We’ve all been dumped. And it hurts. But the immediate reflex is always to beg her/him to take us back. “Please, just tell me what to do. I’ll change. I swear.”
Yeah, well, we all know how well that works, rarely – OK, never! So you pick your self up, reset your dignity, and eventually move on, generally to greener pastures. Which is what distance running ought to do after getting dumped by the IAAF.
If ever there was a time for the sport of long-distance running to say adios to their governing body, now might be exactly the right time. After all, the IAAF just said adios to you by eliminating the 5000 and 10,000-meter races from the 2020 Diamond League, the IAAF’s premier track & field summer tour, which, in time, will only lead to their elimination at the Olympic Games, as the IOC continues to press for fewer track athletes to make room for breakdancers, skateboarders, pole-dancers, and kite-flyers.
There’s been a case to be made for this separation for years with the massive growth of road running across the globe. But the ties that bind long distance running to its parent organization were historic and seemingly of mutual advantage. But that connection no longer seems so apparent as the ties continue to come undone. Continue reading
These days accusations fly across the political spectrum faster than shuttlecocks in an ambidextrous badminton tournament. But what’s a lie, and who’s to say? There’s your question for the new year, kiddies.
News that Russia missed the New Year’s Eve deadline to hand over data to the World Anti-Doping Agency from the laboratory in Moscow where its state-sponsored doping program was centered somehow caught WADA President Craig Reedie by surprise. “Bitterly disappointed”, I believe that was his quote.
And you would be disappointed, too, if you had stepped out in November to recommend Russia be readmitted to international competition, despite not yet having met WADA’s conditions for that reinstatement. “I find it very hard to believe that the guarantees, made to us by the Russian authorities, that they won’t deliver.”
Really? When murdering journalists and political opponents are normative behavior, where do you think doping in athletics falls on the New Year’s resolution To Do list?
While the clock tells no lies, neither does it ask any questions. Instead it merely records our passing in cold indifference. And so in athletics’ ongoing fight to rid itself of the scourge of fraudulent performance the question arises, where does the responsibility for actually giving a damn lie? And, is drug testing in and of itself enough to achieve the goal?
I ask because based on the evidence of continued PED use, and the institutional corruption that allowed and benefited from it, one might conclude that the intended deterrence has not been achieved, and that some other stick or carrot may be required.
That thought was brought to mind yesterday while watching Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions appear at his confirmation hearing before Congress as Attorney General designate. During one exchange Senator Sessions said the following in response to whether fraudulent speech is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution:
“Fraudulent speech, if it amounts to an attempt to obtain a thing of value for the person making the fraudulent speech, is absolutely fraud, and can be prosecuted.”
In the case of performance-enhancing drug use the intent is specifically ‘to obtain a thing of value’, i.e. race prize money. Therefore, when a WADA doping control officer goes over the doping control official record at time of testing, a negative declaration by the tested athlete becomes, in fact, a form of speech, and therefore should be considered a prosecutable offense if subsequent testing produces a positive finding of drug use. The same ask-and-answer should be required of appropriate coaches, managers, and federation officials, as each category has been found complicit in past PED distribution. No accusations, mind you, simply covering bases. Continue reading
Holy Cow, they did it! The IAAF voted unanimously today to bar the Russian track and field team from the Rio Olympics. It’s an extraordinary move, for sure, but one the Russian federation almost dared the governing body to make after it was caught in a cycle of state-supported doping, the most cynical violation of the letter and spirit of fair play imaginable.
Afterwards, the Russian federation said they would appeal the ruling to members of the IOC, the final arbiters of all things Olympic. Their argument, such as it is, says that keeping them out of the Games wouldn’t just have a negative effect on Russian athletes, but would do damage to the Olympics itself. That’s the spirit we’re looking for. No contrition, mind you, just “we’ll take you down with us”.
This has been coming for quite some time. The Russians were suspended from international competition last November after a damning WADA report uncovered an elaborate state-run doping program. And now this, a real dagger to the heart, perhaps (unfortunately) even to some innocents. But maybe a necessary message, nonetheless.
The Russian federation made a last ditch attempt to persuade the IAAF to allow their athletes who hadn’t been sanctioned for drug use to compete. But the level of doping skullduggery was so deeply imbedded, that failing to be caught was no guarantee of innocence at all. Sorry kids, a little too little too late. Besides, we’ve had Olympics without the Russians before (LA ’84), and without the USA for that matter (Moscow ’80). And no harm done — or, at least no changes made. So now we’ll just have more medals to go around. Continue reading
Wanjiru v. Kebede, Chicago 2010
As might be expected in any nation with a talent pool as vast as theirs, Kenyans continue to debate the makeup of their 2016 Rio Olympic Men’s & Women’s Marathon squads. They also pray that the non-compliance ruling handed down last week by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) doesn’t derail their heroes from competing in Rio this August. Yet even amidst those attention-grabbing headlines, we are sadly reminded that it was on this day in 2011 that Kenya lost its legendary 2008 Olympic Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru, who died tragically when he fell from the second story balcony of his home in Nyahururu during a domestic dispute.
Wanjiru was only 24 years old at the time of his death, and still had room to grow as an athlete. The following excerpt is taken from my blog the day after Wanjiru’s death.
“I won’t offer any speculation except to suggest that youthful fame and fortune are never simply a single-edged blade carving happiness from a rough-hewn upbringing of need and want. Over and again we have witnessed the tragic cuts that sudden wealth and corresponding sycophancy can lay open on those ill-prepared to parry their thrusts. Sammy Wanjiru was a passionate racer, and evidently he carried that passion into his every day dealings to a calamitous, untimely end.
What I knew of the great champion came only from the vantage point of a reporter, one fortunate enough to be up close for what was his final marathon, and one of the greatest marathon performances ever, his victory in the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Continue reading
WADA Independent Commission Report 2015
So on the same day that WADA unanimously declares Kenya non-compliant with its anti-doping code, thereby threatening the East African running juggernaut with exclusion from this summer’s Rio Olympics (along with Russia, which was also declared non-compliant last November) we also have word that organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic bid were alleged to have made a “seven-figure payment” to an account controlled by the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack, who, himself, was arrested last year by French authorities on corruption and money laundering charges, over allegations he took payments for deferring sanctions against Russian drugs cheaters. And the beat just goes on and on and on.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe (Getty Images)
I don’t know, maybe Sebastian Coe is the IAAF’s last best chance. But these latest two bombshells make you wonder if anyone involved in this filthy sport can truly be the cleansing agent needed to disinfect the body politic?
And perhaps that reflects how bad the situation really is. Looking at the entirety of the WADA Independent Commission report, along with Commission chair Dick Pound’s subsequent public support for Seb Coe as new IAAF president, the only judgement one can make is that there seems to be little appetite for the kind of wholesale reconstruction that these reports suggest is necessary. Continue reading
Last year at this time I was in Durban, South Africa to give a keynote address at a Global Athletics Conference (GAC 2014). Ato Boldon was the conference emcee, and he opened with “if you love something, you are supposed to be critical of it.” With that in mind, some thoughts on the eventful goings on in this second week of November 2015.
WADA’s scathing report on the systematic drug abuse and perfidy within Russian athletics wasn’t just an indictment of one federation. Coming on the heels of the arrest of former IAAF President Lamine Diack by French authorities for allegedly taking bribes to cover up drug offenses, the WADA Report simply underlined the scope of the moral crisis facing the sport. Continue reading