© Copyright – 2019 – Athletics Illustrated
In 2015, new provisions were given to the World Anti-Doping Code that in-hand gave the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) the ability to initiate its own investigations. This, in effect, provides more power to WADA and its national agencies, like the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
With greater power, comes greater responsibility.
The Pound Independent Commission and the McLaren Independent Investigation are the results of these new powers that have exposed systematic doping in Russia. It has also investigated general widespread doping that is apparent in Kenya and perhaps more common doping within a training group, for example, the apparent activity going on in the Nike Oregon Project (NOP).
The Christian Coleman case of a provisional suspension was overturned on appeal due to fault found in the process. Coleman went on to win a gold medal in the 2019 IAAF Doha World Athletics Championships. Conversely, there is the debacle surrounding Kenyan 1500m gold medallist Asbel Kiprop and his apparent bribe-tainted testing that apparently led to a positive result for EPO and subsequently an eight-year ban.
Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe told Athletics Illustrated, “Some of the comments by USADA-tested athletes about how they can call testers and meet them elsewhere are also concerning since these are not the same rules as athletes in Europe are subjected to. It should be unannounced and you should be where you stated you would be in whereabouts.”
Asked about the new powers given to WADA, former president Dick Pound said, “Now that WADA has finally been given the power to investigate, it makes for a more effective organization. What we need now is the power to implement provisional sanctions, to avoid the internal political conflicts of interest within international federations.”
Pound has not seen the materials that the Panel that investigated NOP’s Alberto Salazar seems to have examined, but he assumes it was a neutral panel, “to which each of the parties had a choice of naming one arbitrator, so the default position would be that the decision reached was “just.”
Not everyone agrees with the process or the outcome, but USADA was absolutely confident in their findings, as one day after suspending Salazar for four years they directly contacted his athletes demanding that they sever ties with the coach.
Radcliffe feels that the apparent opportunistic announcement, done during the Doha World Championships was to save face after the Coleman debacle.
She, to a degree, defended Salazar by way of admonishing USADA for the timing of the announcement and the resources that were poured into the four-to-five-year investigation.
As per Pound, he wasn’t so giving, “I should have thought that a longer suspension might have been warranted in the circumstances, where coaches and medical practitioners were involved,” said Pound. “Perhaps the saw-off at four years was the “cost” of unanimity in the decision (if unanimity there was), but I have not seen the decision itself.”
Pound explained that it historically has been more difficult to get at coaches and officials because of their power and influence, so, to him, it is encouraging to see that it can happen. Perhaps to USADA, it was a coup of sorts. Again, the timing, delivery and efforts to have athletes sever ties appears on the surface to be a show of feathers; to demonstrate their powers.
After 50-plus years of rampant doping, which has turned the sport at times into a freak show; WADA and the IAAF perhaps have had enough.
Russia had systematic doping, while third-world countries have desperate athletes who will do anything to win, to gain a better life, the NOPs of the world, simply want to win and perhaps in order to compete with the desperate third-world teams, also need to cheat; tit-for-tat.
Like the infamous Charlie Francis said during the Dubin Inquiry when Ben Johnson was nailed to the cross after Seoul 1988, “It is an even playing field; it just isn’t the playing field you thought it was.”
When asked about the many new doping cases in East Africa, Pound said, “I don’t think there is much doubt about the Kenyan and Ethiopian situations, but, again, “knowing” and proving are different animals.”
And with that, WADA and company have a responsibility.