The Dubin Inquiry
The Dubin Inquiry was a Canadian federal government inquiry into the state of amateur sport in Canada, more specifically into the use of performance-enhancing drugs by Canadian athletes. The inquiry followed in the footsteps of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson’s disqualification in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The inquiry was named after Charles Dubin, a Canadian judge who presided over the proceedings.
Johnson won the Olympic men’s 100-metre final in a world record time of 9.79 seconds. However, his post-race mandatory drug test was positive. Johnson was found to have taken the steroid Stanozolol. The subsequent stripping of Johnson’s gold medal turned into probably the most famous case of drug use in the history of sports. It also sent shock waves rippling through the Canadian sports establishment, with various members of government and the sport bureaucracy pointing fingers at each other.
Many observers of the sports establishment around the world followed the Dubin Inquiry and the Johnson case. Several countries were dealing with the growing problem of their own athletes using drugs to enhance performance, so the results of the inquiry were eagerly anticipated. The inquiry heard testimony from a large number of athletes, coaches, sports administrators, and others. The most interesting submissions were made by Johnson’s coach Charlie Francis, his physician Jamie Astaphan, and of course from Johnson himself. The inquiry disclosed drug taking on a scale never before suspected. It was discovered that, besides the common practice of coaches encouraging athletes to take drugs, many others were guilty of turning a ‘blind eye’ to the problem and ignoring it.
In the aftermath of the inquiry, a new organization, The Canadian Centre for Drug-Free Sport, was created to combat the problem. This organization has taken various measures in its attempt to combat drug use by Canadian athletes. However, critics of the Dubin Inquiry have accused the inquiry of being little more than a government inquisition, the real purpose of which was to direct attention towards individual athletes and coaches and away from the government itself.
Increasingly in the 1980s, Sport Canada-the governing body responsible for the administration of elite amateur sport in Canada-had taken a “success-oriented” approach to Canadian sport: emphasizing winning medals above all other goals. The result, critics have pointed out, was to put immense pressure on Canadian athletes, leading in turn to drug use–among many other extreme measures–to enhance performance. The Dubin Inquiry, in other words, has had mixed reviews.
A further indication of the effectiveness of the Dubin Inquiry can be seen in the state of Canadian sport since the inquiry. Despite attempts by The Canadian Centre for Drug-Free Sport to educate athletes and coaches on the dangers of drug use, there is little doubt that rampant drug use continues. This has led some observers of the Canadian sport scene to claim that drug use is less a reflection of individual athletes who cheat, but more a reflection of a cultural and institutional epidemic in sport. Drug use has perhaps become so common in the culture of elite sport that dealing with the problem by punishing individual athletes might be ineffective.