Redemption for the banned

Saturday, 16 October 2010

There’s a new trial scheme in Switzerland for those given a doping ban. Unfortunately titled “Windop”* the idea is to counsel those who are given bans for doping offences.

Just as many convicted criminals get advice on rehabilitation, the idea is to re-educate someone caught doping. The idea has been started by a psychologist working in the sports field. Working with the Sports Institute at Lausanne University, with WADA funding, Mattia Piffaretti is investigating ways to help the banned athlete. He’s already got 10 Swiss and Italian “patients” from 10 different sports, including one cyclist.

Three pillars
The idea is based on three pillars. First a psychological side to help the rider overcome the negative feelings associated with being banned. Second comes sports science advice to convince the athelete that they can train right. The final aspect is a bio passport style follow-up to track the athlete and ensure they’re not resorting to old ways, even during a ban.

Piffaretti goes on to say the scheme could even replace part of a lengthy ban: “in the long term the aim is to offer an alternative to the suspension of guilty athletes”. It’s all at an early stage and we’ll see what happens.

Useful
I think this is a useful idea but the first step of any process like this is for the athlete to admit wrongdoing and a desire to make amends. That said, sometimes we find an addict, or at least an addictive personality. The athlete can need support precisely at the moment they’re getting dumped on.

But you won’t catch the big names of the sport like Valverde, Di Luca, Contador or Rasmussen signing up. The only time they visit Lausanne is to file an appeal with the CAS.

The source for this story is Swiss newspaper Le Temps, read the full story online (in French)

* for non-English speakers, a “wind up” is a joke, prank

John Sutton October 16, 2010 at 9:26 am

Very good. It's something I believe should be mandatory for all dopers. If car drivers can have re-education programmes fo speeding offences, why not dopers? Maybe there should be some kind of restorative justice programme whereby dopers have to face fan groups. That might be a step too far, though as Amnesty International might take exception to public stonings.

TheInnerRing October 16, 2010 at 9:41 am

Thanks John. I think it's an interesting idea but it comes up against the widespread attitude within the bunch that the rider hasn't done anything wrong, that they were just being "professional" or worse, that they got caught when so many others did not. So it's hard for them to recognise wrongdoing with these feelings.

Jens October 16, 2010 at 9:59 am

If this was done right, in a serious non-judgmental way this sounds like an excellent model. As you say though, without an admission of wrongdoing to begin with it will be pointless. It also has to be voluntary.
It might make for a good way for fans to accept riders back without too much cynicism (something I struggle with) if we knew they were taking part in a serious re-entry program? Those who do not confess/take part in the program will be taken less seriously.

TdF Lanterne Rouge Blog February 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm

This might have a positive effect if it's coupled with a) requirement for admission of guilt, dropping all appeals, and paying all penalties; and b) coupled with a slight (25%?) reduction in ban time following successful completion of the program.

TheInnerRing February 8, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Yes, the incentives to take part have to exist.

I'd see it as part of a package, to work alongside other ideas. But it's missing now.

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