POSTED: December 22nd 2017

NEIL WILSON: A Christmas wish for the Olympic Movement

PyeongChang 2018 is right around the corner starting February 9th @ PyeongChang 2018
PyeongChang 2018 is right around the corner starting February 9th @ PyeongChang 2018

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

(SFC) The International Olympic Committee gave itself an early Christmas present this week. It established a taskforce to tackle corruption.

Not before time, you might say. 2017 has been the IOC's annus horribilis.  Hardly a month has gone by this year when the IOC has not been directly or by association involved in a corruption scandal.

 As early as March a former Rio State minister was charged with accepting bribes relating to the Rio Olympics. A month later it was the former mayor of Rio in the frame for the same reason.

Closer to the IOC's home in April was the forced resignation from FIFA of IOC big wheel Sheikh Ahmed Al Fahad Sabah, although he kept his IOC membership.

Then in July IOC member Frankie Fredericks was suspended and removed from the Evaluation Commission after being charged by French prosecutors with taking bribes, and in August Ireland's Patrick Hickey resigned from the Executive Board while he faces charges in Brazil related to ticketing corruption at the Rio Games.

And in September, as the IOC's Session in Lima was about to take place, its honorary member Carlos Arthur Nuzman, head of the Rio2016 organising committee, was arrested for taking bribes.

Finally in December the IOC's belated and reluctant acceptance of the results of Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren's inquiry in Russian doping led to the banning or suspension of a former sports minister and his deputy, the head of its national Olympic committee and the CEO of the 2014 Winter Games.

This was corruption among the Suits.  Bubbling under all year were the cases of the Russian Olympic athletes found to have been involved in state-supervised doping.

By December Russia had set a new Olympic record for drug taking at Olympic Games. More than 100 - 105 as I write - Russians had been disqualified for being caught doping at the Games.

Another 300 elite Russians have been reported to their international sports federations by the World Anti Doping Agency after its discovery of a database at the Moscow laboratory indicated that negative results had been ascribed to positive samples.

You could hardly make it up. This was corruption on a grand scale. The acronym for the IOC would have better been LOL if it had not been so serious for sport.

Still, let me end this review of the year with the good news. In August the IOC appointed the former UN secretary-general Ban. Ki-moon to chair its Ethics Commission, and this week shared in the setting up of a Taskforce.

Serious players such as the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the Organisation for Economic and Cultural Development and the Council of Europe are other stakeholders in the creation of IPACS, the International Partnership against Corruption in Sports.

It is a mammoth task it has given itself, and the IOC's past record for fighting corruption in its own ranks cannot give its supporters great confidence.

The Christmas wish though of all fellows of goodwill in the Olympic movement should be that the UN, OECD and COE ensure in the coming year that the IOC's nose is applied firmly to the grindstone.

The Olympic Games cannot afford another year like 2017.

** 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.

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