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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has vowed to build trust in the sport of athletics again. This is an admirable statement for an enormous, but enviable and very likely impossible task. Good luck to him.
After decades of IAAF personnel turning a blind eye to blatant cheating, extorting athletes for silence on positive drugs tests, keeping records of questionable blood values of Olympic champions secret and for national governing bodies seemingly free to systematically dope, the sport is decaying from the rot.
I cannot image how monumental Bach’s task of reviving the sport is.
Where will the man begin?
Bach wrote an opinion piece, in it he said, “What saddens me most as a former athlete is that they erode the trust in the clean athlete. Clean athletes who push themselves day in day out pursuing their dreams see the finger of suspicion pointing at them. This is the very worst ‘side-effect’ of doping. We must do everything we can to protect these millions of clean athletes around the world.”
He is absolutely correct, but there is so much more to the story. The optics are gaudy.
I sincerely hope that he is planning to roll up his sleeves and do the necessary dirty work to get the job done.
I am not speaking metaphorically.
The sport of athletics’ credibility has dried up. Currently the trust level is of scorched earth, a parched, barren and wasted landscape. However, an effort should be made. The heavy lifting that is required should not be limited to banning token athletes who finished 20-something in a regional championship a decade or two ago. There should be no deals for telling on one’s neighbour, no bargains, no getting off early for time served.
That’s if the IAAF and the IOC truly want to protect the clean athletes.
Athletes who dope should be banned for life the first time that their blood or urine contains, without a reasonable doubt, in both their A and B samples, clear indications of anabolic steroids, human growth hormone or EPO.
As for stimulants, perhaps the ban can be shorter.
For missing tests, the athletes should not be permitted to compete in any sport until they have been tested and the results are made available. Should the athlete miss two tests, they should be sanctioned from competing for two years. A third missed test should result in a lifetime ban.
But this is not enough.
When an athlete receives a lifetime ban, their entire history as an athlete should be removed from the record books, like as if they never existed. All prize money should be sought, all medals should be returned.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the IOC need to show they are serious. There should be shock and there should be shame. If the IAAF and the IOC genuinely care about clean athletes, they need to demonstrate this. The clean athlete should be protected.
The IAAF and or the IOC need to demonstrate that they care about clean athletes by going back in time and removing certain performances from the record books and re-awarding those who were clean (if that is even possible to figure out), for example, the Chinese women who ran the 3,000-metre records, where at no time in history before or after had those times been approached. Here are the first six performances all-time:
8:06.11 Wang Junxia CHN 09.01.73 Beijing 13.09.1993
8:12.18 Qu Yunxia CHN 25.12.72 Beijing 13.09.1993
8:12.19 Wang Junxia CHN 09.01.73 Beijing 12.09.1993
8:12.27 Qu Yunxia CHN 25.12.72 Beijing 12.09.1993
8:16.50 Zhang Linli CHN 06.03.73 Beijing 13.09.1993
8:19.78 Ma Liyan CHN 03.11.68 Beijing 12.09.1993
Wang Junxia didn’t just run a time that is out of this world for the 3,000-metre distance, she did so in the 10,000-metres as well. The second fastest time is nearly half a minute slower.
29:31.78 Wang Junxia CHN 09.01.73 Beijing 08.09.1993
Here are the women’s top-three 100-metre times in history, all from one person, all in the same year:
10.49 Florence Griffith-Joyner USA 21.12.59 Indianapolis 16.07.1988
10.61 Florence Griffith-Joyner USA 21.12.59 Indianapolis 17.07.1988
10.62 Florence Griffith-Joyner USA 21.12.59 Seoul 24.09.1988
These and other obviously dishonest performances should be forever removed from the record books. The entire East German team and all of their amazing accomplishments should be removed from history. It is a well-known fact that the East Germans ran a systematic doping program, why are their accomplishments still acknowledged today?
The Russians have had their own systematic doping program, as has been widely reported in the media. The IAAF’s Independent Commission has concluded their investigation and will release part two of their two-part report in January on what they have found out. Depending on what new information arises, the IAAF should consider removing Russia’s history to where it appears that systematic doping began.
This should be the beginning.
Countries that do not have out-of-competition testing facilities on site should be investigated as well, including and not limited to Kenya (underway), Ethiopia, Jamaica, Morocco and Turkey.
Additionally, American and Jamaican sprinters who have performed at a high level after coming back from suspension for anabolic steroids or HGH, should be investigated more closely. There is science that indicates that athletes benefit from their past drug-taking practices. Clean athletes are being cheated out of money. This should be intolerable.
The grand old sport of athletics dates back to the ninth century, Pheidippides died in 490 BC delivering his message of the Persians landing in Marathon – a moment in history that was the inspiration for the modern marathon, which is one of the marquee events during the Olympics. It will be a terrible indictment of those who governed the sport over the past 50 years if Bach’s promise to revive the sport is not successful. He has a monumental task in front of him.