Tim Montgomery and Chryste Gaines have just been handed two year bans from the US Anti-Doping Agency for alleged use of drugs provided by Balco. I completely disagree with these bans, and with stripping their medals and records from them. First, the disclaimers:

I fully support banning any athlete for 2 years from any sport if they test positive for a banned substance and do not have a medical waiver. In this particular case, I do not have all the details and was not in any way involved with the evidence that the Court of Arbitration for Sport was presented. These are my initial, knee jerk reactions based on the limited knowledge that I have.

These two athletes did not test positive for any banned substances. A major factor in their ban was testimony from another athlete who was suspended a year ago: Kelli White. Not that I doubt (or know anything about) her integrity, but I do not believe that it is right for somebodies livelihood and accomplishments to be stripped away because somebody else who has already been shown to have questionable ethics is stating that they told her something. Not that she even saw or participated in them cheating, just that they mentioned to her that they were.

Despite avoiding a life ban, Montgomery will be hit hard by the decision. Not only will his former record time of 9.78 seconds in September 2002 be stripped away from him, but the American looks set to be forced to pay back his huge earnings from breaking that record. All results and awards claimed by three-time world sprint relay champion Gaines since 30 November 2003 will also be cancelled.

This is all cause for these two athletes to be thrown under a microscope for the rest of their careers, and for their blood and urine samples to be frozen for later testing once better methods are developed. This is a call to question their integrity and to put them through the same kind of rigorous testing procedures that Lance Armstrong has had to endure for several years.

I will reiterate that I do not condone in any way cheating or using banned substances in sports, and I believe that the punishments for using those substances should be harsh. However, there has to be some real and tangible evidence before those harsh penalties should come into play. Steve Riddick, Montgomery’s coach, has it nailed on the head:

“This does not make any sense to me based on what Kelli White said. When we start getting athletes suspended based on what somebody said, you see what gate that opens up,” said Riddick.