Doping, graft keep pressure on sports federations

BERLIN: Corruption and doping in sport has continued to present international federations with major challenges in a year, which has seen a change at the top of football governing body Fifa and promises of reforms elsewhere. As the countdown begins to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the pressure is growing on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to act on doping. The spotlight meanwhile remains on Russia, who host football’s Confederations Cup in 2017 and is gearing up for the 2018 World Cup,following evidence of state-run doping and calls for an international sport ban.
With major events in 2017 including the world athletics championships, the focus will also be on the international athletics federation IAAF, which has to deal with corruption at the top and barred Russian track and field athletes from the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The report by Wada’s independent investigator Richard McLaren, which said more than 1,000 Russian athletes were implicated in doping,poses the crucial question for the IOC of whether Russian athletes can still be allowed to compete on the international stage.
In the summer, the IOC led by president Thomas Bach decided against a blanket ban of Russian athletes from the Rio Games, preferring to delegate decisions over individuals to each international federation.
In contrast, the International Paralympic Committee banned Russia completely from its Rio Games, while the IAAF had already suspended the Russian athletics federation.
Bach insisted the IOC would apply a “zero tolerance policy not only with regard to individual athletes, but to all their entourage within its reach” in the doping fight.
An Olympic summit later proposed a global drug testing system independent from sports authorities, and Bach recommended all doping sanctions be handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The sports world will be looking closely to see if strong words are followed up by deeds, but media commentators who follow Olympics affairs remain sceptical.
“The IOC’s behaviour has been most notable for its vacillation and procrastination,” Britain’s Guardian wrote following this month’s publication of the second part of the McLaren report into doping.
The doping fight, however, has seen more than 100 international doping offenders caught in IOC retests from the 2008 and 2012Olympics, with dozens stripped of their medals.
Russians, most notably tennis star Maria Sharapova, who is now serving a 15-month ban, have also been prominent in athletes who tested positive for meldonium, a drug which increases blood flow.
A number of other countries, including Kenya, are also being closely monitored to ensure their anti-doping standards measure up to international standards.
The doping scandals have added to the governance crises afflicting both Fifa and the IAAF, two of sport’s biggest and most important international federations.
The IOC had in late 2014 set out principles for improving sports governance in its Agenda 2020 reform package.
The IAAF recently agreed its own broad reform package which became vitally necessary after corruption and doping scandals.
New statutes are intended to prevent fraud and the abuse of power,while increasing transparency and giving athletes more rights. A new”integrity unit board” will be responsible for the fight against doping.
The reforms come as French authorities continue a fraud and money laundering investigation into former IAAF president Lamine Diack of Senegal, who was allegedly involved in covering up positive doping samples. “Never again can one person wield unchecked power,” IAAF’s president Sebastian Coe said. “We now have structures, we now have frameworks and foundations that will create a safety net.”
Fifa also heralded a “new era” following the corruption affairs which engulfed the federation and came to a head in 2015 with the arrests of leading football officials. — DPA