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23 Jan Always the victim: why Williams only has himself to blame

By James Fairbourn

It is interesting to contrast the two approaches from Messrs Williams and Warburton coming out of their relatively lenient bans for failing doping tests.

Aside from the hysterical ramblings of this scribe on what the British Athletics social media posy would make of similar leniency being shown to – oh I don’t know – Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, they both certainly took banned substances. They have good explanations as to why that was the case and neither of them were attempting to be duplicitous. They were however, negligent and have been punished as such. That should really be the end of it, shouldn’t it?

The younger of the two – Warburton – got a harsher sentence (by 2 months) seemingly by virtue of the fact that he couldn’t afford such good lawyers as his elder compatriot. No doubt Williams was able to call upon the vast cash reserves of his father to help defend his case. Quite where his claim that he personally lost £100,000 is anyone’s guess – who knew being a fairly good hurdler was so well remunerated?

Gareth has issued a mea culpa in the media, conceding that he ‘probably deserved’ to be banned albeit for a short while. One hopes that such a sensible and contrite approach will be rewarded with a return to a semblance of the career his talent warrants.

Regretfully the same cannot be said of the former Welsh Athletics captain. Somewhat bizarrely, Rhys Williams doesn’t think he did anything wrong at all: ‘the ban should have been nothing’. Indeed, he is the victim here. However, he also says that the ‘only lesson’ he can learn is not to take supplements (this would never have happened if he had been a clean athlete in the sense that many understand the term). But of course ‘every athlete in the world’ takes supplements. Other people have said the same thing about knowingly cheating – and that offers no meaningful mitigation either.

Anyone with even a passing interest in anti-doping will be aware that – rightly or wrongly – the athlete is always responsible for what is in their systems. Therefore, if anabolic steroids show up in a urine sample, the athlete has to explain how they got there. Unless he/she has a doctor’s note (let’s not go there – it’s very late) or he can point to some deliberate conspiracy (as Justin Gatlin unsuccessfully accused an ex-masseuse of), all that can really be offered is mitigation against harsher sentences. Guilt is not up for debate in these cases. Had the athletes not taken the supplements, they would not have failed the tests.

Williams was keen to draw a line under the affair in a recent interview with the BBC. Drawing comparisons to Christine Ohuruogo (who served a one year ban for missing three out of competition tests), he said that he hoped the public would remember him for his successes rather than the doping cloud that now hangs over him. Just as Ohuruogo was wrong to be so thoroughly indignant upon her return, so too is Williams giving the public no reason to forgive him.

Doping allegations can scar even the most accomplished of athletics careers – just ask Linford Christie. Ohuruogu has gone onto achieve great things in the sport as a twice Olympic medalist and winning a World title and a Commonwealth title along the way. Williams has only a fraction of this success – indeed, this sad latest episode of his career is probably the most notable to date. Without a fair helping of contrition that will almost certainly remain the case.