The saga of the DPRK’s women’s World Cup team goes on.
After blaming lightning strikes for the team’s loss to the USA during the round-robin phase of the tournament, the North Korean side has found itself in the midst of soccer’s largest doping scandal since Diego Maradona. According to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, five players from the squad were tested and found to have taken steroids.
But that’s not all. The story takes another remarkable twist as DPRK officials have told FIFA that the use of steroids comes from the traditional medicine that was administered after the foresaid lightning strikes. The CBC article posted muses about the trouble FIFA and other sporting bodies have had in detecting and regulating natural steroids that come from African roots and deer glands – and despite the fact that these substances seem to be produced naturally, give an artificial boost to players on the pitch. Furthermore, pictures have been supposedly submitted showing players being carried off the practice field after the incident has taken place.
Assuming that the FIFA results are valid, the next question to ask is whether the North Korean story is as equally valid. Generally, in a court of law, witness testimony is deemed to be valid unless there is a reason to doubt the veracity of such statements. It may very well be that the DPRK players were struck by lightning; unfortunately, the laws of probability work against such an explanation. With a literal million-in-one chance of being struck by lightning, I myself wouldn’t believe this story if I were FIFA either, unless there was some conclusive documentary evidence to prove otherwise.
Regardless, it seems the damage to the DPRK’s reputation is already done. Even if the North Korean side is acquitted and found to have doped unknowingly, in the all important court of public opinion, the DPRK players are already guilty. It surprises even myself to mention Casey Anthony in the same sentence as “North Korea,” but much like the acquitted Anthony, the North Koreans have been found guilty of too many other transgressions (whether it be nuclear weapons, cross-border skirmishes, human rights, an unwillingness to feed its own people, its dailances in illegal narcotics, counterfeit money… well the list goes on) that regardless of whether the North Koreans actually doped or not, this guilt-by-previous-transgression has convicted them already. The doping itself is simply another nail in the rather large coffin of “DPRK World Reputation.” With a country that builds illicit nukes, doesn’t feed its own people, and even puts them in prison camps, doping soccer players seems like a triviality.
Perhaps some unsolicited advice to the readers from Pyongyang: when you wonder why only a small minority of people in the world take your word at face value, you have to wonder if there’s something you’re doing that makes you lose credibility. Much like when the average American wonders why there are so many people in the world who have no love for America, the DPRK has a severe international credibility gap that it seems no one in the country really wants to address. Whether it be food aid monitoring or deer gland doping, an increased amount of transparency would work wonders in closing this gap.
In an afterthought, if the North Koreans were really trying to give their players an advantage, it didn’t seem to work. The women failed to score a single goal at the tournament.