Julian Agostini: The ripple effect

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Julian Agostini, Mash Media MD, on the importance of transparency and a level playing field.

 

One of the greatest races that I ever saw was the Canadian Ben Johnson tear out of the blocks and stride to victory over the seemingly unconquerable Carl Lewis in 1988 Seoul Olympics. It was thrilling, shocking and almost unbelievable – as was the aftermath of course.

 

It has been dubbed the ‘dirtiest race in history’. But was it? Was it even the dirtiest race that day?

 

The impact of that event changed the Olympics and how the world regards sport forever. Yet, it only highlighted the problem that was already rife.

 

This year’s Olympics have been as much about drugs and cheating as they have been about the participation and competition. What’s worse is that none of us are sure if the winners are truly clean and legitimate. Are they just better at cheating? If so, what’s the solution?

 

There isn’t a simple answer that is palatable because one of the key problems is defining where the line is drawn; what is a performance enhancer?

 

At one stage, Lucozade may have been a banned substance; Lassie Viren (the flying Finn) used to inject himself with his own blood that had been drawn from him when at altitude. This gave him an enormous boost by using his own bodily fluids. Genius or cheating?

 

The less popular answer is to let them all do what they want and see what happens.

 

Will it become like Formula 1, where the best machine then wins i.e. the best drug concoction? I doubt it. I know that you could pump me full of every steroid under the sun, I’m still not going to win any races and no one wants to see me in short shorts and vest these days!

 

So open the floodgates. It would be amazing to watch and at least we know that it is a level playing field, if somewhat tarnished.

 

In the end, we all feel much more comfortable if we are not being conned. You can never trust someone who is sycophantically nice to everyone because you know you are not getting the real person. With all their warts are on the inside, wouldn’t we rather see all the flaws for what they are, however ugly, at least we know where we stand? Maybe one or two industry characters could take note.

 

Profile protection creates the same issues.

 

Ask some venues and it doesn’t exist at all and yet it is brought in to play if required. Meanwhile the organising community isn’t sure if it’s being dealt a fair hand and that’s when anxiety and stress are brought into a relationship.

 

What’s the actual rule? Is there an actual rule?

 

If you have run a sufficient number of events, you will at some point have hit the barrier of profiling your show against existing tenants at the venue of your choice: ‘We can’t run this event at that time because there is a crossover with this show or that show etc’ …but so what?

 

Are profiles then hidden to get the deal over the line, or can the bigger organisers throw their weight around and force an event into a venue that clearly competes with a smaller show? Is everyone treated exactly the same?

 

Like the Olympics, we are told repeatedly that it is all clean and fair but we also all know that that isn’t the case, which leaves us all with that bitter taste – much like a powerful steroid or so I’m told.

 

So what’s the answer? A defined set of industry rules, which are transparent to everybody?

 

Maybe not. People just get better at cheating or at least that would be the perception, so we’re back to let everybody do what they want.

 

Two shows back to back at the same venue with similar profiles would be ridiculous wouldn’t it? Yes, but it also wouldn’t happen because the market would decide so. The nature (or commerce) will make its own path.

 

And if it did happen, then that means the market can bear it, perhaps even enjoy it, like the guilty pleasure of watching Ben Johnson and Flo Jo power past everybody - wide-eyed and supercharged.

Julian Agostini
Posted by Julian Agostini
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