NEIL WILSON: The lion of Lausanne finds its voice
THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications
December 5 - There was a time when four medallists stripped on the same day of their gongs and their titles would have been the headline Olympic story of the week. This week it was not even close.
Throwers from former Soviet bloc countries testing positive for drugs has become one of those dog-bites-man stories. So commonplace is it, so unsurprising, that only the number banned on a single day elevated it to the status of a down-page news item.
The headline news of the week’s International Olympic Committee’s executive board meeting was not of athletes being stripped of medals but the world’s second most populous nation being stripped of its place in the Olympic movement.
Drug-taking athletes are easy targets for the IOC. Everybody supports it on that front when it takes a strong line. Kicking India out of the Olympic Games requires courage of a different order.
They have been times in the IOC’s past, when it was under different presidencies, when it would have run faster than Usain Bolt to avoid confrontations with one of the world’s largest countries.
Rather than offend it would have procrastinated, hopeful that in the interim the problem would resolve itself.
Today’s IOC under Dr Jacques Rogge is a very different beast. It has spine. Thrown a gauntlet it will pick it up and face down its opponent. As India, its government and its Olympic Association discovered this week.
The row between IOC and IOA is about governance and ethics. Does the IOA control its own affairs, as the Olympic Charter requires, or is the Indian government running its show? And can the IOC ever be party to the election of senior NOC officials who are accused of graft?
Just how bad matters are in the IOA is best illustrated by the identity of the man it chose as chairman of its Ethics Commission, R.K. Anand. Anand is a lawyer. At least, he was. He has been barred from all legal practise by India’s Supreme Court for mal-practise.
How the IOA convinces itself that he qualifies to oversee the ethics of others in those circumstances is beyond belief. Just as it is incredible that it elects to other senior appointments men accused of graft in relation to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
The IOC rarely exercises its power to suspend whole nations. Kuwait was suspended and so was the new country of South Sudan. But in political terms they were minnows. India is second only to China in population and developing economically almost as fast. It may well be that it puts forward one of its cities to host an Olympic Games before long.
That the IOC has acted with swiftness and decisiveness against it sends a powerful message. Take note, athletes and administrators.
The old lion of Lausanne has a new set of teeth.
NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.
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