Gordon Campbell on welfare blackmail, and the therapeutic use of drugs in sport

So, in order to chase up the fathers (and in a few rare cases, the mothers) who may be dodging their responsibility for paying child support… WINZ is evidently willing to blackmail the parent who is doing the actual caring, and thereby push the child concerned further into poverty. Reportedly, beneficiary parents who refuse to disclose the intimate details of their child’s conception (to a case manager in an open plan WINZ office) stand to have their benefits substantially docked.

So much for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that New Zealand signed, where we pledged that the wellbeing of the child would always be paramount. Scaring up a bit more money from absent partners is obviously far more important to the likes of Social Development Minister Anne Tolley than ensuring that the child concerned is not further disadvantaged. (Remember all the P.R. stuff a few weeks ago about the government’s concern for “Vulnerable Children”?)

Rather than resort to the sort of standover tactics you’d normally expect from Tony Soprano, WINZ needs to acknowledge the risks of retaliation to which the mother may be exposed if she publicly fingers the family member or rapist or partner involved in the child’s conception. If a few people avoid paying their child support… well, that seems like a lesser evil than extorting compliance and/or financially punishing the parent who is actually caring for the child. At the end of the day, should officialdom be in the business of making a child suffer because of the actions and inactions of its parents? Sure, says WINZ, if it means recouping a few bucks.

Drugs in Sport

It would be Interesting to know what Maria Sharapova is thinking right now about the Russians who hacked their way into the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) website. As a result, medical information has been disclosed about the tennis playing Williams sisters and the US gymnast Simone Biles. As things currently stand, Sharapova took a legal substance – meldonium – for ten years as treatment for a chronic heart condition. The drug was finally banned by WADA only as from January 1st 2016. A few months later, Sharapova failed a test that showed the presence of meldonium, and got banned from tennis for two years. The ban is under appeal, and a decision on Sharapova’s case is due sometime next month.

Point being….Sharapova has been slammed by the likes of Andy Murray as a drug cheat. (Murray has also criticized one of Sharapova’s sponsors for continuing to be associated with her.) Yet we now learn that for the past five years, Sharapova has been facing across the net a Serena Williams who has been granted a ‘therapeutic use exemption” by WADA, and allowed to take a whole variety of banned drugs for her medical condition without anyone else being the wiser. Here’s the story:

Documents published on the Fancy Bear website appeared to show that Serena Williams had taken the restricted drugs prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisone, hydromorphone and oxycodone between 2010 and 2015, while her sister Venus had taken prednisone, prednisolone, triamcinolone and formoterol. Biles, meanwhile, was given methylphenidate for attention-deficit disorder. In all cases, however, Wada confirmed that the athletes had committed no offence because they had been granted therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) by the relevant international sports federations and national anti-doping organisations.

The New York Times also has a story on the Russian hack.

Yes, there is a difference between (a) asking for an exemption from WADA to use a drug for a medical condition, and (b) taking a drug for a medical condition without asking WADA’s permission and without filling in the appropriate forms, which BTW, are available here.

Yet at the performance level is there much difference? Reportedly, both players have genuine medical conditions, both have taken banned performance enhancing drugs for them, yet only the Russian athlete has been labeled a drug cheat and banned from the sport for two years, while the US athlete has had her drug use hidden from the public (on privacy grounds) for five years, by the agency that claims to be the champion of drug-free sport. Arguably, WADA should amend its name, because the acronym also seems to stand for World Authorised Doping Agency.

In any fair world, Sharapova should be able to claim (as part of her pending appeal) a retrospective therapeutic use exemption, once she’s filled in the right forms. (Tennis, reportedly, allows some room for retrospective classification on such matters.) By shining the spotlight on the issue of therapeutic use exemptions, the Russian hackers have done sports fans a great service. No doubt, Serena Williams has a genuine and serious health issue – and given that her exemption runs 2010-2015, one can only hope she has not had to take the likes of prednisone consistently for those entire five years. Venus Williams also deserves sympathy, and should be applauded for going public in 2011 that she suffers from the auto-immune system disease Sjogrens Syndrome.

Biles is also in an invidious position. As she says, she has been taking her ADHD medication – better known as Ritalin – since she was “a kid”. (She’s now 19.) Obviously, Ritalin has a role in enhancing focus and calming anxiety. So again, it is easy to see why Biles’ rivals may feel she could have gained an advantage from her medication, in a sport where anxiety and mental focus is a highly relevant concern. It also doesn’t help that the ADHD diagnosis within top sport has been tarnished by the rash of top baseball players in the US who have applied for the therapeutic use of Ritalin and Adderall. As a result, the rate of ADHD among US baseball players seems (suspiciously) higher than in the US population at large. Other reports, it should be said, question whether there really has been such an epidemic of ADHD exemptions in US baseball.

No-one would want athletes with genuine medical conditions to be disqualified from the top tier of competition simply because of the medications they need. On the other hand, the current situation – where some athletes are using performance enhancing drugs for legitimate reasons without the public’s knowledge – is unsatisfactory. Of late, WADA has conducted witch hunts against drug-linked athletes from some countries (eg Russia) while being comparatively tolerant about those from others (eg Kenya, the US). Now, there is evidence that WADA has also been willing to conceal the drug-enhanced performances of top US athletes taking banned substances on medical grounds.

Surely, transparency has to become the rule here. If athletes have a medical condition that requires treatment with performance enhancing substances that are denied on pain of serious penalty to their rivals, then that fact needs to be disclosed. Privacy rights have to be trumped by the needs of disclosure, given the rewards involved. After all, the public is likely to sympathise with those athletes who have transcended their illness, and succeeded regardless. But the public also deserves to know if and when such drugs (banned to everyone else) have been part of the performance mix.

Footnote : In top sport, we’re always being told how much of the edge can come down to mental attitude. Well… if you thought that athletes upgrading their bodies with dodgy stimulants was hard enough to police, what about the prospect that we’ll soon have to worry about athletes using electrical means to upgrade their minds? There is some emerging evidence that devices used to directly stimulate the motor cortex of the brain can speed up the performance feedback on repetitive training routines, as compared to a control group not using such devices. There’s a fairly balanced report on the sports potential of this electrical brain stimulation technology here.

Remakes, remakes

In 2016, Hollywood’s reliance on franchises and reboots and remakes has seen some truly spectacular misfires – such as the Ben Hur remake and now a reportedly dire remake of the much loved 1960 Western movie The Magnificent Seven – itself a remake of the Kurosawa film Seven Samurai but now recognized as a classic in its own right. In the new version, the Yul Brynner character is played by Denzel Washington, and the Steve McQueen character is played by (gulp) Chris Pratt.

To get us all in the ‘way out west’ mood, here’s guitarist Al Caiola, with the hit theme from Bonanza :

And here’s the great Elmer Bernstein theme from the original Magnificent Seven movie:

Bo Diddley was a gunslinger too, and his “Travellin’ West” is also pretty chill…

21 Comments on Gordon Campbell on welfare blackmail, and the therapeutic use of drugs in sport

  1. There are no carrots, WINZ is all stick.
    Costs for all that unnecessary private security can’t be cheap, so they want to take more money from the children and mothers living in poverty.

  2. When I was a social worker working in a hospital I worked with a woman who had been rapped and the rape had resulted in a pregnancy. She was in the same position. She knew her rapist but didn’t want his name on the birth certificate. Work and Income insisted, otherwise she would have lost part of her benefit. It was such and inhumane thing to do. This has been a Work and Income practice for years.

  3. And babies, don’t forget WINZ in these cases is unlawfully taking money from babies, many who are already living in poverty.
    Winz are definitely psychopathic (as is any court or govt that would support WINZ stealing money from babies ).

  4. WINZ are making up their own unofficial legislation and using unlawful polices to steal money from the vulnerable.
    The Crown calls this unlawful theft of legal entitlements “commerce” .

    This stealing money from poor babies, children and other vulnerable people is a case of the corporation (Crown Govt NZ) actively creating more inequality and poverty for children in NZ.

  5. Let’s not forget the mother trying to care for the child. It seems that there is so little societal caring to go around that only a child can get some.

    The mother has had nine months to consider the values of the father and an ongoing relationship with him. She would no doubt be wise to consider that a short period of dating and occasional sex is no basis for an ongoing committed and caring responsible relationship.

    Has anyone thought that much of the domestic violence that is constant in NZ could be the result of women having to name the father. Then he is chased for money, and she is forced to have a man around who is deficient in most of the standards that society wants children to learn, plus his disdain for this woman who has landed him with her brat. Nice idea from this dire moralistic government; moralistic about some things like sexuality and responsibility for one’s behaviour, but only in the poorer classes.

  6. So if they can changed this one unlawful policy why don’t the MP’s try to end some of the other unlawful policies and operating procedures in the WINZ’s anti social repertoire?

  7. I have to pay my taxes to support some, not all solo parents. Some people are on welfare for many years and others until they are able to get on their feet again. So long as two consenting adults take a romp to produce a child together it is not unreasonable that WINZ on behalf of the tax payer require the parent to disclose the name of the absent parent in order for some of those costs to be covered. If a parent chooses not to provide that information for what ever reason then WINZ is limited in what can be recouped by the absent parent. It would be reasonable that the benefit is a little less as one parent has decided to obstruct the process of perusing the costs.

    It is not “the goverment” or “WINZ’ that choose for children to be raised in hardship. When two consenting adults choose to create a baby that they have no way or will to provide for they are the ones that put their children in hardship.

    Carrot and stick. If I refuse to pay my income tax to support other peoples carelessness I can be charged in court and even sent to prison, where is my carrot?

  8. “…for the past five years, Sharapova has been facing across the net a Serena Williams who has been granted a ‘therapeutic use exemption” by WADA, and allowed to take a whole variety of banned drugs for her medical condition without anyone else being the wiser.”
    In my view, this situation graphically illustrates the absence of logic and consistency in WADA’s approach. If such drugs enhance performance, they’ll also do that if taken for therapeutic reasons.
    Note that Michelle Carter – she who beat Valerie Adams at the Olympics – was caught last year, and her application for a retrospective TUE was turned down. In virtue of what should we assume she was clean at Rio? And in any event, how is it that she was allowed to compete, while Russian athletes who’d tested clean after a ban, or who had never doped, were banned from Rio?
    Of course, we all knew or suspected that something like the Williams sister’s exemption was going on; now, thanks to Fancy Bear activists, we know for sure.
    I think that the WADA hack is the first shot of revenge across the bows of WADA and the Olympic movement, on the part of Russian citizens, who are justifiably enraged at the shameful treatment of Russian athletes. I don’t include the government in piracy of that sort: Putin in particular is far too subtle and sophisticated for that sort of malarkey. But he will certainly respond: the Newtonian principle applies here.

  9. @Peggy да the corporate hunger games censorship sure did create a media feed for old fashioned cold war mongering.
    But like the ” five eyes” in the one eye, Putin is a stooge, he accelerated the bombing of innocent civilians in Syria coordinated it with and for the Oligarchy.
    I don’t place such a high value on the Corporate Games,( or the propaganda that the media monopoly print) I see it for what it is and so don’t find it a cause/excuse for conflict or war .

  10. Helen S: ” Putin is a stooge, he accelerated the bombing of innocent civilians in Syria coordinated it with and for the Oligarchy.”

    This sounds to me like Western – a fortiori US – propaganda. Absent their loony “regime change” project, the situation in Syria is orders of magnitude more complex than Obama or Kerry would have us believe. Russian intervention on Assad’s side is probably the best hope of resolving the conflict. Note that there are no moderate rebels fighting there: US claims to the contrary are just more propaganda.

    Have a read of this. It’s a neat encapsulation of the bloody mess in the middle East and North Africa:

  11. @Peggy you are speaking as though you are an ignorant Western shill, a paid war lobbyist or someone working for fox news.
    Terrorism does not end terrorism.
    Bombing civilians is not a solution, all that nonsense is just war propaganda.

  12. Helen S Ad hominems dont make an argument. FWIW Peggy is pretty much on the button. The Russiians and the Iranians are the only partie legally in Syria in this regime change insurgency. The rest are there in full breach of International Law (ie the UN IL not the Samantha Power US version of IL)

  13. Helen S: “you are speaking as though you are an ignorant Western shill, a paid war lobbyist or someone working for fox news.”

    Oh dear! Name-calling: this suggests that you’ve run out of arguments. Western shill? Really… I don’t have access to Fox News, but hey! if its journalists are taking a more sceptical line on Syria than are the likes of CNN, then I applaud them.

    I grew up in a world of rabid cold war anti-Soviet propaganda. At present, despite the cold war having ended 25 years ago, we’re being subjected to a relentless anti-Russian propaganda campaign which bears remarkable similarities to the old cold war rhetoric. It includes the utterly shameful and unjust treatment of Russian athletes at both Olympics and paralympics. This campaign is driven by the US, with enthusiastic support from both UK and EU. And WADA of course.

    Andrew Nichols: “…the Samantha Power US version of IL)
    Ha! Indeed. She’s perfected the art of the barefaced lie. In early 2014, following the violent illegal coup in Kiev (sponsored by the US), I watched as she stood in front of the UN general assembly and claimed that there were 22,000 Russian troops stationed illegally in the Crimea. She knew or ought to have known that this was untrue, yet she still said it. She’s a piece of work.

    But to go back to the reason I commented to begin with, see this:
    Here we have the Daily Mail doing its job; how come we don’t see journalists in NZ scrutinising this story and asking searching questions?

    And note that Michelle Carter, she who beat Valerie Adams, is taking banned drugs, with a TUE from WADA. How come our journalists aren’t taking a harder look at this issue? They need to be doing a better job of informing the public.

    This TUE business is truly farcical: if drugs enhance performance, they’ll do it for every athlete who takes them, regardless of whether said athlete has a TUE. The drugs don’t know the difference. WADA is hopelessly compromised, with zero credibility.

  14. Helen S: Have you read that link I posted from Consortiumnews? I recommend it: Robert Parry is clear-eyed and has an excellent grasp of the facts regarding the current imbroglio in the middle east and eastern Europe.

  15. Peggy you recommend a Link to the Media monopoly opinion?
    Can’t say I’m surprised.
    Using sports for War propaganda much?

    (Can’t see the ad hom, you both clearly regurgitate media feeds and do not understand and cannot see through the propaganda and bullshit that you are fed which is done to try to justify the terrorism/war… and that is ignorance)

  16. Helen S: “you recommend a Link to the Media monopoly opinion?
    Can’t say I’m surprised.
    Using sports for War propaganda much?”

    Er… I’m guessing that you haven’t read Parry then. Media monopoly opinion? Parry would be more than a little baffled by that characterisation. Anything but media monopoly, I assure you. As, of course, you would yourself realise, were you to read him; and many other contributors to that excellent site.

    Using sports for war propaganda is exactly what the US and its allies have been doing against Russia. That is the point of what I and others have been saying. A piece of advice: stop seeing Russia as the enemy; when you do that, it becomes abundantly clear how profoundly silly the US’ propaganda campaign is.

    “Can’t see the ad hom”

    Calling people names: ignorant, shill and so on; that’s what ad hominem attacks are.

    ” you both clearly regurgitate media feeds and do not understand and cannot see through the propaganda and bullshit that you are fed which is done to try to justify the terrorism/war”

    But that is precisely the opposite of what we’re doing; we’ve formulated a perspective based on information that generally can’t be found in mainstream news outlets. Hence my recommendation of Consortiumnews.

    Andrew Nichols is right: Russia and Iran are the only polities legally involved in the Syrian conflict. The US and its allies are acting illegally. The US has “form” for this, of course – as you’d know if you were to go off-piste, as it were, for your information. Unfortunately, the mainstream media cannot be relied on to do much more than regurgitate propaganda. Luckily, there are others: Robert Fisk, the great Noam Chomsky, the many contributors to Consortiumnews. And others, of course: read some of those I’ve mentioned. They’ve done the research, so that you don’t have to. But if you rely on the likes of the BBC and CNN and mainstream newspapers for information about the middle east, your perspective will be informed by propaganda.

  17. Peggy your mind is likened to the mind of the German people at the time of Hitler’s war propaganda . They also were not stupid, I did not say that you are stupid, (or do an ad hom )I just noted that you are ignorant, you are a “believer”.
    A mainstream media monopoly controls your mind.

  18. Warmongers are using the corporate sponsored hunger games.
    Lucky the popularity of this corporate event, funded by the taxpayers of course, like the corporate’s profitable wars is fading out.

  19. Helen S: ” your mind is likened to the mind of the German people at the time of Hitler’s war propaganda”

    Oh dear, going Godwin definitely says you’re all out of arguments.

    Calling me ignorant and a believer is an ad hominem attack. It isn’t a substantive argument.

    “…mainstream media monopoly controls your mind.”

    This is an assertion for which you provide no evidence. It’s also utterly wrong. My views are not mainstream: I’d be delighted if they were! In that counterfactual world, the middle East wouldn’t be in as much of a mess.

    I’m certain now that you haven’t read Parry. Such a pity: he’s a dissenting voice, and he makes a lot of sense. I can only urge you to put aside prejudice and read him.

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