Now It’s Athletics’ Turn To Get The Corruption Spotlight

November 9, 2015, 5:42 PM UTC
Former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President and chairman of the WADA independent commission Richard W Pound (C) arrives for the presentation before the press of a report on corruption and money-laundering within international athletics on November 9, 2015 in Geneva. Just 270 days out from the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics, an independent commission set up by the WADA released its findings into a scandal already viewed as more damaging than the corruption crisis engulfing world football governing body FIFA. WADA wants lifetime bans for 5 Russian athletes, including 800m Olympic champion. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Fabrice Coffrini — AFP/Getty Images

After the great soccer corruption scandal comes the great athletics doping debacle.

The World Anti-Doping Agency Monday called for Russia to be banned from world athletics after accusing the country’s governing body for a host of doping offenses.

In a long-anticipated report, the commission also accused the International Amateur Athletics Federation, the sport’s governing body worldwide, of “systemic failures” that allowed Russian athletes to hide the fact that they used performance-enhancing drugs.

The allegations will send shockwaves through the multi-million dollar enterprise of world athletics that has for years struggled to come to terms with a phenomenon that has discredited its premier events.

The report, compiled by an independent commission for WADA, also contains recommendations about the IAAF, but these have been withheld so as not to compromised an ongoing criminal probe coordinated by Interpol and the French police. The former IAAF president Lamine Diack was arrested and placed under investigation on suspicion of corruption and money-laundering last week. He is alleged to to have received over $1 million in bribes to help cover up the Russian doping violations. He denies the allegations.

Sebastian Coe, the British former double Olympic gold winner who now heads the IAAF, called the report “alarming” and said he had urged the IAAF’s governing council to “to start the process of considering sanctions against the All-Russian Athletics Federation.”

In contrast to the FIFA corruption scandal, but in keeping with doping scandals that have affected such sports as cycling over the years, WADA alleges that the cheating, and the IAAF’s “collective and inexplicable laissez-faire policy” that allowed it, “sabotaged” the 2012 London Olympics “by the admissions of athletes who should not have been competing.”

The report revolves in particular about one Moscow laboratory at the heart of Russia’s national drug-testing regime. The report found that officials gave athletes advance notice of tests, hid the fact that tests had been missed, intimidated doping control officers and their families, and took bribes to cover up missed tests.

The ‘bullying’ extended to having staff from the FSB, the successor organization to the Soviet-era KGB, present in testing labs. As for covering up the evidence, the report said over 1,400 samples were maliciously destroyed by lab officials even after WADA had written to the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA stressing the need to keep them.

That particular element of the story is an intriguing coda to the Russian soccer federation’s tactics in fending off inquiries into allegations of corruption in its bid to host the 2018 World Cup. The Russian Football Union claimed it had sold all its hard drives and computers after the end of the bid campaign.

In all, WADA’s independent commission has recommended life bans for four coaches, one doctor and five athletes, including Maria Savinova, gold medallist at the women’s 800 meters in London.

WADA also wants the Moscow lab director Grigory Rodchenko, whom it described as “an aider and abettor of the doping activities,” fired. It claimed Rodchenko was key to a “conspiracy to extort money from athletes in order to cover up positive doping test results.”

And the agency also pointed the finger at Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko (who also happens to be a member of FIFA’s executive committee and head of Russia’s World Cup organising committee). When the commission questioned him in Switzerland in September, he denied all knowledge of wrongdoing, and said he was “disgusted with the whistleblowers” who had given their evidence to the commission.

Mutko also said “he and the other ministers are tired of being attacked and criticized all the time.” (sic)

Much of the report focuses on verifying allegations first made in a documentary broadcast at the end of last year by the German state TV company ARD.