Monday, 12 October 2015

Sailing - drugs, terrorism, #uppermiddleclasswhitepeopleproblems

According to the BBC’s Sport website ‘Banned substances were found in more than 3,800 samples out of 283,304 tests’ in 2014 according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). This represents 1.34% adverse findings. Such findings share some of the same problems as the Crime figures. There is a dark figure of undetected - and histories of unreported or collude at - usage but with aid of science and technology even past usage can now be retrospectively surveilled. The logic of surveillance is such that no doubt WADA will not be happy until it can test all athletes all the time in real time. And many athletes will subscribe to that, giving up their human rights and endangering others.

Readers of my blog will know that, as criminologist, I don’t support the ‘war on drugs’ in society and therefore in sport. This post does not seek to raise again that but to pick up on some issues that piqued my interest in the figures.

Unsurprisingly as large nations China (13,180) and Russia (12,556) have the most tests. China had only 0.4% adverse results, Jamaica none from its 347 tests and 50% from Ukraine (1 of two!). Football was the most tested Olympic sport 31,242 (144 or 0.5% adverse) followed by Athletics 25,830 (261 representing 1% adverse). Again nobody would be surprised that Weightlifting’s failure rate was higher with 1.9% for its 8,806 tests.  More surprising might be Paralympic Sailing which had one of the highest rates of adverse results, with 13%! though this was just for 24 samples with three adverse findings.

My eye however was caught by the failure of two sailors of the 795 tests (0.3% failure) and when trying to find out who they might be stumbled upon yet more interesting stuff serendipitously. Thus we find that Israeli yachtsman, Udi Gal (470 Class) tested positive for finasteride before the Beijing Olympics. Finasteride can be found in baldness cures and was not on WADA’s list until 2005 and was removed in 2008. It was thought to be a masking agent. Zach Lund’s career was nearly ended by suspension for its use. Once a luger he now represents USA in skeleton. He is still bald.

We also learn that another sort of sailor also has problems with drugs. Apparently the Royal Navy drug testing found 63 sailors positive for illegal substances between October 2007 and July 2011.

More off the wall we find Glenn McCarthy’s blog pointing out the indignities of drugs testing but more interestingly the extent of drug taking that will be required of the sailors because of fears for their health in the polluted waters off Rio where their events are held.

But most piquant is the experience of Stop and Search by members of the Royal Yachting Association detailed on this page. They opine:
From the RYA's point of view, we support the UKBA’s work in providing a national surveillance and interception capability to protect the UK from terrorism and criminality, but the RYA believes that the recreational boating public should not routinely be regarded as suspects.

A selection of members experiences are set out. First the bad.
As they approached we were told to hold our course and speed, and before we knew it, three of these guys STORMED over the guard rails, pushed past me in the cockpit and dived straight down below with the third member remaining in the cockpit.
Protestations and questions about had they any rights to do this were greeted with a barked response that absolutely they could do it. All in the demeanour of keep out our road or pay the consequences.
This was a very aggressive, and, if we had been bad guys, I’ll admit, a professional and effective boarding.   But we weren’t bad guys. We were one mid 50’s couple and one mid 60’s cruising to our summer marina in Oban and I don’t think we look like drug runners.
The streets of London come to the Isle of Jura!

Or this suffered by more middle aged people including a University of London professor:
A large rib came alongside, all black, and four individuals jumped on board without a word...  I was very surprised because our new toy, the AIS, had not shown any contacts and we had seen no lights, so was the mother ship transmitting its AIS identity?
My belief is that it was hiding behind the Needles or not transmitting... They started aggressively with "Why did you slow up in the narrows? Where are your passports?" My No. 2 who does not like this sort of thing said, " We didn't know Devon had seceded from England so what are you on about?”

But others toe the party line.
Yes, they are riot police with life jackets, but once aboard and in the cockpit they got on with their job in a pleasant manner, apart from being a little surprised by finding a lone yachtswoman.  …
All I can say to these poor old chaps is, get a perpective on things. With our freedom to sail the seas of Britain comes a responsibility to look out for things that are illegal. These guys can't be expected to know who's aboard, or if you are up to no good or not.
Give'em a break, they are working for you, to keep our nation free of  the scum that bring in drugs.
And more nuanced:
As sailors we have enjoyed freedom of movement without harrassment from officialdom for a long time. Unfortunately the criminal mentality has caught on to this freedom and not unexpectedly taken advantage of it as is evidenced by several recent court cases involving drug runners and illegal immigrants.

If the UK Border Agency are going to adopt a heavy handed attitude due their enormous powers and adopt a bully boy attitude they are  going to lose all support from a section that could well provide them with valuable information. Leisure sailors are unlikely to report suspicious activity if they have recently been harassed by that same agency.
One hates to imagine what would happen if you had a yacht and were black.

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