Ryder, already battling alcohol problems, was sanctioned for using outlawed substances contained in a weight-loss supplement, though he escaped the two-year exclusion that is the norm.
The player admitted that the due diligence he should have applied to exactly what he was putting into his body had slipped and that he should have checked more carefully.
It was quite simply a stupid mistake, not the type of institutionalised drug-driven cheating that typified the falls from grace of cyclist Lance Armstrong, Olympic athlete Marion Jones and baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez.
Ryder’s slip was accepted as such by the New Zealand cricket authorities.
But Armstrong lost his aura of respectable invincibility – and his seven Tour de France titles – while Jones had to surrender the five golds she won at the Sydney 2000 Games. In January 2008 she was sentenced to six months in jail resulting from her involvement in a cheque fraud case and her use of performance-enhancing drugs.
New York Yankee “A-Rod” will forfeit $34-million (R340 million) in salary in a 211-game suspension for admitting using performance enhancing substances.Armstrong, Jones and Rodriguez represent the more venal side of doping; Ryder the more stupid.
But while sporting authorities become ever more vigilant worldwide to the scourge of dope cheats, stop for a moment and consider the wider picture by divorcing the anti-drug hype from the realities of modern professional sport.
Anabolic steroids, the most commonly detected performance enhancing agents uncovered, provide a starting point for another approach to the emotive issue. Steroids are used therapeutically in medicine to stimulate bone growth – among other things – and widely used to rehabilitate damaged joints.
Better the authorities be informed of an injury to a million-dollar athlete, and thoroughly monitor the treatment.
Give the athlete a course of medication, and allow time for the drug to work its way out of the system. In short, legalise what is currently a shady practice.