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Policing and Crime Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 7th December 2016.

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Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat 8:00 pm, 7th December 2016

My Lords, I shall not endeavour to emulate the comprehensive approach of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. I will permit myself one observation: if he had been allowed a growth hormone, it is unlikely he would have been the cox of a successful, gold-medal winning Olympic eight for Great Britain. He may think that, all things considered, at least from a sporting point of view, he did the better of the bargain.

I too am sympathetic to the purpose of the amendment. I propose to put it into historical context, perhaps from the rather narrow prism of my sport, athletics. It is almost certainly the case that the last Olympic Games of the modern series were the Games held in Rome in 1960. By 1964 there was anecdotal evidence, from which inferences could be drawn, that in eastern Europe there was systematic doping of track and field athletes. It became increasingly clear that that was at its height under the East German Government. As an effort to attract some privilege and prestige, it was clear that athletes in East Germany who sought to achieve the highest levels were not able to do so unless they succumbed to the programme of doping.

That had long-term effects. There is at least one noted case of a female swimmer who was subject to anabolic steroids to such an extent that her female characteristics were so badly damaged that, to regularise herself and her role in society, she transitioned from female to male. That is a clear illustration not only of the power of doping, but equally that the ingestion of drugs for performance-enhancing purposes can bring with it quite extraordinary personality and other penalties.

I am talking about anabolic steroids, which were the drugs of preference in the times I describe, but more sophisticated performance-enhancing methods are available. There are those who argue that we are engaged in a battle between the chemists in the laboratories and the investigators, with the chemists, often having greater resources and no inhibitions, having the opportunity to create circumstances which make it very difficult for the investigators to get to the truth of what is going on.

In my own sport, professionalism has now replaced the sham amateurism of the 1960s, but with that has come the opportunity for quite substantial rewards. I do not regret being an amateur, nor do I have any regret for those who are now professionals. If you are as good a professional athlete as you might be a barrister, then why should you not take full advantage of those qualities? However, as a result of that professionalism, the rewards have become quite extraordinary, far beyond the riches of Croesus that were imagined but never achieved in my time.

I shall make one confession: I suppose I broke the amateur rules once because at North Berwick at an August bank holiday meeting I was given £5 more than my legitimate expenses, and it is perhaps a measure of the time that I thought that was actually a pretty good deal. I was so heavily handicapped in the 100 yards that the local boy won by a street and a half. As I walked out, there was a notice which said “No betting allowed”, and a man took a swing at me, saying, “You weren’t trying”, so I suppose even in those days of what we thought was purity, there were other considerations.

I shall return to the main thrust of what I am trying to say. It is this—and here I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said—a two-year ban or a four-year ban is as nothing because if they did amount to something, there would not be so many repeat offenders. People are allowed back into international sport who take the same risk and are found to have been in breach yet again. There is an issue here because the courts have traditionally been reluctant to accept the notion that the authorities can impose lifetime bans because, now that sport is professional, that has an impact on the patrimonial interest of the individual. On one view, it is preventing the individual following what is essentially his or her occupation.

The noble Lord catalogued a series of adverse consequences. Let me put a slight gloss on that and add some of my own, albeit they are expressed in a manner similar to his. The first is the damage to health and personality, to which I have already referred. The second is the undermining of the integrity of sport in a way which is almost incomprehensible. The third, as he made clear, is the unfairness to other athletes who are competing without performance-enhancing assistance. The fourth, which I do not think he mentioned, is that a culture grows up in which young, promising athletes are led to believe that the only way in which they can achieve the highest pinnacle of success is to indulge in drugs of this kind. From my membership of the Court of Arbitration for Sport I know of at least one case where it was perfectly clear beyond any question that it was not the young person but the young person’s ambitious parent. If you take these consequences, or features, of what we are talking about and add them to the comprehensive account given by the noble Lord, it seems to me that the case for my noble friend’s plea that this is something for our Government to begin to take seriously and to produce proposals to deal with is overwhelming.