Has the IAAF completely failed the sport of athletics?

November 13, 2015 0

© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated

The International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF) mandate should be to promote the sport of athletics, while fostering growth and international goodwill. After several decades of not so subtle doping by athletes, as well as apparent extortion, bribery, fraud, mass cover-ups and money laundering by people in positions of authority, the cold, hard truth is that they are not. Considering the organised crime-like behavior by these individuals, does the IAAF deserve the right to serve the sport, going-forward?

Should the 100 and-three-year-old organisation be dissolved? Would a new streamline, flat-management style association be effective in its place? Something drastic must be done amid news of damning scandals that have plagued the organisation for decades and continue to today.

Founded in 1912 by 17 participating nations, who recognised the need for a governing body, the International Amateur Athletic Federation was created in Stockholm, Sweden. The headquarters have been located in Monaco since 1993. In 1985, the name was changed to its current iteration, removing the word, “amateur” as professionalism was brought in.

The IAAF is funded by the promotion of athletics events, sales of publications as well as member nation fees.

The reign of President, Primo Nebiolo

Primo Nebiolo served as IAAF president from 1981 to 1999, when he died of a heart attack. His ethics were called into question on more than one occasion for example, during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, nine positive drug test results were covered up and the data about those test results was stolen by someone in a break and enter and apparently destroyed. Arnold Beckett who was on the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission publicly spoke of the incident. Twenty-one years ago Beckett told the Los Angeles Times, “I broke rank with good intent. Somebody has got to stop this madness.”

According to Beckett, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch was plotting to cover up the positive tests.

From the LA Times article:

During 15 days of operation, the UCLA laboratory tested 1,502 athletes. Twelve positives were reported, including two medal winners–a Swedish weightlifter and Finnish distance runner.

The greatest number–157–were tested the day before the Olympics ended. The nine positives allegedly ignored came during the competition’s last two days. Among the marquee events held in the final two days were the men’s shotput, women’s discus, men’s 1,500, women’s 100 hurdles, men’s marathon and boxing finals.

Apparently Nebiolo was party to the supposed crime. He was also very power hungry. To make sure that voting went as planned, he created a new voting system, which left power completely within his hands. The federation had operated under a weighted voting system so that the older members from northern European and British Commonwealth countries held five or six votes per country, while smaller, newer members had one each.

Nebiolo created the International Athletic Foundation, a trust based in Monte Carlo, a principality that is known to take extreme measures to protect residents and international investor information. By the late 1980s the Foundation had an annual budget of more than $10-million. Ironically, according to their specific webpage located at IAAF.org their mission is as follows:

The International Athletics Foundation’s (IAF) primary mission is to charitably assist the world governing body for track and field athletics – the International Association of Athletics Federations – and its affiliated national governing bodies in perpetuating the development and promotion of athletics worldwide.

Apparently most of the initial money came from the Seoul Olympic Games because American television lobbied to broadcast during times that would suit their audience. Apparently they happened to pay $10-million for that request, most of which is suspected to have ended up in the IAAF coffers. Of the highest level corporate sponsorship six of the ten companies are American: Proctor & Gamble, McDonalds, Coca Cola, Visa, GE and Dow.

For the 2016 Rio Olympic Games it is expected that over four billion dollars will be generated from Television broadcast revenue alone. Worldwide marketing is expected to reach 900 million, while 1.3 billion will be collected from domestic sponsorship and an additional half a billion from other revenues. Why would the IAAF or the IOC want hundreds of positive drug tests to be brought to light?

Lamine Diack

Diack took over after Nebiolo passed away. He retired in August of2015. Diack was arrested earlier this month by French authorities on the grounds that they believe he accepted bribe money to cover up positive doping tests of Russian athletes. He is apparently also facing money laundering charges.

In 1993 the International Olympic Committee’s ethics committee conducted a year-long investigation into claims that Diack received bribes from the bankrupt sports marketing company International Sport and Leisure (ISL).

He apparently received three payments totalling roughly 60,000 French francs. Diack had personally received the cash payments from ISL at the same time that the company was in negotiations with the IAAF to sign a marketing contract. The IOC suggested that Diack placed himself in a conflict of interest situation, a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

He received only a warning as he claimed that the money was given to him because his house had burnt down, Where there is smoke, there is fire hence his arrest just last week as well as several other top IAAF officials. They are being investigated over those pesky bribe allegations.

Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack is also being investigated for taking part in corruption due to covering up positive test results as well as apparently taking bribe money from the organiser of the 2019 Doha, Qatar IAAF World Track and Field Championships.

Somehow Qatar was awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which is a complete mystery considering that the climate is inhospitable to sports in the summer. In a jaw-dropping move, FIFA managed to convince the soccer world to completely disrupt their annual schedules to allow the competition to take place during the winter.

Lord Sebastian Coe

Coe is not new to the game of sport management and administration. He was the Chairman of the 2012 London Olympic Games and was also a member of the FIFA ethics committee for several years, an organisation fraught with major ethical scandals. Coe was also a past Vice-President of the IAAF.

During his campaign to become president, he lashed out at the media saying that ARD Television’s leaking of a top-secret IAAF document that showed thousands of questionable blood levels in Olympic athletes was a “war on my sport”. Was that really the most appropriate response from the prospective leader of the IAAF?

When two of the more qualified doping scientists were quoted at length about the depth and breadth of the severity of the questionable blood values, Coe, called into question their credentials. This was the sign of a man lashing out, perhaps angry at having his campaign railroaded by the truth.

In early November, Coe was in Russia handing out awards at the All-Russian Athletics Federations (ARAF) year-end gala. He talked to ARAF about cleaning up the sport and subsequently reported to the media that the Russians appear to have an appetite for change, however, the rest of the world knew – so why didn’t he? – that former World Anti-Doping President and founder, Dick Pound’s investigation was wrapped, sealed and ready to be delivered in two days for the world to see. The preliminary media reports were of “paradigm-shifting news” with quotes, such as “it’s worse than what we thought.” Surely as a man on the inside, in the eye of the storm, he must have known that the proverbial excrement was about to hit the fan. What was he doing in Russia?

At roughly the same time that he was at the Gala in Russia, Lamine Diack was being arrested as was Dr. Gabriel Dollé, the former director of the IAAF’s medical and anti-doping department. They were taken into custody in Nice. Dollé was the most senior medical person in the IAAF; the proverbial fox guarding the proverbial hen house.

Back in 2006, Coe was appointed the first chairman of FIFA’s independent watchdog. FIFA president Sepp Blatter made the announcement in Zurich on September, 15 2006 and said, “It is perhaps a surprise but it has been very well received. We have found an outstanding personality in the world of sport, a great personality in the Olympic movement.”

The relationship didn’t end well as Blatter called the English sore losers for complaining about Russia winning the right to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Coe subsequently stepped down.

Blatter has since stepped down too, as he has been under investigated several times for apparent bribery. On earlier charges he was cleared; however, in September of 2015, Swiss investigators announced that they were investigating Blatter in regards to payments made to UEFA president Michel Platini. Blatter is also suspected of criminal misappropriation relating to a TV rights deal he signed with Caribbean football chief Jack Warner in 2005.

Coe was the vice-president of the IAAF since 2007 with re-appointment in 2011. During his time as VP, he had supported Lamine Diack. He said that Diack will always be the “spiritual leader” of the sport of athletics and thanked him for his wise support. During that time he was apparently completely unaware of the enormous corruption scandal that was erupting.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that 146 medals, 55 of which were golds in endurance events at the Olympics and World Championships between 2001 and 2012 were won by athletes who had suspicious blood values. The IAAF and WADA caught none of them.

“It is essentially a clean sport,” Coe said of doping. “We have our challenges, and nobody would deny that. There is nothing in our history that should lead you to believe that we haven’t done everything possible. The clean athletes have to absolutely know we are in their corner.”

Earlier this year, the media reported the examination of 12,000 blood tests involving 5,000 athletes from years 2001 to 2012, and concluded that 800 were suspicious by athletes who competed in distances from the 800-metre event to the marathon who had recorded suspicious test results.

Australian scientist and doping expert Robin Parisotto said, “Never have I seen such an alarmingly abnormal set of blood values. So many athletes appear to have doped with impunity, and it is damning that the IAAF appears to have idly sat by and let this happen.”

Coe referred to the two scientists as “so-called experts” and the IAAF said, Ashendon and Parisotto are in “no position to make any comment” on the results.

Oh contraire. Dr. Michael Ashenden was an exercise physiologist with the Australian Institute of Sport. He assisted in the development of a test to detect EPO specifically for the Sydney Olympic Games. He then left the AIS to focus on battling blood doping. He was also a member of the WADA Passport Committee that devised targeting strategies for international federations such as the IAAF to adopt.

Ashenden and Robin Parisotto were both founding members of the Union Cycliste Internationale Expert Panel. Both have each provided expert testimony to disciplinary cases before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and have both advised anti-doping organisations on how to undertake target testing of athletes suspected of blood doping.

Interestingly, since 2011 Parisotto has worked for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to review blood profiles of their elite track and field athletes. Consequently, he is currently providing expert opinion to multiple disciplinary proceedings involving IAAF athletes. Therefore both scientists are very well-qualified.

Conversationally, athletes, coaches, media, agents and anyone with an interest in the sport of athletics will discuss probable dopers and eras of doping, such as the Chinese middle-distance runners of the 1990s, who set otherworldly standards that have yet to be matched:

1     8:06.11   Wang Junxia   CHN       09.01.73   1     Beijing        13.09.1993
2     8:12.18   Qu Yunxia     CHN       25.12.72   2     Beijing          13.09.1993
3     8:12.19   Wang Junxia   CHN       09.01.73   1h2   Beijing     12.09.1993
4     8:12.27   Qu Yunxia     CHN       25.12.72   2h2   Beijing       12.09.1993
5     8:16.50   Zhang Linli   CHN       06.03.73   3     Beijing         13.09.1993
6     8:19.78   Ma Liyan       CHN       03.11.68   3h2   Beijing      12.09.1993

And there was the East German regime, where the steroid use was very blatant, especially with the female athletes. Lorraine Moller wrote in her autobiography that the East German women tried to cover up their masculinity by wearing feminine clothing at night, which just made them look pathetically more masculine.

More recently Jamaican and American sprinters, especially Tyson Gay, have thrown it in the face of authorities. Gay is running nearly as well as he ever has. In 2015, as a 33-year-old he has run as fast as 9.87. His personal best is a 9.69.

Yet no major investigation has been conducted that even remotely resembles the 2015 Independent Commission headed by Dick Pound. He, along with Gunter Yunger, who is a Cybercrime expert and fellow Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren spent 11 months investigating the Russian doping scandal as well as the IAAF. Their report is 323 pages long and very thorough. There is more to come.

It was German journalist, Hajo Seppelt with ARD TV, who exposed apparent systematic Russian doping with their documentary, “How Russia Makes Champions” as well as releasing the top secret IAAF document containing thousands of blood values. The IAAF should be ashamed.

Three-time Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan said, “There is such a spattered history of obvious cheating throughout athletics. Now that I look back when things were blatantly obvious I ask, why were those questions never fully asked or the answers found up until now?”

While trusted with the responsibility and privilege of managing the sport of athletics, certain individuals in the IAAF have instead caused it to atrophy; it’s reduced to a niche sport on their watch. After decades of cover-ups, espionage, corruption, bribe-taking, money laundering and extortion, has the IAAF proven that they deserve the right to manage the sport?





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