If only there were performance-enhancing substances designed to boost sporting administrators. Not for leisure activities, you understand. Most of them are so incongruously corpulent that I already assume they rely on Viagra for that. But for their day jobs, to help them go faster, higher – more within 50 miles of competence. We really need a Victor Conte for the blazer class, who could mix something illicit to build up their IQs and aid in the crucial recovery from gaffes I think at least two of the Teletubbies wouldn’t make.
As it is, in relation to this issue, it remains more instructive to consider the heads of various governing bodies as though they were competing in an Olympics of uselessness. We can argue all day about positioning, but for my money the winners’ podium currently features the IAAF, Welsh rugby and Uefa. By way of a recap of these bodies’ recent adventures in the fight against doping, let us begin with Welsh rugby, at present falling back on the “but so is everyone else” method of looking busy. Are you under the age of 10? Are you employed by Welsh rugby? If you answered no to both of these questions, it will long have been obvious to you that both rugby codes are emerging as bent sports. Strikingly, seven of the 14 British rugby league players on doping bans are Welsh, as are 10 of the 16 union players banned.
Yet speaking of what may appear to be more than a little local difficulty this week, the chief executive of Welsh rugby union fell over himself to explain before almost anything else that cleaning up was a challenge “not just in rugby but in sport generally.”
“It’s not just a rugby issue,” added the chief operating officer of Wales Rugby League Chris Thair. “It’s a huge issue for all sports, and it’s a challenge for everybody.”
This should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who imagined that the evidently massive problems in Welsh rugby were a matter for Welsh rugby. They are ALL of our problems. In fact, next time you fail to do your job, I do urge you to try this tack with your boss. Remember: this isn’t about you being crap, it’s about crapness everywhere, and in a very real sense that crapness is the challenge for all of us who believe in a better tomorrow.
Writ even larger are the tin-eared inadequacies of the IAAF, and, by inevitable extension, the IOC. Following the inescapable allegations of state-sponsored doping contained in the recent World Anti-Doping Agency report, the IOC president Thomas Bach has given Russia a presumably terrifying 27 minutes in the doghouse, but appears already to be suggesting they can be finessed back into the fold in short order.
As for the IAAF, the mesmerically sinister Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko met Sebastian Coe on Monday, shortly after having effectively dismissed the governing body’s “immediate sanction” as a minor inconvenience. “What will happen?” he wondered rhetorically. “Yes, nothing will happen. The guys will train, they will miss maybe one tournament.”
What are the chances that Coe used Monday’s pow-wow to disabuse him of his arrogance? Not huge, on the recent form book. When he acceded to his new post, I hoped Seb wasn’t showing the early signs of another of his episodes, with his own preposterously arrogant attack on the media for publishing details of doping cover-ups bearing some of the hallmarks of what he later referred to as that “psychotic fit” after defending his 1500m title at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, when he looked up at the press box and screamed: “Who says I’m finished now?”
Those hopes, alas, seem to have been a little too hopeful. His lordship’s terminal defensiveness on athletics is as dogged as his refusal to realise that a vanishingly small percentage of people now believe what they see in his sport (or, come to that, his refusal to recognise the conflict of interest in roles as IAAF president and Nike consigliere).
Next up is Uefa, an organisation I think most people assumed was being run by the janitor, owing to the ongoing unpleasantness, but turns out to be under the watchful eye of Spain’s Ángel María Villar Llona, who is obviously also under investigation by the Fifa ethics committee. Darling, who isn’t? Following Arsène Wenger’s comments about the inadequacy of doping sanctions which punish individuals but not teams, Uefa sprang into action. First, according to Wenger, it promptly sent 10 testers over to Arsenal’s training ground. Then, it issued a statement declaring: “Blood testing is a key part of Uefa’s anti-doping arsenal.” Congratulations to the spokesman, who wins the five-euro bet he had with a colleague that he couldn’t sneak the word arsenal into that sentence.
Aside from that win, it’s all looking a bit defeatist, with Uefa as slow as athletics to realise that draconian team bans which threaten the innocent as well as the guilty must be a key tactic to bring about the herd immunity from cheating which the authorities have struggled to effect by other means. Nothing breeds whistleblowing like a sense of collective peril, nothing will more usefully harness the desire to win than a doctrine of survival of the cleanest.
Either the various ineffectual governing bodies will wake up to that, or we shall have to start working on another theory. Namely, that there is a finite amount of performance enhancement in the world, which – like energy – can be neither created nor destroyed.
It can only be transferred, which explains why the more performance enhancement there is in a sport, the less enhanced is the performance of those supposed to run it.