July 22, 2012

Time to close the Rahul-Parnell case

By all accounts, Rahul and Parnell did what a pair of young men might do in a big city once the working day is done

Rahul Sharma and Wayne Parnell have joined the list of cricketers that will soon be caught up in the sporting world's hypocrisy and confusion when it comes to the D-word: drugs. If sentence will be passed on them, in all probability it will be done by those who are not averse to the occasional beer, wine, or whisky, and who in all certainty, start their days off with a liquid injection of caffeine. Some of them might, even in these enlightened times, puff on a cigarette or two. In short, a bunch of recreational drug users will pass judgment on a pair of recreational drug users.

Perhaps, from the sidelines, an equally hypocritical and sanctimonious crowd will ask for harsher punishment. Meanwhile, that same contingent, punishers and callers-for-heads alike, will cheer when cricketers spray champagne over each other after a win and talk about the 'big night' and 'sore heads' that lie ahead.

By all accounts, Rahul and Parnell did what a pair of young men might do in a big city once the working day is done (in their case, after their commitments to their IPL team were done and dusted). They went out to party. Perhaps they smoked a joint, perhaps they just took a drag on one as it made the rounds. Perhaps, they dropped a pill of Ecstasy, and even worse, danced to dubstep and techno, and would have stayed up all night, if the Mumbai police hadn't decided to crash the party.

From the back of the police wagon that carried them off to the thana that night, Rahul and Parnell might have glumly wondered why their buddies could drink beers in dressing rooms with opponents and be praised for doing so, while they would be forced to donate their bodily fluids as evidence of criminal wrongdoing. They would wonder why there exists a category of forbidden substances called 'in-competition prohibited substances' that includes marijuana, but not alcohol or tobacco.

As professional sportsmen Rahul and Parnell should know what works for them and what doesn't when it comes to ingesting substances that might adversely affect their on-field performances. Cannabis and Ecstasy are not performance-enhancing drugs in any sense; their effect on performance-diminishment remains to be scientifically ascertained. (Vikram Rathour confesses to being surprised that Rahul tested positive as he "doesn't even drink beer." Perhaps Rahul is smarter than Rathour imagines; perhaps he knows the occasional joint will do him far less damage than the gallons of beer that cricketers of yesteryear were said to have consumed.)

If Rahul and Parnell had smoked a joint in the dressing room, they would deserve censure. But under the present circumstances, when they are on their own time, and not in the workplace, their punishments should end with the hassles they have already been subjected to.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here