Originally published in Eye Weekly.com, City, 2007
“You wouldn’t apply the same sentence to J-walking and, say, murder,” says Jeff Adams in relation to the suspension handed him by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), “But in a way, that’s what it feels like. The sentence handed down to me was far too severe.”
The suspension in question was the result of a test stating that there was a presence of metabolites in his sample. However, the drug in question, cocaine, was only present in the catheter, marking the first time in Canada that an athlete has been suspended from play when the drug has not actually been present in his system at the time of the test.
When asked if he thought the CCES was trying to make an example out of him, he simply shook his head, “I really don’t know, but they’ve certainly put me through an extremely difficult time. Thinking past myself, I hope I can be an effective example for other athletes.” However, that doesn’t make his present situation easier, or even more believable.
“I know the story of the actual contamination is strange,” he confessed, “but that’s what actually happened. I could make another story up, something more (superficially) plausible, but I’m sticking to this one. It’s the absolute truth.”
The story in question that Adams maintains was the reason for the catheter happened last year at the now-closed Vatikan bar, the current spot of Vogue nightclub. Adams contends that during the night he was speaking to several people and enjoying an evening out with friends. Like any club, it was dark, but he spoke to various people throughout the evening, including a girl who insisted on sitting down with him to talk.
“Now, I knew this girl was using (coke), but she actually seemed sweet. People tend to want to talk to me when I’m in a wheelchair anyway…” Like a sort of forced empathy? I suggested. “Exactly! And it’s fine to a certain point, but with this woman in particular, the conversation was getting a bit much.”
After trying to back out of the situation gracefully, citing that he was tired and wanted to end the conversation, she got offended. “And then I had to back-peddle and apologize. I thought I had offended her.” The woman’s solution was to force cocaine into his mouth to help him wake up, so to speak.
“And as bizarre as that sounds,” Adams explains, “that’s exactly what happened. I guess in this woman’s mind, she thought she was somehow helping me wake up. I don’t think she really understood what she was doing.”
The CCES later questioned him as to why he didn’t call the police when he found out what the substance was, “I don’t know her, and I haven’t seen her since the incident. And besides, why would I want to create more trouble for somebody I don’t know? It’s my issue now, and I’m just trying to deal with the outcome as best I can.”
When he gave a urine sample for the CCES, the trouble began.
“First test A comes back, and then you get your funding taken away,” Adams continued, “and that’s actually based on inconclusive evidence. It’s not like a regular judicial system. As soon as the first test (of two) is submitted, you’re already assumed guilty.”
In terms of the validity of the second test, Adams verifies that there was dispute over a “mathematical problem” cited by the CCES. They made what Adams cites only as a “mathematical error,” (also a term used by the Centre) on the second test. It was then resubmitted to their labs for reanalysis, and only then were the results found to have a positive presence of metabolites.
It’s just one of many inconsistencies in the CCES statements and findings over the past couple of weeks. “If the first test was initially an error than what else have we yet to find out?” Adams concludes, “The entire process is done internally, within the organization.”
This includes no outside arbitration, testing, or support. And in fact, after test A was concluded, Adams said he was given a strange document entitled, “I Tested Positive?” which advises athletes that find themselves in the same circumstance to go to the CCES immediately and tell them what happened. Absent is the advice to lawyer-up, which Adams did only after presenting his story to the CCES.
He found out later that the author of the document, David Letch, is also an arbitrator for the CCES. In short, there is no chance for external intervention or perspective. They test, they advise, they prosecute, and they sentence. They have the power to do all of these things if an athlete is found to have a positive sample.
Adams cites dismay at their treatment of athletes in general. Even athletes who have problems aren’t treated with respect. “Nobody is given counseling, there’s no mechanism in place that would actually provide anybody with support. It’s just kicking them to the curb when they should be helped.”
Adams is remaining positive, however, citing that he hopes that he can be an example of how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should play into the Ethics in Sport code.
“Currently, they do not recognize the Charter. If they did, the major difference would have been me not being suspended until the test results were conclusive.” Adams also believes that there would be room for more third party intervention. “The Government of Canada needs to have an active roll. They fund the CCES, but they don’t make it hold up basic rights?”
“But if I can help bring those rights to the table,” he adds, “that will be more important than anything I’ve ever done on the track. This is about athletes taking either a two-year hit, or a reprimand. There’s no in-between. The rules have to be changed.”
Since this article was published, Adams launched an appeal of his two year suspension. The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland found that he could not be held responsible for what was deemed an assault on the night in question. Find out more about Adams' struggle and career here.
Images from cbc.ca.