Time now for national athletics federations to clean house.

November 26, 2015 0

© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated

Note to national governing bodies of athletics and national anti-doping agencies: right now would be an excellent time to investigate and clean house of athletes, coaches, agents and administrators who cheat or are enablers of drug cheats by way of coercion, harassment, bribery and extortion. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) are gaining traction in the fight against cheats, as demonstrated by Russia’s suspension from global athletics.

Dick Pound, the founder of WADA and the head of the Independent Commission that investigated Russia and their apparent systematic doping program, told the Independent, “I find it offensive,” he says. “We have a pretty basic principle in sport that here are the rules and this is the game, this is how you play it, this is what you can do and this is what you can’t. I don’t want my kids cheated and now my grandkids and anyone else’s for that matter.” 

Pound doesn’t suffer fools lightly and he is an unwavering tough guy in his stance against doping in sport. He is frank and is unapologetic. The report on Russia that was released earlier this month may just be the beginning. He told the Independent that the early 2016 release of the remainder of the report on Russia will have a wow factor to it.

Athletics Illustrated has called for the banning of Russia since January of 2015 when ARD Television’s reporter Hajo Seppelt released the documentary: “How Russia Makes Champions”. Since then, ARD released a secret IAAF document that showed the blood profiles of thousands of athletes. The results suggest that many Olympic medallists were likely cheaters, including the 2012 London Olympic Games, which were declared, “the clean games”. Preposterous!

Kenya is next.

It is easy to feel sorry for Kenyan athletes. Their middle and long-distance runners are of the most talented in the world, with or without drugs. But they do have their cheaters. Over the past two years, 35 Kenyan athletes have been suspended for testing positive for PEDs.

The doping issue has a different make-up in Kenya in comparison to Russia. Where Russia is a powerful nation that is well-organised in its execution of culturally accepted doping and the requisite cover-ups, extortion and bribery; they operate like a Mafia, Kenya is not unlike the Wild West.

Kenya is generally made up of athletes who simply want to win; cheating is not cultural in Kenya like it is in Russia. The few who cheat either cheat because of the lack of information about the repercussions of doping or are enabled by European coaches and agents, who are want to make as many dollars as possible on the backs of talented Kenyan athletes.

Kenya’s problem isn’t of organised and institutionalised doping, but of apparent amateur and awkward extortionists acting as administrators and dirty agents and coaches who influence the athletes.

As a result of Russia’s suspension and not wishing to also be suspended themselves, Kenyan athletes have recently occupied the offices of Athletics Kenya (AK) demanding that the President and Vice-President Isaiah Kiplagat and David Okeyo step down.

Where Kenyans generally want to compete clean, Russia has arrogantly thumbed their nose at authority.

There appears to be some evidence that large sums of money that Nike paid Athletics Kenya did not trickle down past the administration. Additionally, AK is accused of dragging its feet on allowing the installation of an on-site testing laboratory. They are also accused of taking their time to handing down discipline to athletes who have tested positive.

Kenya cannot afford to run afoul of WADA or the IAAF. Now would be the most appropriate time to form a cabal, clean house and let an athlete-centric administration operate the federation.

Now would also be a good time for Turkey to clean house as well. During 2013, Turkey had 31 athletes test positive for performance enhancing drugs.

The positive tests found athletes were using primarily two anabolic steroids, stanozolol and turinabol including 2012 London Olympic 1500-metre gold medallist Aslı Çakır Alptekin. This was an unfortunate and ill-timed situation as Istanbul was romancing the International Olympic Committee in the hopes that their bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

Tokyo ended up winning. In light of the doping issues that Turkey then faced, Turkish Athletics Federation Chairman Megmet Terzi, stepped down from his position. If they are found noncompliant going-forward, the only logical course of action is a full-on sanction.

Jamaica is another powerhouse that does not have out-of-competition testing.

Their population is less than three million. The tiny island nation somehow produces most of the world-class sprinters. Nineteen athletes hold 100 of the fastest 100-metre times ever recorded, which make up 63 of those performances and every result are from athletes of West African descent. In comparison, Nigeria, a country populated with 170 million people, recorded just one top-100 result. In 2006, Adekotunbo Olusoji Fasuba ran 9.85, which sits tied for 67th all-time. The population of Afro-Americans is approximately 40 million. The Jamaicans dominate the Americans in this list of top-100 times, at a six-to-one ratio, while having one-fifth of the population, that is, when comparing only to Afro-Americans. More staggering yet, Jamaicans make up a meager 1% of the total population of the US.

In 2013, five Jamaican track and field athletes, including former 100-metre world record-holder Asafa Powell, faced disciplinary hearings in December and January (2014) after testing positive for banned substances. In October, three-time Olympic gold medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown was found guilty of taking a banned diuretic, but she escaped with a public reprimand from her Jamaican disciplinary panel. There was also high-jumper Demar Robinson, discus throwers Allison Randall and Traves Smikle. There are several more unnamed athletes, rumoured to be from Jamaica that apparently have had positive tests.

Sherone Simpson faced a disciplinary hearing two years ago with the Jamaican Anti-Doping Agency’s (JADCO) attorney Lackston Robinson because of a lab report that indicated adverse results from HFL Sports Lab in Kentucky.

Are Turkey and Jamaica to follow after Kenya? The Rio Olympic Games are less than one year away. Large scale positive test results like what happened in Turkey, Jamaica and Kenya leading up to the games and during the games will cause yet another black eye for the sport that is already reeling from negative publicity. Many hands make light work. The sport of athletics can accomplish so much more collectively by working at the national level to avoid further denigration of its image and brand.

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