So, Kolo Toure could face up to a two year ban from football after failing a drugs test. He claimed he took a slimming pill off his wife to help him lose weight. Many people have sympathised with Toure, who has been labelled by many as a model professional, for being unaware of his crime. But ignorance is not justification for a modern footballer.
When Roberto Mancini decided to dedicate the win at Wigan to Manchester City’s former captain, I think he went a step too far. Yes, Kolo is a good, honest footballer. I have always liked him. But, this dedication makes him out to be a victim of some ridiculous and draconian law of football. That is just not the case.
I don’t care if he was only taking the pill to reduce his BMI. The fact that ‘poor Kolo wanted to shed a few pounds’ might make you sympathise with an ‘innocent’ mistake. You might also think there was no malicious intent behind his actions because he got the pill from his wife.
But he is only 29 and he should be on top of his weight. Additionally, there is nothing innocent about taking an illegal substance, be it an anabolic steroid, or a weight-loss pill. The pill was banned, he should not have taken it.
In 2003, Shane Warne was found guilty of taking illegal substances. Interestingly enough, there is a lot of similarity between the stories of Warne and Toure.
The drugs in question for Warne were supposed to reduce ‘water retention’ i.e help him lose weight. This sounds just like the kind of thing Toure might have taken. The reasons drugs like this are banned are because they are weight enhancement drugs, but also because they can mask other drugs of a more sinister nature.
What’s more, Shane Warne claimed he took the pill off his mother. Kolo Toure took a pill off his wife. But just because the person who supplied the illegal substance was not a pistol-wielding drug-dealer, it does not make it justifiable to take a pill with unknown contents. If he had no idea what was in the pill, how could he be sure it did not contain Benzedrine or Nandrolone?
Dick Pound, Former World Anti-Doping Agency chairman, said at the time of the Shane Warne investigation, “The source is not relevant, the responsibility of an athlete is not to take prohibited substances,”. He went on to add “You cannot have an IQ over room temperature and be unaware of this as an international athlete.”
Just because, in this instance, the pill might not have a direct impact of a player’s performance on the field of play, it does not mean he should be allowed to take it. The point is a weight-loss drug might not be as immoral as taking steroids, but the theory is the same. You can’t allow people to modify their bodies in sport by taking shortcuts. Furthermore, he could have been masking something much worse.
Toure cannot be excused because he was apparently naive to what was in the pill he took. If he were to be let off then a precedent is set for other drug takers in the game to expose; ‘Sorry I took my son’s ADHD pills’, ‘I took my Grandmother’s ancient home remedy for a cold’. Practically every sportsman who has been linked to taking drugs will claim ignorance, from Rio Ferdinand to Paddy Kenny.
Being unaware is just not an excuse, regardless of how nice the player is. In professional sport, players should be conscious of the dangers involved with taking unknown substances. The laws on doping are not locked inside a secret cabinet in a big, old haunted library somewhere. Brochures are handed out regularly and talks are delivered every season. Pills always have contents on the back of the packet.
If a player says that he did not know the risks of taking an unknown substance, he is either extremely lazy and unprofessional, or, he lying about his ‘ignorance’. Either way, he needs to be punished.
Sadly, Toure is a hard-working and modest man and not one of the flashy footballers who play in the Premiership. But while that is the frustrating, he cannot be excused for his ignorance.
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