The great 18th century poet Alexander Pope famously said “to err is human; to forgive, divine”. But as far as Anthony Tan is concerned, forgiveness should only come by way of remorse.
It’s the lack of contrition that I have the biggest issue with. Everyone I know has the same issue.Kieren Perkins, gold medallist in the 1,500-metre freestyle at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, said as much in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘Good Weekend’ magazine a few weeks back. And I couldn’t agree more.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, D’Arcy assaulted Cowley, a Commonwealth Games triple gold medallist, at a Sydney bar in March 2008, the day D’Arcy learned he was part of the team for the Olympic Games in Beijing. The king-hit was so severe Cowley required multiple rounds of facial reconstruction, with fractures to his jaw, eye socket, hard palate, cheekbone and nose, and on 21 April, D’Arcy pleaded guilty to one charge of recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm. Three days before, on 18 April, he was dropped from Australian team for the Beijing Games for bringing the team into disrepute, a decision twice appealed by D’Arcy to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but which he lost on both counts.
In March 2009, D’Arcy received a jail sentence of 14 months and 12 days, suspended on condition of good behaviour. Cowley sued for damages resulting from the incident, where last year, a civil court judge ordered D’Arcy to pay Cowley more than $370,000 in damages and costs, but D’Arcy declared himself bankrupt.
It prompted speculation Swimming Australia would declare him ineligible to compete at this year’s Games in London on grounds he had failed to meet certain behavioural and ethical standards required of team members. Cowley, however, claims a secret deal was struck with Swimming Australia chief executive, Kevin Neil, and D’Arcy to reinstate him back in the national team before he declared bankruptcy. Swimming Australia has denied any such deal took place, even though a 23 April statement by the national governing body spoke of “an agreement that all parties were satisfied with” and decided “that the referral to the judiciary committee is no longer required”, inexplicably shelving a judiciary committee inquiry into D’Arcy’s behaviour.
D’Arcy will almost certainly swim in London. In his pet event, the 200-metre butterfly, he is a genuine gold medal contender; at a meet last Sunday in Irvine, California, he won in record time. However, when a reporter asked about the ethics of the case and his controversial selection to the Olympic team, he warned: “Careful.”
In the ‘Good Weekend’ article, Director of Sport at the Australian Olympic Committee, Fiona de Jong, said: “Australia I think is a country where you can give people second chances.”
The ancient Latin proverb ‘Errare humanum est’, or to err is human, I agree with. Like de Jong, I also believe in second chances. But not, at any point, or for anyone, do I believe in second chances to those who show no remorse and are unwilling to atone for their indiscretions.
It is why I, for one, have such an issue with Alejandro Valverde’s return to the peloton.
DNA evidence linked blood bags seized from the ‘Operación Puerto’ investigation against blood samples taken from the Spaniard during the 2008 Tour de France, evidence used to successfully convict Valverde and ban him for two years. Yet Valverde continues to maintain his innocence. He, like D’Arcy, also appealed twice to the CAS and lost. Before returning to competition this January at the Tour Down Under, he said: “I was always loved by fans and my fellow riders.”
What part of ‘DNA evidence linked your name to bags of blood stored in a nefarious doctor’s fridge’ does Signor Valverde not understand?
While the evidence used to hand countryman Alberto Contador a two-year back-dated suspension this February was far more subjective (read the 6 February CAS finding: “In the Panel’s opinion, on the basis of the evidence adduced, the presence of clenbuterol was more likely caused by the ingestion of a contaminated food supplement [rather than via meat contamination or a blood transfusion]), the Spaniard nevertheless was guilty by virtue of having the banned substance in his system on 21 July 2010, the second rest day of that year’s Tour de France.
On 16 April, in an interview with Spanish radio, Contador confirmed he will race the Vuelta a España after his ban ends on 5 August this year. Despite receiving “six” high-level offers (including one from Valverde’s team, Movistar), “Without a doubt, returning to Saxo Bank is my first choice,” he said. “They did something that no other team would be capable of doing; they supported me unconditionally… There are better financial offers, but unconditional support has no price.” He restated his position on the CAS verdict by saying it was “proof that sport justice does not work”, even though the CAS statement said, “it was not disputed by the parties that Alberto Contador tested positive with clenbuterol and thereby committed an anti-doping rule violation”.
Contador also said “it’s difficult to forget, but life goes on and I have to put this to one side”.
If he’s trying to forget, then, what the hell was he doing earlier this month, riding a stage of a Tour de France he has now lost to Andy Schleck?
Well, he rode all 174 kilometres of that seventeenth stage from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet (won by Schleck, incidentally) as part of an advertising campaign for Spanish bed manufacturer, FLEX. After more than six hours in the saddle he had “very good memories while passing through each location”, said the putrid puff piece. “I really enjoyed the experience and we have also had luck with the weather. The FLEX idea has left me very good feeling (sic).”
Sorry, but is this taking the piss or is this taking the piss?
Okay, Alberto, we get it. You think you’re innocent, and quite possibly, you didn’t knowingly ingest the clenbuterol. But you committed an anti-doping violation, and despite handing the CAS a 4,000-page tome, the sport’s highest legal authority ruled that you had failed to establish a) how the prohibited substance entered your body, and b) that you committed no fault or negligence, or no significant fault or negligence.
Is riding a stage of a Tour where your win has been voided (and where Andy Schleck has now been inaugurated with the maillot jaune) really a good idea, Alberto?
“I mean, it never ceases to amaze me some of the stuff people get away with just because they’re famous athletes. Frankly, I think that as role models, we should be held to a higher standard than the average person,” said Perkins in the SMH article. Even Max Markson, D’Arcy’s one-time manager, said: “All he has to say is two words, ‘I’m sorry’, and the world would move on.”
I also find it ironic that the man who supported D’Arcy’s return to competition was former Australian swimming captain, Grant Hackett. The same Grant Hackett who separated from his wife earlier this month and, in an alcohol-fuelled rage in October last year, trashed his multi-million-dollar Melbourne penthouse apartment. He has been sacked as an ambassador for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, an anti-violence charity, with Uncle Tobys also reviewing its arrangement with the Olympic Games triple gold medallist.
Curiously, there’s been no word from Channel Nine as yet, where Hackett is slated to be part of their swimming commentary team at the London Games.