The outgoing president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) may have termed the damning report by Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper of rampant blood doping in athletics a ‘joke’. But the numbers revealed are so huge that it is hard to believe that the rot is not widespread.
Even minor allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds in world sporting bodies like the International Olympic Committee (IOC), IAAF and FIFA make global headlines. But they pale in comparison to the current allegations.
The expose in cycling, which destroyed the reputation of legends like Lance Armstrong, started with some of the small fry falling into the net. And, as time elapsed, the entire cycling fraternity was painted with the same brush.
Today, even as we marvel at the strength of these athletes competing in the Tour de France, we are also forced to entertain thoughts of doping. Coming back to the core issue, it defies logic how the IAAF glossed over nearly 1,400 abnormal tests of more than 800 athletes, most of them for erythropoietin — a substance that boosts the production of the oxygen-carrying red-blood corpuscles in the body.
The abnormal tests bring to the fore the secretive — often covert — ways in which the international sports federations, the National Olympic Committees and National Sports Federations function. With billions of dollars at stake and elite athletes being their money spinners, it seems every effort is made to ensure they don’t fall into the net. The need to preserve autonomy can no longer be an excuse for these bodies to insulate themselves from scrutiny. Even as the IOC and the national athletics federations demand a probe, it can be safely said that no athlete can use devious means without the connivance of her national association.
It is hard to digest that the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Association are unaware of the IAAF report brought into the public domain by a whistleblower. These bodies are either in cahoots or are simply ignoring the issue for bigger gains. If the clean-up has to start, it should start from the country the athlete hails from. Sporting achievements, after all, are worth cherishing only if they pass the litmus test of credibility.