Time to Ban The Turkish Athletics Federation?

July 23, 2013 4

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It is now time for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to wield its authority and suspend the membership of the Turkish Athletics Federation and follow through on the rare but necessary move to ban the confused member nation from competing in the 2013 IAAF World Track and Field Championships.

The championships take place in Moscow, Russia from August 10th to the 18th.

After eight athletes, including Olympic gold medallist, Asli Cakir Alptekein (women’s 1500m) tested positive for alarm-setting abnormalities in her blood profile, WADA swiftly acted with an advance strike on the federation by conducting rigorous out of competition testing of Turkish athletes; the result? Just as they suspected! Dozens of athletes had their “A” samples returned positive for performance enhancing drugs. Currently the “B” samples are being tested. In the very likely event that the “B” samples return positive, the IAAF may be forced to suspend the member federation from competition.  I suggest they move with ascendancy. Do it without hesitation, anything less will be unacceptable.

Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and economic and cultural hub with a population of over 13 million, have submitted a bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. So the time for action is nigh upon the IAAF to set a precedent and a powerful message to other rogue member federations; otherwise what lesson will be taken from the recent spate of positive tests? That it is not okay, but only for a while? How about it is never okay to be complicit in a systemic doping programme?

If Alptekein is found guilty of a drug violation by the IAAF, she will be stripped of her Olympic medal and banned from competition for life, as she has already served a two-year suspension for doping, clearly someone somewhere didn’t get the message. European 100m champion Nevin Yanit was charged with a drug violation in May of 2013. In June, Esref Apak, the 2004 Olympic hammer-throw silver medallist, tested positive. You can suspend and ban these athletes, but more will come through the system; the system needs to be fixed.

It is very unlikely that the Turkish Athletics Federation is about to be caught in the act of deception of systematically doping its athletes. The burden of proof regarding collusion would be too cumbersome to bear however; there is a smoking gun: the sudden succession of positive tests. Dozens of positives in one fell swoop is unprecedented. Where there is smoke there is fire and Turkey is not the only smoking nation.

The situation is bad, a senior insider said, “we are talking as many as 30 athletes.”

It is time to set a benchmark that will provide an authoritative message to member nations wishing to host the Olympics or World Championships that they must play clean. Furthermore, as a message to young athletes, the IAAF has a responsibility to at least show that there are consequences for breaking rules.

4 Comments »

  1. Mizner July 25, 2013 at 9:57 am -

    Andrew,

    You are right, clean athletes would be upset. I doubt that the would have their day in court though. IAAF would only suspend them if there is an actual provision to do so, making a suit improbable.

  2. Andrew Jones July 25, 2013 at 9:49 am -

    Christopher, I would say that even though it seems that multiple Turkish athletes are dirty (Asli Cakir Alptekein is indeed a two-time offender, if her latest positive is confirmed), it is still a dangerous precedent to implicate the TAF in a systematic doping program.

    I think that if I was a clean Turkish athlete aspiring to compete in international championships, I would be very upset if an international ban was issued by the IAAF. And probably upset enough to launch legal action.

  3. Don Dunfee July 23, 2013 at 10:29 am -

    I agree with Mr. Kelsall and look forward to the World Championships in Antarctica. Bring your long spikes.

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