Margo MacDonald: Silence taints a golden moment

Christine Ohuruogu received the silent treatment from BBC commentators. Picture: Getty Images
Christine Ohuruogu received the silent treatment from BBC commentators. Picture: Getty Images
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Two of the best sports commentators on TV, for my money anyway, are natural communicators, whose sheer enjoyment of sport, in particular of athletics, bounces off the screen and into your living room propelled by their strong body language.

Michael Johnson and Denise Lewis, both having enjoyed Olympic glory, are knowledgeable, have been there and done it. Suffice to say, they are very influential amongst sports enthusiasts, especially track and field athletes.

So why did it appear to this sports fan at least that when they were joined in the commentary studio by the captain of the UK team, Michael and Denise had next to nothing to say, either to Christine Ohuruogu, or about her gold medal? Yet she had successfully defended her 400 metres title.

The athlete herself was an interviewer’s dream, clearly spoken, outgoing and, or so it appeared, straight as a die in pursuit of her goal. The only explanation I could come up with was that although she was endorsed by UK athletics bosses, and praised for her inspirational leadership, she was unforgiven by Denise and Michael for the behaviour that earned her a year’s suspension from competing.

Christine missed three blood tests for drugs. She was suspected by some of her peers of using banned substances to enhance her performance. If she had done then it was quite right that she was banned for a year.

It has never been proved though that she deliberately skipped out of the testing, or that any drugs were present in her system.

The other explanation was that as a younger athlete she was insecure, disorganised and trying to cope with a double commitment in gaining a university degree as well as reaching the heights in 
athletics. She could appear arrogant and the reason for her no-show was probably down to this character trait, and plain bad time-keeping.

Whether my conjecture or the suspicion still harboured by others is what comes 
closest to the truth of that period in her career, Christine Ohuruogu is promoted by the Board of UK Athletics as a role model for young athletes and she takes the responsibility seriously. But in trying to assess her actions, I cannot forget having sat with Alain Baxter after he had been unfairly stripped of his bronze at the Winter Olympics. Mistakes can happen, and squeaky clean and super successful athletes and fans should remember that.

BBC’s reporting of assisted dying stories is a law unto itself

Firstly, let me get out my frustration at BBC journalists who haven’t got the “British” bit of their job description. As a rule of thumb, they shouldn’t assume blanket coverage of legal stories, because there is a Scottish legal system.

A quick check is all that’s necessary to avoid wrong or misleading information being broadcast to listeners who, as opinion polls show, invest the BBC with a very high level of trustworthiness.

And the object of my attention? The implication of the BBC News reporter’s story that the law on assisting suicide currently being tested in England applies across the whole UK. It never seems to cross their minds that the story applies outwith the jurisdiction of Scots Law, and that a word of caution for Scots would be reasonable.

Opinions amongst people living here could be affected by the outcome of proceedings south of the Border. But there will be a different practical application of lessons learned regarding the family who are alleged to be preparing to assist their 71-year-old father to travel to a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to commit suicide. The interest, legally and morally, lies in what should happen if the man is indeed in the early stages of dementia – and Scots will be as interested as anyone else, but will not be directly affected by decisions facing the English and Welsh legal systems.

The Member’s Bill I introduced into the Scottish Parliament will not in its initial form include people suffering dementia as I could not devise a formula of words that would effectively protect anyone from undue pressure, or being misunderstood as to his or her wishes.

An amendment can be tabled should an MSP feel that the Bill will respond inadequately to requests from constituents who support approval for people who find themselves in a similar position. Regardless of the decisions south of the Border, clearly drawn limits are placed on the categories of people who might meet all the requirements to legally have someone help them end their life, under the terms of my Bill, should it be passed by the Scottish Parliament and become a provision of Scots Law.

Each jurisdiction may be influenced by the other and, I hope, influence other communities tackling the same dilemma thrown up by assisted dying.