years – so that people with no work to go to can try ‘coasteering’. Which rather begs another question: just why on earth is the strategic body for community sports development promoting a ‘sport’ that (under the less pretentious name of ‘tombstoning’) is being slated as ‘dangerous’, ‘foolhardy’ and ‘stupid’ by so many other agencies?

Laying waste to the links
We are indebted to someone who watches too much television for the news that Robbie Coltrane is a fan of ‘disc golf’. Apparently no turtles are harmed in the pursuit of this pursuit but “it looks like fun”. For those who believe that Mr Coltrane has never improved on his performance in Tutti Frutti, you will no doubt be as chagrined as we are that post-Hagrid he is reduced to covering such tosh. Sideliner says: “In my days at camp with the 104th Fife we called it plate golf and if your ‘drive’ was wild you not only had to go three off the tee but chances were your dinner plate landed in a cowpat.” Happy days, Sidey. Happy days!

Taking it to the beach
It’s hard to sit at the back of the stands ‘week in week out’ and not be impressed by the skills, energy and commitment of the many, many sports coaches plying their trade across the UK, whether they be paid or unpaid. It is therefore with vim, vigour and the very faint hope of a press invitation to the presentation that we encourage you all to consider nominating your favourite coach for one of the 2007 UK Coaching Awards. There are the usual categories including our own favourite, the mystically alliterative Mussabini Medal, and you have until 5 October to get the forms filled in if you can just persuade the sportscoach UK website to relinquish them.

Taking the pitch out of sporting professionals
Disturbing the work experience lass when she is quiet is always dangerous – she might be catching up on sleep lost when celebrating “2 Bs and 2 Cs, but I can retake Biology and get it up to a B, drop one of the others and still get into Putney Uni.” However, when she is clearly awake, hasn’t split up with her boyfriend but is still not singing at the top of her voice, the temptation to discover what has absorbed her overwhelms. It seems she was attempting to enter the Guardian’s website competition in which the general public ‘Photoshop’ a recent sports story. This week the things they did with Jamie Carragher (apparently he plays kickball in Liverpool but not with England) were certainly imaginative. She says if you “Go to www.guardian.co.uk , click on ‘football’, click on ‘gallery’” then you will see what we mean. It’s quite amusing.

Row Z
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