Thursday, March 22, 2007

Drug testing gone too far...

Earlier today, UEFA issued a one-game suspension and fine to Bayern Munich star goalkeeper Oliver Kahn. The fine of 20 000 Swiss francs (just over $19 000 Canadian) is not a huge deal, but the timing of the suspensions means he will miss his team's next vital Champions League match, the first leg of the quarterfinals against AC Milan. As Kahn is still one of the world's best keepers, a vital leader on the field, and a key component of the squad's defense, Bayern will have great difficulty taking on the Italian giants without him.

However, the real issue here is not the suspension itself, but what it was given for. Kahn was apparently suspended as a result of a drug test after the team's last Champions League match against Real Madrid. Yet, it was not for testing positive: rather, Kahn (and teammate Lucio, who received a fine, but no suspension) apparently committed the heinous crime of "improper conduct" during his doping test, according to UEFA. The Associated Press story TSN picked up suggested that Kahn insulted the doctor who carried out the tests. The specific details have not been released, but it certainly seems to me that the penalty does not fit the crime: a severe fine would be much more appropriate then being forced to miss a crucial Champions League match. Kahn even sent a written apology to the doctor to UEFA before his hearing. Unless there was much more to this incident then has been released, it seems like a severe overreaction. This is not the only case where football associations have overreacted to side issues from drug tests: after all, Rio Ferdinand was banned for eight months for missing a testing appointment. Doping is definitely a problem, and a threat to fair play, but governing associations in all sports should focus on those who are actually cheating, rather than just punishing those who don't perfectly follow procedure.