Giving evidence

Many years ago, when living in shared student digs, there was a knock on the door one from the cops. It was “routine”, they explained. There had been a crime committed in the vicinity and they were asking men in our area if they would voluntarily provide a DNA sample “to eliminate you from our inquiries.”

My instinct was to jump at the opportunity. Any criminal investigation that I was eliminated from was, as far as I could see, a good one. Besides, it was just a cotton bud swab in my mouth. It wasn’t as though I was required to give blood.

But it was a huge issue for my house mate who felt extremely uncomfortable about providing a sample and therefore refused. Initially I was amazed – even guardedly angry that he would refuse to cooperate with a investigation which could remove a criminal from the streets.

He was a young man of nervous disposition and he remained in quite a state for several hours after the police had left. Finally, with a cup of coffee in his hands, he explained his rationale. He felt it was a violation of his privacy – and that he had no control over where his DNA records would be kept and what they might be used for in the future (paternity test?). He worried that it might be ‘planted’ somewhere or even that it might become mixed up with the DNA of the criminal. In short, he was a worrier. And he felt that by agreeing to provide a sample, he was somehow becoming involved in a case that had nothing to do with him.

I disagreed. Strongly. But he was a good man and a good friend. So I had to accept that his concerns were legitimate, however stupid and obstructive I thought they were. It was one of my first lessons in tolerance!

When Steve Waugh advocated the use of polygraph lie-detectors to help eliminate match-fixing and corruption from cricket, I thought: “What a great idea.” The former Aussie captain even sat through a two-hour interrogation which he admitted had been ‘stressful’ at times – even though he had nothing to hide or fear.

England captain Andrew Strauss said he would happily undertake a polygraph test, at any time, in the wider interests of the game and peoples’ faith in its integrity. And I’m sure he speaks on behalf of the great majority of professional cricketers, both international and domestic.

And then Tim May, one of the most important and influential figures in the game as president of the Federation of International Cricketers Associations (FICA) rubbished the idea. He said ‘evidence’ gleaned from polygraphs was inadmissible in court and therefore a waste of time. He also said that they were ‘unreliable’ and could place innocent players in a pressurised situation during which they might inadvertently become the cause of suspicion.

It is May’s job to protect and nurture the best interests of professional players around the world. And he does a bloody good job, too. But if corruption isn’t tackled head on, there might not be any ‘best interests’ because there won’t be any players.

Perhaps, this time, May was being a little over  protective. I think he got it wrong. But then, I still think my house mate got it wrong, too. But I respect the fact that they were free to make a choice.

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