Vohra’s View: Russia scandal is just the start of IAAF’s athletics crisis

Bikram Vohra 19/11/2015
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Under fire: Sebastian Coe.

I imagine every morning when IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe wakes up and his phone rings he groans and thinks; what now, can it get any worse. Seems it can. And it will. Much worse.

– Russia: Federation pays price with IAAF ban
– IAAF: Rooney says Coe response was naive
– Zagorulko: Russia ban ‘serious loss’ for sport

Never has the credibility of international athletics been so fragile as it is today. With football and cycling already reeling under accusations of corruption and drug misuse, their indiscretions seem to pale in comparison to what has been happening on the track.

The accusation against Russia for having engaged in a state sponsored programme designed to enhance performances illegally for the 2012 Olympics in London is almost comical in its tragedy.

The provisional ban from taking part in Rio is a stinging rebuke. This shame is backed by the discovery of a Swiss laboratory allegedly destroying 67 test results that were ‘suspicious’ and replacing them with clean ones. This would make such a bad plot for a B grade film.

And to cap these tawdry revelations came the bribery charges by the French police against former IAAF president Lamine Diack and his team which, ironically, included the ex-anti doping chief Gabriel Dolle. Also in the dock is Diack Jr who will face charges of having breached the Code of Ethics. They are accused of having taken huge sums of money to cover up doping incidents by Russian athletes.

And if you think the next ‘guilty’ person is the cleaner, think again. Also on the French ‘wanted’ list is IAAF legal adviser Habib Cisse for having been complicit in this conspiracy. This gives the phrase ‘an inside job’ a whole new dimension. It clearly won’t end here and has made a mockery of records, of performances and of the faith that fans have in the knife edged competitions.

While one does have to say that Lord Coe inherited this bag of worms when he took over in August and is fighting the good fight to clean up the mess it is almost impossible to restore credibility to this sport in the near future and the impact will be felt in Rio.

Good for Coe that he cancelled the high profile IAAF Annual Awards night on November 28 at the Salle des Etoiles of the Sporting Club d’Eté, the customary venue in Monaco seeing as how that upper crust party would have looked terribly indiscreet and self indulgent when the once top cadres of the IAAF are facing such grave charges.

Coe said: “Given the cloud that hangs over our association, this is clearly not the time for the global athletics family to be gathering in celebration of our sport.”

You got that right, Sir except it isn’t a cloud it is a hurricane of gale force and it could destroy athletics as we know it.

Scandals in sport are not new. They happen. But taking bribes for choosing venues or fiddling the books or misusing one’s authority to make a buck while certainly well in the realm of crimes and deserving of punishment are several steps below a trusted leadership engaging in hijacking a whole sport by permitting doping and turning medals into melted plastic. If the guardians of the gate burn the bridge what price trust.

Lord Coe and his team have a very steep hill to climb. And the really sad part is that it is the athletes who suffer. Some totally innocent, others naive and unaware of the programme they were ordered to undergo, several of them victims of the ambitions of their managers and coaches and a few ready to do the dirty for the power and the glory. All of them tainted with the same brush.

The very fact that the nominees like Usain Bolt, British Olympic and World champion Mo Farah, Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge and Russian hurdler Sergey Shubenkov, Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia and Zuzana Hejnova of Russia will have to apologetically be sneaked into some lowkey venue at a later date and receive accolades does sour the limelight.

Hanging over all this is the big issue. After the world of athletics had suffered the ignominy of the Ben Johnson and the fallout of the Balco conspiracy there was a call to give participants blood passports.

If the IAAF stamped them knowing they were doubtful in values that makes this disclosure weave the whole nine yards into the biggest scandal in sporting history. And the unravelling has just begun. 

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Quality athletics returns in second Ultimate Racenight meet

Jay Asser 19/11/2015
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Showcasing talent: Ultimate Racenight League.

Following a successful launch, the Ultimate Racenight League returns on Thursday night for its second meet, featuring even more new faces and competitive action.

– Russia: Federation pays price with IAAF ban
– IAAF: Rooney says Coe response was naive
– Zagorulko: Russia ban ‘serious loss’ for sport

Though the international flavour will be missing this time around with Doha Athletic Club absent, the event will continue to focus on the wide range of talent on the local scene at Dubai Sports City.

Up-and-coming youngsters will once again put their athleticism on display and be joined for the first time by teams from Victoria International School of Sharjah and Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou.

“We’ve got loads of new competitors signed up,” said Lisa Campbell, creator of Ultimate Racenight League and founder of Ultimate Athletics Club.

“Because it’s a league, I assumed it would be the same people from Racenight 1 and maybe a few more, but there’s probably 50 per cent newcomers this time so that’s quite pleasing.”

The men’s senior 100m will be one of the events to watch, with Darrell Elliot squaring-off against rival Mousa Khalfan.

Elliot claimed victory in Racenight 1, but was beaten over 100m by Khalfan at the Etisalat Fitness Fest two weekends ago at Dubai Autodrome.

“The show is now on between those two,” Campbell said. “Darrell wants revenge because he didn’t get a good start at the Autodrome and it was on concrete and he said he performs much better on the track.”

In the same vein, Harriet Stewart, winner of the women’s senior 100m in Racenight 1 and the 100m at the Etisalat Fitness Fest, will be challenged by talented newcomer Sarah Ellis from Abu Dhabi.

Ultimate Athletics’ sponsored athlete Adil Amin will also be one to keep an eye on as the 15-year-old returns from injury to take part in the men’s senior 1500m.

Registration is still open, up to the night of the event, and can done online at www.ultimateathletics-uae.com. The entry fee is Dh50 for track members and Dh80 for non- members. Juniors will compete from 17:00 to 18:30, followed by the seniors from 19:00 to 20:30. Even for those who attend and don’t compete, it will be a family-friendly environment.

Campbell said: “We’ve got a bouncy castle for the juniors, who compete first before the seniors. There’s also a barbecue and a bar area upstairs for adults.”

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Elite national anti-doping bodies urges to ban Russia from Olympics

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Sporting tragedy: RUSADA.

Leaders of the world’s most prominent national anti-doping bodies on Monday called for Russian track and field athletes to be banned from next year’s Olympics, saying the sanction was necessary to deter drug cheats.

A statement from the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO), a 53-member umbrella group made the call on the eve of a key World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) meeting in Colorado Springs.

Britain’s David Kenworthy, the chairman of iNADO and head of UK Anti-Doping, said in a statement the vast state-supported doping program detailed by WADA’s Independent Commission last week was a “tragedy for sport.”

– Russia: Federation pays price with IAAF ban
– IAAF: Rooney says Coe response was naive
– Zagorulko: Russia ban ‘serious loss’ for sport

WADA’s commission recommended Russia and its national governing body for athletics be banned for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. On Friday, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) provisionally suspended Russia from all international competition.

However, the IAAF action fell short of stating explicitly that Russian athletes would be barred from the Olympics, raising the prospect that they would be allowed to compete after all.

But in a statement issued after an iNADO meeting in Colorado on Monday, Kenworthy said Russian athletes needed to be banned to send a message.

“The ARAF — Russia’s national federation for athletics — and its athletes must be suspended from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games,” he said.

“The corruption in Russian Athletics deserves no less. ARAF has not demonstrated that they are capable of sending a clean team to Games.

“A strong deterrent message must be sent that national federations cannot participate in the highest levels of competition when anti-doping has been intentionally subverted.

“The actions by the ARAF, which deliberately flouted the rules of sport, have tainted all Russian athletes in the sport of Athletics.”

WADA is expected to rule against Russia’s anti-doping body when it meets in Colorado this week, a key session which will aim to build a framework for new strategies in the global war on drug cheats.

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