Catching drug cheats is a 'guessing game' and tweeters need to 'stop being naive'
31 July 2012
After doping allegations in the pool and three tweeting scandals during the so-called 'Twitter Olympics' already, a leading British academic believes catching drug cheats is a 'guessing game' and people using social media should stop being naive.
Doping has been thrown back into the spotlight after a Team USA coach described Chinese gold medallist Ye Shiwen's record breaking performance in Saturday's 400m individual medley as 'disturbing'.
The International Olympic Committee and Team GB have moved to defend Ye Shiwen though, whilst praising the work of King's College and GlaxoSmithKline who are running the London 2012 doping centre.
Meanwhile, there have been three twitter scandals breaking in the opening days of competition. Before competition even began, Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was sent home for making an alledged racist comment on the website, while Swiss footballer Michel Morganella was also thrown out for posting an offensive tweet towards his team's South Korean opponents.
The controversy has been taken to a new level with a user of the website arrested today by Dorset Police after sending abusive tweets to diver Tom Daley, after he and partner Peter Waterfield finished fourth in their synchronised 10m platform final.
Expert view on doping and tweeting
Andy Miah is the Director of the Creative Futures Research Centre at the University of the West of Scotland, specialising in, amongst other things, doping and new media in relation to the Olympic movement.
He said: "At each Olympic Games, the goalposts shift for both the officials trying to catch the doping cheats and also the athletes who try to avoid getting caught.
"What's interesting about London 2012 is that blood samples being taken at these Games will be kept on record for eight years. That means if any athlete is taking part in genetic modification then they may be caught out years down the line, meaning medals being redistributed up to eight years on. But for now, it's a bit of a guessing game."
On the relatively new phenomenon of athletes' online interaction being monitored, Miah says: "I think it's right and proper that athletes are expelled for expressing views and attitudes that contradict the values of the Olympic movement.
"If they made these comments in a TV interview it would be exactly the same punishment, so it is correct that twitter is treated the same way."
The Papachristou and Morganella incidents have also raised questions on whether individual National Olympic Committees should bring in tighter controls on how their athletes conduct themselves on such websites.
Miah believes that extra training should be offered, but ultimately, the responsibility should lie with the athletes themselves.
"I think it boils down to a naivety amongst some people using twitter," he says. "It is in the public domain and sometimes people don't realise how far-reaching their comments are.
"I'm not sure whether that means it's neccessary for NOCs to bring in more guidelines and restrictions, but perhaps training should be offered.
"Most athletes receive media training and this should also include training for using social media such as twitter. We need a really light hand on steering people through the world."
However, despite the abuse suffered by Daley yesterday evening, Miah says that the reaction to that particular incident also displays the positive power of the ever-growing online phenomenon.
Miah says: "The abuse that Tom Daley received was coarse and vulgar, which is not acceptable. However, it also mobilised support for Daley."
(#TomDaleymadeUKproud became the number one trending topic on twitter afterwards).
Miah added: "Like any community, when someone is attacked, people rally round."
Miah will be appearing on the BBC's Newsnight programme on Tuesday evening to discuss the issue of doping.
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