Wada report registers qualified vote of confidence in Coe

Council, including Coe, could not have been unaware of extent of doping, report finds

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said he was determined to learn from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada) independent commission report. Photograph: Kerstin Joensson/AP Photo

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said he was determined to learn from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada) independent commission report. Photograph: Kerstin Joensson/AP Photo

 

A method of drug testing that was clearly beginning to work; a series of initial tests they were right not to act on; and a softly ringing endorsement for its new president Sebastian Coe.

Not exactly what was expected when Dick Pound predicted a few more “wow” headlines from part two of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada) independent commission report into bribery, corruption and cover-up within the IAAF, the governing body of world athletics.

That’s not saying the IAAF got off lightly – nor indeed Coe himself. Central to the still mostly damning report is the conclusion that the IAAF council – which included Coe at the time – “could not have been unaware of the extent of doping in athletics”, and perhaps worse still, of the web of corruption that centred on then IAAF president Lamine Diack.

Limited

Russia

“We maybe only have examined the tip of the iceberg with respect to athletes who have been extorted,” noted commission member Richard McClaren, a not-so-gentle hint that other countries, and indeed sports, might want to carefully digest the 89-page report.

Because whatever about the ultimate shortcomings of the report, what is certain is that neither athletics nor Russia are the only culprits. If Diack could so easily bribe and help corrupt Russian athletics, then there’s every reason to suspect he did likewise with other countries: if athletics could be so easily bought and sold then a similar investigation into other sorts may well reveal likewise

For Pound, the commission chairman, there appeared to be a slight softening of attitude compared to his presentation of part one of the report.

This may or may not have had something to do with the fact Coe himself was sitting just five rows into the assembled gathering at Munich’s Dolce Hotel, sporting a grey-white beard that certainly gave him the look of a man already groomed for a battle.

The IAAF had been issued with a copy of the report 24 hours in advance – hardly enough time for Coe to decide whether it was safe enough or not for him to attend.

Yet the more Pound delved into the content of his report, the more he appeared to contradict it, especially when it came to Coe’s suitability to ensure athletics cleaned up its act – in every meaning of the expression.

The report itself starts out on unequivocally terms: “The IAAF council could not have been unaware of the extent of doping in athletics and the non-enforcement of applicable anti-doping rules. There was an evident lack of political appetite within the IAAF to confront Russia with the full extent of its known and suspected doping activities.”

It also states that it’s too easy just to blame the failures on Diack, Coe’s predecessor, who along with his son Papa Massata Diack and other officials are now under investigation by French police and Interpol for taking money to cover up doping by athletes.

It then adds: “Failure to have addressed such governance issues is an IAAF failure that cannot be blamed on a small group on miscreants. The opportunity existed for the IAAF to have addressed governance issues. No advantage was taken of that opportunity.”

Different direction

“We were careful to point out that the council could not have been unaware,” said Pound. “And we hold to that.

“But as far as the ability of Lord Coe to remain at the head of the IAAF, I think it is a fabulous opportunity for the IAAF under strong leadership to move forward. There is an enormous amount of reputational damage to repair and I cannot think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead that process. So, all our fingers crossed in that respect.”

Pound, as it turns out, is not alone in that train of thought. Athletics Ireland chief executive John Foley was among the many athletes and officials within the sport to give Coe their backing.  “Sebastian Coe is a strong character and now needs to show that strength of character and deliver radical reform for our sport,” said Foley.

However, Foley added that “it is too early for Russia to be considered to compete at the Olympics in Rio,” and indeed both the method and timeframe with which Coe goes about lifting that Russian suspension may well indicate just how serious he is about cleaning up the sport.

“To achieve this,” said Foley, “our sport needs the credibility of the governance structures of the IAAF to be restored and this can only happen through a comprehensive change programme which the IAAF must now embark on. It’s also important that any doubts around other countries testing procedures are thoroughly investigated.”

Coe himself described the findings of part two of the report as “totally abhorrent, and a gross betrayal of trust by those involved”.

That betrayal extends beyond doping, and includes the awarding of major athletics championships (particularly the 2019 World Championships to Qatar) and possibly even the Olympic Games.

“We cannot change the past,” added Coe, “but I am determined that we will learn from it and will not repeat its mistakes.”

Only time can tell whether a statement like that can be betrayed or not.

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