POSTED: December 9th 2015
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NEIL WILSON: Time for Russia to sit out Rio

Dick Pound (center) IOC member and in charge of the WADA Independent Commission on doping / Getty Images
Dick Pound (center) IOC member and in charge of the WADA Independent Commission on doping / Getty Images


THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The one man in global sport who has emerged from the scandals engulfing it with his halo burnished and reputation intact is Dick Pound.

Remember him? He was the most forceful, outspoken president the International Olympic Committee (IOC) never had.  For those very qualities he was not elected.

He told it as it was. He faced facts and called people out. Ten IOC members were forced out of their roles because of the investigation he led into the Salt Lake City scandal.

The revenge of IOC members was to elect instead as the next IOC president a bland Belgian whose best quality was never to have upset anybody.

Thomas Bach enjoyed the same reputation when he came to run for the presidency as Jacques Rogge's successor. Everybody's friend. Even Vladimir Putin liked him. He was first to call to congratulate him on his election.

Now Bach seems to be repaying Russia's president by soft-pedalling on the suspension of his country by the IAAF for what to all intents and purposes is state-run doping in track and field. Bach's first reaction to the revelations last month was to say that he expected Russia to return from suspension in time for next year's Rio Olympics.

He is soft-pedalling again over the corruption scandal at FIFA and in the IAAF. The world FIFA never passes his lips in his speeches. His op-ed in six global newspapers this week on corruption in sport did not mention FIFA. Or IAAF.

Rob Harris, an AP reporter in London, tweeted this week of how he door-stepped Bach on the FIFA issue last October. "His disdain for questions was clear; his answers vague and evasive," said Harris.

is distain for questions was clear; his answeer

The IOC has always been behind the curve on sport's great problems. This is the body, remember, that awarded the head of East German sport, Manfred Ewald, the prestigious Olympic Order when doping in East Germany was state directed.

Putin, of course, was a KGB man stationed at the time in East Germany. Would he have not known? Did the IOC not know that the Soviet Union (aka Russia) had its own counter-doping laboratory on a ship in Seoul during the 1988 Olympics to make sure none of its competitors failed a test?

Russia has been at it for decades. Its whole sports system is as bent as a 12 dollar bill. A suspension of a few weeks will not change anything.

Pound will have more words to say on the issue next month in the second instalment of his commission's report. We can be confident that he will not pull punches, that track and field among Olympic sports will be revealed as the tip of the iceberg, that Russia is far from alone among member nations of the Olympic movement in corrupt officials and athletes.

Global sport and the Olympic movement, as Bach admits, are in a crisis of popular perception. Diplomacy may be Bach's first quality but the time is past for that. Better now he loses a few friends than accepts the word of the guilty that the leopard can change its spots.

Russia - and any other nation Pound exposes - is not essential to an Olympic Games. Who missed them and their ilk in 1984? Let them sit out Rio. Only then might popular perception be changed and Moscow get the message.

** 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.


Keywords · Olympics · IOC · Neil Wilson


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