By John Mehaffey
Evidence that the 2012 London Olympics were tainted by Russian doping and a French police investigation into the former president of the world athletics governing body on charges of accepting money to cover up positive drugs tests represent another damning indictment of the custodians of international sport.
A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report has concluded there was a “deep-rooted culture of cheating” in Russia with links to the government. It said officials took bribes to cover up positive doping cases while 1,417 samples were destroyed on the orders of the head of the Moscow laboratory before a WADA team arrived to investigate.
“The Olympic Games in London were, in a sense, sabotaged by the admission of athletes who should not have been competing,” said the report of an independent commission headed by former WADA president Dick Pound. It named five Russian athletes and five coaches who it said should be banned for life.
The report followed news that Lamine Diack, former president of the Monaco-based International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), had been arrested by French police along with IAAF legal adviser Habib Cisse and the former head of the federation’s anti-doping unit Gabriel Dolle.
Diack is suspected of accepting one million euros ($1.1 million) to cover up positive drugs tests.
“Whole different scale of corruption”
Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, one of three WADA commissioners, said the accusations against the track and field federation were more serious than the corruption scandals in the world soccer governing body FIFA this year or in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the turn of the century.
He said the IAAF case represented a “bunch of old men” taking money which caused “significant changes to actual results and final standings of international athletics competitions. This is a whole different scale of corruption than the FIFA scandal or the IOC scandal in respect to Salt Lake City.”
In May, seven FIFA executives were arrested during a raid on a Zurich hotel at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The United States has now indicted 14 current officials and associates on charges of “rampant, systematic and deep-rooted corruption,” and long-standing FIFA president Sepp Blatter is the subject of a Swiss criminal investigation. The investigations were sparked by the decisions to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.
The IOC reformed its bidding process after vice president Marc Hodler revealed that some members had been bribed to award the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City. Subsequently 10 IOC members either resigned or were expelled.
The investigation has also turned an unwelcome spotlight on former Olympic 1,500 meters champion and new IAAF president Seb Coe. Coe, who won high praise as the head of the organizing committee for the London Games, had been vice president to Diack for eight years.
In response to the WADA report, the IAAF has suspended Russia from all international competitions until it carries out urgent reforms. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said collective punishments were “very unfair” but added the country would do whatever was needed to ensure it took part in next August’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
John Mehaffey has worked for four decades as a journalist in New Zealand, Australia and Britain, including 33 on the Reuters Sports Desk covering seven summer Olympics plus World Cups and world championships in athletics, soccer, cricket, rugby, amateur boxing and gymnastics. He wrote extensively on sports news including drugs in sport, the readmission of South Africa to international sport and corruption in cricket. He was appointed Chief Sports Reporter in 2001.