POSTED: November 10th 2015

JOHN GOODBODY: Russia doping under the spotlight - but more problems still to come

(L to R) WADA Independent Commission Richard McLaren, Chairman Dick Pound, Gunter Younger / Getty Images
(L to R) WADA Independent Commission Richard McLaren, Chairman Dick Pound, Gunter Younger / Getty Images

Countries with the most doping violations - click to enlarge / Graphiq
Countries with the most doping violations - click to enlarge / Graphiq

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) When Dick Pound was appointed to head the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) independent commission into alleged malpractice in Russian athletics, one knew that the resulting 323-page report would not attempt to evade the truth. As the first Wada President, he was known for his trenchant views -often clashing for instance with the International Cycling Union (UCI) - something that became increasingly formidable when allied to his forensic ability as a lawyer.

But what he and his co-workers produced was a clear indication that nothing was going to deflect them from a report that was going to be immensely controversial but also immensely helpful to everyone, who strives to achieve drug-free sport.

The fact that Pound, a former vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, has recommended that Russian athletes should be banned from international competition, possibly including next year's Olympics, demonstrates how strongly the Wada feels about the issue.

After all, they have recommended life bans for five Russian athletes, including both Mariya Savinova and Ekaterina Poistogova, 800 metre gold and bronze medallists at the 2012 Games, as well as five coaches. They have also claimed that the head of the Wada-accredited laboratory in Moscow destroyed 1,417 blood and urine samples, which the commission wanted to obtain, while Pound said that that it was "impossible" for Vitaly Mutko, the Russian Minister of Sport, not to have been aware of the malpractice.

It is all very well for Vadim Zelichenok, the acting President of the All-Russia Athletics Federation, to say that the Wada commission did not give his country the opportunity of a fair hearing but he now has that opportunity, having been asked by Lord Coe, the newly-elected President of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), to provide answers to these allegations before the IAAF Council Meeting in Monte Carlo on Friday.

This meeting is now likely to suspend Russia from membership, given that the country is not 'code compliant' with the Wada. Russia, whose laboratory has been stripped of the Wada accreditation, would then have to undergo what Pound described as "the surgery and therapy" so that their competitors could take part in Rio.

However, this is not the end of the matter. In many ways, even more serious, are the criminal proceedings in France hanging over leading officials of the IAAF, who are alleged to have colluded with the Russian authorities. The Wada report did not mention the cases involving Lamine Diack, the former IAAF President, Dr. Gabriel Dolle, the ex-director of the IAAF's anti-doping department, and, it is believed Habib Cisse,a former legal adviser to Diack, as well as Diack's son, Papa Massata. They are the subject of preliminary charges of corruption and money laundering and, so for legal reasons, the evidence against them was not produced in the report.

Then next month, the IAAF's own Ethics Commission will examine another slew of allegations involving the payment of £375,000 to leading IAAF figures from Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova so she could avoid punishment for positive drugs tests.

Lord Coe has certainly a task on its hands. I find it odd, given the announcement last December that the Wada investigation, triggered by the German television documentary, was to be carried out that he did not speak to Pound unofficially last summer before the IAAF presidential election to get some suggestion about the findings. He would certainly have saved himself from some embarrassing pronouncements if he had done so.

I believe Lord Coe is essentially a person of integrity and so the right person to lead the IAAF at this most difficult time. And when he has had to deal with Russia, he should have to bear in mind the words of Pound that there were concerns about other countries such as Kenya and Turkey. Russia may well be, as he said, just the tip of the proverbial ice-berg.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

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