Road to Moscow honours paved with humbug and hypocrisy
‘Everyone knows the credibility of top-level athletics is shot’
It’s a characteristic of the cynic to point out how cynicism doesn’t change anything. Daring to dream makes the difference we’re told in that carefully ambivalent language which makes it impossible to call the politico on what they vaguely commit to in any concrete fashion, but which leaves no one in doubt of the pervasive aroma of Grade A bullshit.
And yes, cynicism isn’t very attractive. But only the hopelessly naive can look at athletics right now, peer past the corporate-backed slogans and not suspect that quite a large dollop of scepticism, at least, is a requisite first step in confronting the doping reality. And not the official-speak version which posits that because a few high-profile cheats have been caught, the system is working.
It isn’t. Have I definitive, swear-on-something-religious proof of that? Have I Mick Bailey. Those fighting at the doping coal face haven’t proof either.
It’s hardly the nature of the beast to be obvious. But they know alright. And so do those operating in the world of administrative arse-covering; except they also know how their own game works.
Tyson Gay knows. The former world sprint champion was vociferously anti-doping for years and an official spokesman for the US Anti-Doping Agency’s “My Victory – I Compete Clean” campaign. Gay was poster-boy material: “I compete clean because I believe in fairness. And besides that, my mom would kill me.”
It’s too easy a shot to point out how proud mom must be now that Gay has tested positive. But it’s always worthwhile highlighting the discrepancy between what’s out there for public consumption and what’s often the more squalid reality.
Asafa Powell was a notable anti-doping campaigner too, spinning the spiel about how positive tests enhance the credibility of anti-doping programmes. Or at least he did until it came to his own. And then it was the fault of someone in his “circle”, the ubiquitous buck-passing blame game in these situations.
Bridging the credibility gap that exists between athletics and the public is a massive task and one that requires a depth of character at the administrative wheel willing to go far beyond what is expedient.
And there are clearly some within the top brass of world athletics who are serious about doing that. But it’s hard to avoid being sceptical and concluding that plenty others are content to keep climbing the greasy administrative pole, concentrating on merely maintaining an appearance of probity, while all the time directing top-class athletics further towards irrelevance.