The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) recently called an emergency meeting of the IAAF council in order to address the allegations of rampant corruption and state-sponsored doping by Russia. The council voted unanimously 22-1 to provisionally ban Russia and all of its athletes from international sports competition. The IAAF certainly hopes that it can make Russia the scapegoat in the latest scandal to engulf the world of sports. However, the IAAF’s self-righteous condemnation of Russia is quite hypocritical given its own problems.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Commission report exposed how the use of anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) has thrived in Russia with the help of corrupt officials and state sponsorship. The commission recommended that Russia should be kicked out of sports.
The news media focused primarily on the Russia doping narrative but largely overlooked another significant finding by the commission report. The IAAF did not mind at all since it detracted attention away from the commission’s harsh criticism of the IAAF. If the media wants Russia to be the scapegoat, the IAAF has no objections whatsoever. The IAAF’s ban of Russia is one way to work towards that objective.
The IAAF was not so keen to the Independent Commission’s allegations of widespread “corruption and bribery practices at the highest levels of international athletics.” Everyone seemingly loves to make Russia the bad guy but the worst offender could very well be the IAAF.
The Independent Commission suggested as much but it withheld details of the extent and scope of the IAAF corruption. The Commission is holding it back for publication in a soon-to-be-published second report.
Richard McLaren, a member of the WADA Independent Commission, confirmed that the IAAF would be the main target in part two of its report. McLaren also warned of possible recommendations demanding the banning of the IAAF by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“We haven’t even revealed our findings in relation to the IAAF because of the ongoing sensitivities of the criminal investigation but we will be doing that in the next report and I think I need to leave it at that,” McLaren said. “We had to withhold some info relating to the IAAF because of the possibility that if we disclosed anything it would jeopardize ongoing criminal inquiries.”
Apparently, the IAAF corruption is so bad that it is criminal. WADA acknowledged that it had turned over details of the IAAF corruption to INTERPOL and prosecutors in France.
Former IAAF President Lamine Diack has been accused of receiving over one million euros from athletes and their representatives as payment to cover up evidence of steroid and PED use. France’s national financial prosecutor French Police arrested Diack and charged him with suspicion of corruption and aggravated money laundering.
“It’s a form of blackmail when you say to someone: ‘Pay or you can’t compete,’” said French national prosecutor Houlette. “I don’t know if we can call it a mafia system but it is a system of corruption. It’s extremely serious… From what we’ve verified, it is more than 1 million euros and this money seemingly transmitted through the Russian athletics federation.”
French police also arrested or sought to arrest three other individuals linked to the IAAF. Diack’s legal adviser Habib Cissé and the IAAF anti-doping unit head Gabriel Dollé were also arrested. Meanwhile, Lamine Diack’s son avoided arrest by staying out of Europe. Papa Massata Diack was hired as an IAAF consultant with the exclusive marketing rights in emerging markets. The younger Diack used his position to extort money from athletes who failed drug tests and also sports officials from other countries.
To make matters worse for the IAAF, its current president Sebastian Coe has, for over a decade, been deeply involved with many of the aforementioned individuals accused of criminal and unethical behavior. Coe has even lavished praise on the job done by his predecessor Lamine Diack. Coe first started working with the IAAF in 2003 and has been vice president since 2007. Many people simply find it hard to believe that Coe was unaware of the corruption of his friends at the IAAF.
Martyn Rooney, the British 400-meter gold medalist at the 2014 European Championships in Zurich, finds it hard to believe that anyone in such a position of power and influence could be so naive.
“It is pretty disrespectful to believe the vice president did not know what was going on within the IAAF,” Rooney told the BBC. “That is his job and if he believes he did not know what was going on he has not been doing his job properly.”
Steve Magness, the cross country coach at the University of Houston, called the IAAF the “most corrupt regime in sport” and singled out Coe as the “unluckiest man in the world” if he was truly oblivious to the rampant corruption all around him.
In an insightful post on his blog “The Science of Running”, Magness described the extent of corruption at the IAAF and expressed disbelief that anyone who was not involved could be so incredibly naive and unaware.
“We have the [former] President of the IAAF [Lamine Diack] covering up doping, taking bribes, impacting World Championship and Olympic placing. The head of the IAAF anti-doping [Gabriel Dollé] covering up the very thing he is assigned to go after, doping. The chief counsel of the president [Habib Cissé] involved in corruption. Diack’s son [Papa Massata Diack] involved in accepting bribes from countries like Qatar for the naming of the world champs. The IAAF treasurer [Valentin Balakhnishev] was involved in corrpution and “told” to leave…”
Clearly, to have the IAAF call out Russia as a rogue nation deserving of an indefinite suspension from sports represented the height of hypocrisy given the IAAF’s extensive corruption. We should not allow Russia to become a convenient scapegoat in the current scandal.