Road to Moscow honours paved with humbug and hypocrisy
‘Everyone knows the credibility of top-level athletics is shot’
Tyson Gay: former world sprint champion was vociferously anti-doping for years. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
With the world’s top athletes on the road to Moscow this weekend, some road resurfacing rather closer to home is a reminder of how covering your arse remains officialdom’s ultimate lingua-franca no matter where you are.
If a sign proclaiming “No Road Markings Ahead” actually enlightens any driver to the blindingly obvious in front of them, it could be suggested they shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car in the first place.
But protective enlightenment is hardly the purpose of a piece of county council bum protection designed to deter marauding solicitors. It is there because putting it there looks good on headed paper; pristine, proper, legally bulletproof – a triumph of appearance over reality.
It’s tempting on the back of so much recent civic and political evidence to view the arse cover as a particularly Irish speciality, but the reality is that officialdom’s facility for imposing sheens of squeaky-clean propriety over stupidity and incompetence is a universal phenomenon.
Everyone knows the credibility of top-level athletics is shot. To suggest otherwise is to insult people’s intelligence. Anyone tuning into the IAAF World Championshps in Moscow – and won’t the telly figures be interesting – who doesn’t possess at least some doubt at what’s happening before them really should be hunted for conservation purposes. And anyone swallowing the official platitudes probably shouldn’t be allowed wander from their incubator under any circumstances.
Cynical political reality
The fact the championships are being held in Moscow alone is a sign of how cynical the political reality is underneath the obligatory piety about tackling a doping culture which is overwhelming the sport.
Nearly 50 Russian athletes are serving doping bans. A governing class serious about cleaning up the doping culture, which has put athletics alongside cycling as a byword for sleaziness, might balk at rewarding a country in possession of such an unenviable drugs record with a championship. But that’s to take their press-release speak at face value.
It’s not just Russia either. Any country with a notably bad doping record might reasonably expect to face substantial penalties, fines, maybe even suspension. Such a state might even have the good grace to at least keep schtum when it comes to bidding for a major championship. Yet Istanbul is in the running to be granted the 2020 Olympics by the IOC next month.
Turkey’s recent doping history is more rank than most and, socially, it is hardly Montmartre in its solidity. But who cares when it’s got money and sits on a European-Asian divide which makes it an ideal candidate in terms political expediency.