We heard it in September 1938 when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich announcing “Peace for our time” after meeting with Chancellor Hitler regarding Germany’s takeover of the Czech Sudetenland.
Considering Hitler invaded Poland a year later to kick off World War II, Chamberlain’s pronouncement stands as gold medal winner in the “Ooops” competition in World Political Assessments Olympics. But it sounds like we just heard something vaguely similar coming out of Munich again today in regards the ongoing IAAF Corruption Scandal.
After a scathing indictment of the IAAF came out last November in his original WADA-commissioned report outlining institutional corruption, extortion and widespread drug abuse in the Russian athletics’ federation, founding WADA president Dick Pound announced that today’s follow up report would go even farther and include a “wow factor” revelation.
As you can imagine, alarm clocks were set and seats were arranged around computers worldwide to hear the latest nefariousness and watch for any potential perp walks. After all the wickedness these princes of power had put the sport through for so long, here was the coup de grace about to come down.
So what the hell happened? Where, exactly, was the “wow factor”? The only wow I heard was my own exclamation after Mr. Pound made a screeching 180-degree turn on his own Independent Commission’s report.
After declaring, “It is not credible that elected officials were unaware of the situation…corruption was embedded in the organization. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on its own,” Mr. Pound concluded IAAF President Coe (who had been VP since 2007 before taking the top job in August 2015) “did not have the faintest idea of the extent” of Diack’s alleged corruption, and “I can’t think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead the recovery.”
Wow! What did I miss? What did they do with Dick Pound?
I’ve been going back and forth with my old friend Peter Thompson on this matter over the last two days. Peter has been involved in the sport for many decades, primarily as a coach, but also as an IAAF administrator and an event organizer. I think our give and take can offer some context from both points of view.
Peter: “Toni – I was disappointed with your latest piece on the IAAF – COE ATTEMPTS TO WALK IAAF OFF THE LEDGE – as you are normally so reliably and constructively critical. Here’s my take with the benefit of working over a twenty year period in the ‘corrupt organization’ and knowledge of the current situation – So, here are some further reflections from me after conversations with many in the sport and those outwith:
The question that the IAAF must address to WADA, the public and the media is, “How could this corruption take place without ‘the IAAF’ knowing?” Because they cannot see an answer to this, they think the whole organization is corrupt. We need to explain:
1. Lamine Diack appointed his son Papa as a ‘consultant’ to the IAAF – he was never an employee of the IAAF.
2. All corrupt actions took place outside of the IAAF organization as Lamine and Papa worked with directly corrupt Federations, Administrators, Athletes and Agents e.g. Russia, Qatar etc.
3. When Lamine had to go inside the IAAF to effect his corruption he chose Gabrial Dolle, the Director of Anti-Doping and this connected the corrupt activities to the IAAF organization and made it accessible to others within the IAAF.
4. At least two IAAF employees acted as whistle-blowers and made known to the appropriate authorities what was going on and the corruption was exposed.
5. Valentin came in as Treasurer already corrupt from his activities with and for the Russian Federation and as a Lamine stooge. The Treasurer is appointed and is not an IAAF employee. So, only Gabriel from within the IAAF HQ staff is implicated and quickly exposed .
WADA is choosing not to understand this situation but to incorrectly accuse the whole IAAF of being systemically corrupt – a total misrepresentation which I believe you can appreciate.
The important thing is for the IAAF not to appear defensive but to simply help people understand, How this could happen, and What we are doing to ensure it won’t happen again.
Let’s see what the new report brings ………
Peter: Cheers Toni – Pound has endorsed Seb which is appropriate.
Toni: Peter, I’m confused. On the one hand Pound said “it’s not credible that elected officials were unaware of the situation… The corruption was embedded in the organization.” But then he concludes that Coe “did not have the faintest idea of the extent” of Diack’s alleged corruption, and “I can’t think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead the recovery.”
HUH? He pulled the rug out from under his own report. Houdini would’ve been proud of that sleight of hand. Totally contradictory.
Peter: Another contradiction Toni is: “Diack is firmly in the line of fire. The report also concluded he appeared to have created a close inner circle which functioned as “an informal illegitimate governance structure” outside the IAAF;”
And then having identified Diack as the leader of a non-IAAF staff/employee mafia, states, “The corruption was embedded in the organisation. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on his own.”
Having just identified Lamine as the ‘odd renegrade’ leading his own ‘outside of the IAAF staff’ corrupt personal circle, Pound states that it cannot be attributed to one. But, it has to be one. The only one with enough power and enough ‘protection through protocol’ and that would have been and was, Lamine Diack.
Toni: Peter, we aren’t kids anymore. We know how rogue-ish these international bodies are that have no effective oversight. They exist extra-nationally, which means our antenna is constantly up, quivering with expectation of sleazy behavior.
For Coe not to know what was going on to an absolute certainty, OK, I’ll give you that. But for him to tell CNN he only worked on IAAF stuff 10 days a year, and then not to even be curious or skeptical when son Papa and compromised Dr. Dolle form the Diack inner circle suggests a willful or cynical blindness.
Peter: No, we’re definitely not kids, Toni, but people outside of the IAAF have little idea of the contradictory demands of the organization, comprised of salaried employees and elected officials, both serving the needs and direction of its 214 Member Federations vs. providing leadership to these same Members. Is it a willful or cynical blindness or something about hindsight and 20/20?
Coe had said from when he gained the London Olympics to delivering 2012 that he would concentrate on that rather than IAAF business. We should remember that there were four IAAF Vice Presidents under Lamine during that period, the Senior VP being Bob Hersh (USA). The three ‘ordinary’ Vice Presidents were Sergey Bubka (Ukraine), General Dahlan (Qatar) and Seb Coe (Great Britain & Northern Ireland). What are their views?
That’s where we broke things off as other tasks called.
But I find it all a little too convenient — and reflective of the culture that permeated the IAAF leadership — that Mr. Coe runs for the position as vice-president, then when the stink is tumbling ’round the drain acknowledges he wasn’t there to do anything substantive, much less keep an eye out on the raptors in charge, but now says he’s aware of the seriousness of the matter and is determined to make changes.
Remember, this is the same Lord Coe who just months after being elected said he did not see this tsunami coming after perfunctorily referring to his predecessor as the ‘spiritual’ leader of the sport…who had left the sport with ‘an extraordinarily strong foundation’ and had provided him with the perfect ‘apprenticeship’.
Yeah, we’ve heard it before; it‘s called going along to get along, and you can’t get more cynical than that.
This is not just another Oops moment. While it is time for the French authorities to continue their criminal investigations, it is also past time for this rotted out shack of principalities to get torn down, not for Chip and Joanna Gaines to feature it on their next episode as Coe’s Fixer Upper.