Don’t Forget the Heroes

Dick Pound

Corruption is everywhere. This week, Russia was suspended from athletics by the IAAF after an independent WADA report confirmed systematic state-sponsored doping. The IAAF itself is likely to be drawn in, as French prosecutors investigate whether its former president, Lamine Diack, and other officials, were given bribes to postpone doping bans.

Meanwhile, Kenyan police are investigating claims that another IAAF member, David Okeyo, embezzled funds received from Nike, and there have been separate allegations of more doping cover-ups, in exchange for bribes, by Kenya’s national track federation.

Positives and Negatives

Along with the FIFA scandal, it is enough to destroy all trust in the leaders of sport, but caution is required. There is a natural tendency to focus on the villains of the piece and pay less attention to the heroes, many of whom are sports administrators themselves.

Vitaly Stepanov, a former official at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, was one of the key whistleblowers to alert the German investigative journalist, Hajo Seppelt, to the story.

And Dick Pound (above) was the author of the damning WADA report. Pound has been an IOC member for nearly forty years and was twice vice president during the reign of its most controversial president, Juan Antonio Samaranch. He is testament to the fact that it is possible to be an insider without sinking into the murky quicksand all around.

In Kenya, another IOC member, Kip Keino, has been an outspoken critic of his country’s attitude to anti-doping. That he can be so open, without fear of munching on a polonium sandwich, suggests that the situation in Kenya is somewhat different to that in Russia.

More Officials Not Less

This matters because anti-authoritarianism is an understandable response but can lead so easily to the wrong conclusion. Simon Jenkins makes bizarre claims about the UK Prime Minister deciding the funding of athletes, and a conspiracy to bankrupt Olympic host cities, but his hopelessness would lead him, even more absurdly, to permit doping.

Anti-doping needs more funding and, whether we like it or not, more officials. Russia’s corrupt lab must be shut down but, in Kenya, a more probable solution is to open one.

Therefore, let’s celebrate the men and women who have served their roles with honesty and rewarded the trust placed in their hands. Let’s hope for plenty of others like them.

Petra Kvitova Fed Cup 2011 Winner

Fed Cup Final

Petra Kvitova was photographed with the Fed Cup in 2011 (above) but it could equally have been taken in 2012, 2014 and 2015, as the Czech Republic claimed another victory.

The final was a thrilling encounter with Russia, decided in the last set of the last rubber. Russia’s woes elsewhere were matched on the court as Maria Sharapova was denied the title, despite beating Kvitova in their singles match. Russia has lost 3 of the last 5 finals.

Sitting Volleyball and Boccia

Russia lost another final, this time to Ukraine, in the European women’s championship of sitting volleyball. And in the boccia test event in Rio, it came last out of four nations in the team competition, which Brazil won to make it the likely favourite for next year.

Sambo

The only consolation for Russia was in the fighting sport of sambo, where it topped the medal table at the world championships by an enormous margin, with 13 golds in total.

But even here, the champions must feel a twinge in their unrealistically large muscles. Because, for many years to come, whenever Russia performs well, a doubt will remain.

Next week: The world championship in men’s squash and Premier12 baseball in Japan

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