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Restorative justice could be answer to doping problem

Aug 14, 2009

from Kurt Streeter's column in the LA Times sports section:

We've tried blame. We've tried shame. We've tried hard punishment.

But on the doping-in-sports front, we're making very little real progress. Suspicion still reigns. Chemists remain ahead of the testers. Every other week there's a new bust.

We've hit a wall.

There are the athletes who get caught and then, invariably, smile and smirk, duck and dodge, taking as little responsibility as possible.

There are those, like me, who feel moral outrage -- that altering the body this way should never be condoned. Our voices are growing faint.

There are the hordes who've begun to tune out the whole issue despite feeling, deep in the gut, that something is really wrong: that our games, and by extension society, have been tarnished by widespread doping.

Let's try a new approach. It's time to seek higher ground: accountability, responsibility -- and yes, forgiveness....

....What happened in South Africa was an example of "restorative justice," a concept that has roots spreading to ancient Greece and, on this continent, to the Native Americans.

It effectively dealt with apartheid. Let's use it to help deal with doping in sports.

Take baseball as an example.

Thom Allena, a New Mexico-based authority on restorative justice who spends much of his time working with hard-core juvenile criminals, says baseball, like every other major sport, uses "the traditional punishment system" and it is adversarial.

"It's about who did what. How can we punish them? How do we make it hurt?" he says. "Sometimes this is necessary. Sometimes there's a better way. . . . A restorative approach asks who has been harmed. What has the harm been? It asks the accused, the victims, the people around them -- how do you feel about what happened? And finally, how do we go about repairing the damage?"

Remember 10 years ago, when UCLA football players sparked outrage by using forged signatures to procure disabled parking placards? Allena was called in. He brought all sides together in a room and got them to open up. It wasn't perfect, it was often emotional and hard but healing happened. Allena says burly athletes and disabled students ended up working together to promote disabled rights on campus.....

Read the whole column.

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Lisa Rea
Lisa Rea says:
Aug 14, 2009 05:08 PM

I love this article in the Los Angeles Times. <br />I am not surprised that Thom Alena was quoted since he is doing some excellent work in many venues, including bringing restorative justice into schools. <br /> <br />What is key here is that restorative justice can be applied in many parts of society~wherever there is injury. Alena is right. We must ask who has been harmed and how can that injury be repaired. I think also a key feature is holding offenders accountable. It is after all the offender who must make things right with those he has harmed. <br /> <br />Restorative justice principles can be applied to our criminal justice systems as well as to civil disputes whether they be public or private. <br /> <br /> <br />Lisa Rea <br />California

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