The level of depravity, corruption and extortion that was revealed on November 9 by the WADA Special Commission surprised even me. I have not finished reading the 323 page missive, but it will be a long weekend of reading, I am sure.
In the following article, I take a stab at the issues that are threatening our sport, and what actions I believe, that Mr. Coe should do, to show the world that he truly means to clean up the sport.
Doping has been with our sport since the 1950s. My short answer was that the global sport federations had a chance to kill it in the 1970s, but did not appreciate the issue.
Many believe that testosterone was first used in Germany to make members of the Gestapo and Waffen SS stronger in the late 1930s. By the 1950s, doping was part of the emerging Soviet Union’s sport programs, as the Cold War evolved. The opportunity to use sports to show the superiority of Marxism over Capitalism on terrestrial television was huge.
Such was the system developed by the GDR, known as East Germany. Their training systems were impressive, but, the addition of doping took their racing to another level. Many athletes suspected that many Eastern bloc athletes were cheating, and that was part of the rationalisation by Western athletes to dope.
Money coming into the sport made the sport a business. That was both good and bad. As the sport moved into professional sports world, some parts of it fought the changes.
Our sport has one foot in the nineteeth century, while the other foot is dragging itself into the twenty-first century. Athletes can be compelling television, but much of the programming has been done with low budget production and a lack of knowledge of what the viewer wants to see.
The best thing USA Track & Field ever did was get out of drug testing and moving it to USADA. Federations and NGBs doing their own drug testing looks bad, even if it is not.
The best thing to ever happen in drug testing has been USADA. They are, in my mind, the toughest testing organization in the world. They do not play games and they are, well, relentless.
The protocals for testing are there to catch 95 percent of the cheaters.
I have watched WADA and I believe that they have a thankless job. They do not have the financial support to test everyone, so where do they focus the testing? Member organizations that are not consistently testing hurt the sports world. At this time, there are up to ten countries that should up their game on their testing.
Kenya’s situation has gotten worse, rather than better. Because Athletics Kenya put their heads in the sand, discounting the drug issue in Kenya, some pretty bad operators have made their presence known. Some top athletes are tested in Kenya, but many are not. This writer believes that, without a serious program of education, and loud and clear stands by the Federation on doping, all of Kenya’s performances will be questioned. This is not fair, but that is the way it is.
The recent accusations against Lamine Diack, his sons, his legal counsel and the former head of the IAAF Anti-doping is both sickening and depressing. I fear that the second part of the report by WADA will take the sport to an even lower level.
The inquisition being held into the knowledge of Seb Coe of Diack’s wrong doings, and now, Seb Coe’s so called lobbying of Diack to gain a World Championships in the US in 2021 are good examples of the feeding frenzy.
Last summer, it was the constant chatter over Alberto Salazar and Oregon Project. While there are rumors that various organizations may still be looking at Salazar and company, most of the energy if focused on the train wreck that Lamine Diack has left in his wake as President of the IAAF.
When the French police organization noted that Mr. Diack was accused of passive corruption, I thought back to the former U.S. president Warren Harding. Harding was a bit of a good old boy who surrounded himself with buddies who stole everything but the kitchen sink. It was a deplorable time in U.S. history.
We are in a deplorable time in our sport. And the clouds are darkening. Who knows what is coming?
What I do know is that we must clean up our sport. Athletics is the one sport, even more that football (soccer), that everyone has done as a child. I believe that the average sports fan knows that pro sports are fickle and preposterous. They hold most pro sports to a different code. The criminal charges that come up with some professional athletes, or the suggested use of drugs does not seem to hurt the major sports.
In athletics, that is different. Because so many see track & field as something that is pure, Olympian, it has a different power and emotional place in the heart.
When a top athlete in athletics test positive, many fans feel betrayed. And they should. Cheating by doping is stealing money from fans, sponsors and the sport.
That top leaders in the sport, and that a top marketer (Papa Diack) was allegedly taking money to hide positive drug tests is just another level of depravity. It will hurt and make possible sponsors question their involvement in the sport.
That is why a new leader is so important. Many people have spoken to me lately about the attacks on Seb Coe. Did he know? What did he know? Is he the guy to lead the sport back?
In a recent TV inquisition on Channel 4 in Britian, Mr. Coe noted that until he became president, he had no real power to change things. His last year was spent traversing the world to convince 214 or so Federations that he was their guy. The problem was, Sergey Bubka was doing much the same thing. Two Alpha Males battling for the top position in the sport.
Less than two months after Seb Coe takes office, the world unravels in our sport. And it will get worse.
Dick Pound notes that he believes Seb Coe can lead the sport out of the maelstrom. Thomas Bach notes that Seb Coe can lead the sport ouf the maelstrom. I believe that Seb Coe has what it takes to lead the sport, but he needs to lead by example. He has to be truly transparent.
Seb Coe has put a line in the sand about his relationship with Nike. He is paid approximately $100k a year to be a Nike Ambassador. In the sports marketing dollars of today, $100k is not much, in fact, it is paltry.
Even though Seb Coe reminds the media that while he has been a Nike ambassador, his last two jobs have had adidas as sponsors, that does not stop the relentless questions and accusations from the media.
If I had five minutes with Mr. Coe at this time, I would suggest that Mr. Coe make an arrangement with the folks in Beaverton where he puts the $100k a year into an escrow account for the entire time he is an IAAF President. He resigns as a consultant for Nike, with the agreement, that when he leaves, if both parties so desire, he can return to that position. The $100k he was to be givin in 2015, I would suggest, should be donated by his former employer to WADA for drug testing, in his name.
That would be one huge issue that would be a non-starter. Case closed. Go on to next issue.
It would also show that Mr. Coe has the ability that few leaders have: he has the ability to step back and review his actions. Admitting that one has to change an attitude or action is good for a leader. Those who look up to Mr. Coe will respect that action.
It is not that I believe Seb Coe is doing anything untoward. I do not really believe that either he nor Nike would have been foolish enough to offer money to move a World Champs to Eugene. It is one thing to rebuild Hayward Field, it is entirely another thing when Papa Diack reportedly asked for $5 million from Qatar to guarantee their successful bid. But, the stench of the Diack fiasco, the soon to be enveloping stench from parts two and three of the WADA commission are going to be everything but overwhelming.
Seb Coe is going to have to rebuild the IAAF. The very structure, under Primo Nebiolo that took the IAAF from a quaint global federation to the second most powerful sport in the world has also crushed itself. The corruption that will now be in the history books next to Lamine Diack’s name will dirty the IAAF for some time.
Yet, this past weekend, there were NCAA cross country championships, and NXN regionals. Next weekend, the FootLocker regionals will be held (well, all but one). 510,000 high school boys and girls and another 40,000 college men and women competed in cross country in North America in 2015. There is the promise globally of young athletes and some not so young, that love the sport.
We need a strong leader for the sport. If Mr. Coe is to weather this storm and the upcoming ones, he must divest himself of his Nike relationship. This does not only him good, but his former sponsor good as well.
It is then, and only then, that the IAAF can begin the cleaning up and rebuilding its reputation and the reputation of the sport.