Sport at a crossroads after damning evidence of doping culture in Russia – The Guardian

The International Olympic Committee called evidence of a deeply embedded, wide ranging, state sponsored doping culture within Russian athletics “deeply shocking” and “very saddening”.

Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), who is under pressure over his support for his recently arrested predecessor Lamine Diack, said the World Anti-Doping Agency’s report was “alarming” amid “dark days” for his sport.

But the 325-page report by the former Wada president Dick Pound should serve as a damning indictment on those who were supposed to be policing world sport, including Wada itself and those who fund it – national governments and the IOC.

When Hajo Seppelt, the German journalist who brought the claims about Russian athletics to light, reported in the summer that the IAAF had failed to follow up on suspicious tests, Coe declared the allegations “a war on my sport”. It was only yesterday, 11 months after Seppelt’s TV programme for the German broadcaster ARD first aired, that Pound finally paid tribute to his “very fine” investigative journalism and the brave Russian whistleblowers who had exposed a deeply embedded culture of bribery, extortion and cheating.

Pound, the founding president of Wada, also expressed deep dissatisfaction with his successors. “It’s a pretty damning indictment of what has not been done and points the way to things that can be done if we’re going to get serious about this,” he said. “At some point the Olympic movement and the governments have to say: ‘Are we going to do this properly or shall we all go home?’”

Russian sports minister says Wada doping allegations are ‘unacceptable’ – video.

Pound said that while his investigation was limited to Russia and athletics, the problems of systemic doping were wider. More than a decade after Wada was formed in the wake of a string of high profile doping scandals, athletics is facing its worst crisis.

When allegations of systemic doping and cover-ups first emerged in the runup to the 2013 Russian world athletics championships, an IOC spokesman insisted: “Anti-doping measures in Russia have improved significantly over the last five years with an effective, efficient and new laboratory and equipment in Moscow.”

We now know that the head of that lauded Moscow lab, Grigory Rodchenko, admitted to intentionally destroying 1,417 samples in December last year shortly before Wada officials visited.

At successive Olympics, the media have sat through endless press conferences where a “zero tolerance” stance is promised as they are shown impressive statistics on the number of drug tests. Yet according to Pound’s report, the London 2012 games were effectively sabotaged by Russian doping.

At the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, lab technicians were convinced that members of the Russian security service were working undercover among them. “It is hard to imagine what the Russian state interest in athlete’s urine would be,” said Pound.

In Moscow Rodchenko “not only accepted but also requested money in order to execute the concealment of positive test results, which makes him equally responsible for incidents where coaches or officials extorted athletes even if he was not personally made aware of the extortion,”, said the report.

The independent commission chaired by Pound was established in December last year after ARD implicated officials in Russia’s athletics federation, anti-doping agency (Rusada) and the Wada-accredited lab in Moscow in acts of bribery to hush up positive doping tests, falsify tests and supply banned drugs.

Coe’s press conference in August, at which he expressed “deep affection” and “great admiration” for Diack, his predecessor at the IAAF who faces claims that he received more than €1m (£660,000) to cover up doping violations, will continue to dog his efforts to make a clean break.

Coe, a vice-president under Diack for seven years, praised his predecessor’s “shrewd stewardship” and thanked him for his “unflinching support and wise counsel”, saying he would always be the “spiritual president”.

French police last week arrested Diack, the IAAF legal adviser Habib Cissé and Gabriel Dollé, the former longstanding head of the IAAF’s anti-doping unit over cover-up allegations.

Pound expressed surprise that Coe had told the BBC the day before the report came out that he was minded not to expel Russia from the sport. “You’ve got to know something is coming. You’ve got to know with the leak of the Diack stuff that this is now some serious shit,” said Pound. “To keep my powder dry would have been my recommendation if he’d asked me what he should be doing.”

This remains a scandal of numerous strands, many of them interlinked. There is the cover-up that goes right to the top of the IAAF and is being investigated by Interpol and the French police. It was described by one of the report’s authors, Prof Richard McLaren, as worse even than the corruption allegations swamping Fifa because it had subverted actual competition.

There is the state sponsored doping regime that effectively forced athletes to take drugs or squeezed them from the system that took an investigative reporter, aided by Russian whistleblowers, to undercover.

Yet for all that Pound’s report enters uncharted territory by recommending a ban on a major nation less than a year before an Olympics, it is hard to escape the nagging fear Russia could still be let off the hook. Pound spoke of his hopes they could be back in the fold within “a few months”, even assuming the IAAF bans them.

Vitaly Mutko, the same Russian sports minister who Pound said was “complicit” in a programme that could only have happened with the “knowledge and consent” of state authorities, will be in charge of enacting the necessary reforms.

The first step Coe must take to begin the long process of restoring public trust in a sport conspicuously lacking any is to ban Russia for a meaningful period of time. Likewise the IOC, recently so vocal in calling for change at Fifa, must look at its own record and its own funding for the battle against doping. And Wada faces questions too.

For a public increasingly inured to sporting scandal, the IAAF’s complicity in covering up positive tests might be the worst yet. But to imagine this is a problem confined to Russia or to athletics is folly.

“The public is going to move towards the view that all sport is corrupt and that certainly affects the credibility of sport,” said Pound.

“If you can’t believe those results, it’s a serious credibility problem for that sport and by implication for other sports as well. This is something I hope will cause all sports to take a look at their governance and anti-doping rules because their very existence might be at risk.”

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