POSTED: September 22nd 2016

NEIL WILSON: Thomas Bach should emulate Alistair Brownlee

Alastar Brownlee helps his brother Jonny cross the finish line at the world triathlon championship as he collapsed of dehydration © Getty Images
Alastar Brownlee helps his brother Jonny cross the finish line at the world triathlon championship as he collapsed of dehydration © Getty Images

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

(SFC) When an exhausted Jonny Brownlee needed help to finish triathlon's world championship last weekend, his brother Alistair did not hesitate to sacrifice his own chance of winning. He hoisted his brother onto his shoulder and carried him to the line. "I would have done it for anybody," said Alistair.

The act was in the true spirit of de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, the bit about not the winning that matters but the taking part.

An interesting contrast here. When the International Paralympic Committee needed support in its resolute stand against Russian-state doping, Thomas Bach, the president of its brother organization, the International Olympic Committee, went missing.

No, he could not attend the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Rio. He had to attend a memorial service for a friend. No, he could not go later. There was a celebration of a 25th anniversary to attend in Croatia. And no he could not be at the closing ceremony. Instead he chose to fly to New York for the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Whatever his excuses the world saw it as spite because the IPC had not toed the IOC line but instead banned all Russians from its Games.

Now it is happening again. The World Anti-Doping Agency, a body created by his more illustrious predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch, half-funded by the IOC and with 15 IOC members on its Board, had recommended that the entire Russian team should be barred from the Rio Olympics.

It was a recommendation based on the independent reports of two lawyers, IOC member Dick Pound and Canadian law professor Richard McLaren.  The IOC, embarrassed, chose to ignore it, which was its right, but now chooses to question   the purpose and integrity of the organization it created and still stuffs with its cohorts.

So it is calling together a meeting of "stakeholders" to discuss future reform of WADA, and has called upon its 90-odd members to give their views on that future. The first Gerardo Werthein, the Argentinian IOC member and a Bach ally, wasted no time in accusing WADA of "letting down the sports movement".

He suggested a successor body to WADA, even though WADA was created by the IOC, is part funded by it and has half its voting power.  Because, he said, WADA had failed in its duties. Presumably, he meant a failure to toe the line.

Far from wanting to offer WADA more independence to do its job and less control by the IOC, Werthein - and, therefore,  we can assume Bach - wants its wings clipped, for it to have less independence and come under greater control.

Pound, a former IOC vice-president and former president of WADA as an IOC nominee, told the British newspaper The Guardian that "I've always thought the IOC's attacks on WADA were a diversion to take everyone's mind off how the whole Russian situation has been bungled."

Of course, he is right. The IOC has come out of the Russian situation badly. Public perception is that WADA, the IPC and the IAAF, which banned all Russians, are the good guys and that, in contrast, the IOC is under the influence of Putin's Russia.

The IOC is even getting into bed with a self-styled International Centre for Sport Security funded by Qatar, as if that Arab sheikdom is recognized for its sporting security after its lobbying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The athletes and Para-athletes who took part in Rio burnished the five Olympic rings and the IPC symbol. Those whose only role is to organize an Olympic Games every second year managed to tarnish them with its weakness on Russia, its attacks on WADA and the arrest of a senior official on ticketing charges.

If it decides to hobble WADA at its special meeting on October 8 in Lausanne the IOC will be doing further damage not only to the sports movement but its own reputation.

Instead Bach should emulate Brownlee, put his arm around WADA and the IPC's shoulders and embrace them. Spite has no place in the Olympic movement.

** 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.

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

Keywords · Olympics · Neil Wilson

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