09 Sep Paula must come clean to save credibility
Paula Radcliffe’s prompt and aggressive defence to perceived implications made – in her words – ‘under the cloak of Parliamentary privilege’ has raised far more questions than it has answers.
No doubt, she is furious that her reputation has been questioned in this way, but her lengthy denial was a massive overreaction to not even being named in the Select Committee yesterday afternoon. Its haste (the words were barely out of the MP’s mouth) suggests it was written well in advance of yesterday’s events and brought much attention to a Committee that most in Westminster probably aren’t even aware exists.
To imply the ‘cloak’ is to imply Jesse Norman MP did something wrong. He didn’t – everything he said is factually correct and Radcliffe herself has said she ‘wrestled’ with the idea of going public. Her accusations are bizarre and quite untrue – almost as if they had been written for a circumstance where an MP had stood up and outright called her a cheat. To reiterate, she wasn’t even named and certainly wasn’t accused of anything. Aside from anything else, she owes the MP in question an apology for wrongly bringing his name into disrepute – precisely what she is accusing the Sunday Times of doing.
Radcliffe has a jarringly obvious way out of this situation: one that will surely mitigate any reputational damage with the overwhelming majority of the sport and its followers. Rather than assuring us that the authorities and ‘contemporaneous experts’ have concluded that she is clean, she should turn over everything for public consumption now. And enough of this ‘you wouldn’t understand it’ nonsense. I am quite sure numerous experts can walk us – the stupid, ill-informed general public – through all the data and explain why there is no case to answer.
While she is at it, Radcliffe could share every single Therapeutic Use Exemption she has ever had. It has long been my contention that all professional sportspeople should be forced to reveal everything that enters their body – the public can make their own minds up on what ‘clean’ really is.
This is unfair on Radcliffe. She is an athlete who, to the best of my knowledge, has never failed a drugs test or been placed under serious investigation. Even now, she is only being tried by the media and not the authorities. However, for someone so wedded to the idea that tougher testing and transparency is the way to clean up the sport, her stance is at best confusing and at worst damn right hypocritical. Radcliffe is one of the most high profile anti-doping campaigners out there (remember the EPO banner in Edmonton?) – she has to be beyond reproach.
Whether it is through sheer stubbornness or a genuine cover-up, her refusal to open everything up for scrutiny leaves a question mark hanging over her. She will almost certainly be able to ride this all out, but at a time when credibility in the sport is so low, we could do with such a well-respected figure leading the way on transparency.
When all is said and done, today has been a lesson in how not to handle a crisis. Paula has had months to get ahead of this story and show it to be what she says it is – a non-story full of huge holes and no real evidence. Instead, she has done everything she can to keep it from the public and has now succeeded in making it a far bigger story and far harder to control than it would have been six months ago. She has an out. She should take it.
Photo credit: Fergie Lancealot