7 Quick Thoughts on the IAAF Corruption and Doping scandal. – Science of Running

Interview with Tony Holler – Science of Running


The Independent Commission investigating corruption of the IAAF and doping in Russia released a bombshell of a report today.

While others have summarized the findings better than I can, which included bribery, doping cover-ups, over 1,400+ doping tests destroyed, and much much more. I wanted to give a quick reaction to the report and some of the questions after digesting it:

1. Seb Coe needs to answer questions.

Let’s start with the obvious:
-He’s been a part of the IAAF since 2003, a VP since 2007.
-He lavished praise on Diack, a man who has shown to have run perhaps the most corrupt regime in Sports, which is saying something.
-He was the head of the FIFA ethics division while vast corruption was going on and reported nothing.
-He has refused to give up his Nike consulting agreement and somehow has convinced himself it’s not a Conflict of Interest, despite the entire world, cognitive behavior research, and anyone with a half a brain telling him that is not the case.
-When faced with the reality of these allegations, he initially blamed the journalist, trying to take a holier than thou approach of defending his sport, when the reality is that the regime he was a part of may have single handily killed his sport…for good.


A. Seb Coe is the unluckiest man in the world and just happens to find himself surrounded by corruption. Which if that’s the case, I’d suggest Seb do a better job of picking friends…
B. He is a horrible employee and the absolute worst person in the world to judge character, determine ethical violations, and should never have a job related to ethics ever again for the simple fact of so many scandals going on without him even sniffing a hint of it.
C. He has a lot of explaining to do.

It seems extreme, but read the above and ask if you can come to any other conclusion?

How in the world did Seb Coe find himself working with two of the most corrupt and scandal ridden leaders in the history of sport, Diack and Sepp Blatter???  That’s impressive that he was able to cosy up to both, have high ranking jobs under both, and find out nothing while there…

It may seem like I’m being harsh, but if Coe truly cares about the sport as much as he says, then he owes the sport answers. He needs to admit to mistakes in judgement, apologize to athletes to journalist, to everyone involved.

The public, and the athletes he is now head of deserve an explanation.

2. ALL of the IAAF should be under suspicion.

Let me paint another picture for you.

We have the President of the IAAF covering up doping, taking bribes, impacting World Championship and Olympic placing. The head of the IAAF anti-doping covering up the very thing he is assigned to go after, doping. The chief counsel of the president involved in corruption. Diack’s son involved in accepting bribes from countries like Qatar for the naming of the world champs. The IAAF treasurer was involved in corrpution and “told” to leave…But then somehow gave the financial report at a recent IAAF meeting.

And on it goes.

If you have so many people at the top of your organization involved in such crooked dealings, then every single person in that organization should be under scrutiny. Whether it’s the vice president or the janitor, if you’re involved under a regime that displayed that much blatant abuse of power, then you should be under suspicion.

The fact that Mr. Russian treasurer came back and gave the financial report shows that the IAAF simply doesn’t give a shit. It’s like laughing in the face of the scandal.

If you think anything has changed, you’re deluding yourself.

In my view, it’s time for a complete blow up, rebuild, and elimination of anyone involved given the gravity of the situation.

3. It’s NOT just Russia.

People are going to try to use Russia as a scapegoat. It’s much easier. Don’t be surprised if the IAAF or any organization under attack singles out Russia and claims that they were a rogue nation.

Russia is an easy enemy.

Don’t fall for it. Are we to believe that Russians were the only ones that Diack and co. tried to offer bribes? Diack simply took advantage of the poor Russians testing positive.

The likelihood is that Diack et al. tried to extend their cash grab to far more athletes and countries than simply Russia. One example was one of the most blatant cheaters to win an Olympic gold, the Turkish 1,500m runner. She was extended the courtesy of keeping her gold for a mere couple hundred thousand dollars.

The problem is widespread. It’s in the U.S., UK, Europe, Africa, every where. Don’t delude yourself. Don’t think this is a one-off issue. It’s not.

4. Enabling is killing our sport- It’s NOT just countries or governing bodies

It should also be said that the blame goes beyond simply state sponsored doping. It goes beyond that. There are drug coaches, drug agents, drug friendly sponsors.

If athletes really care about clean sport, then they should recognize this and take a stand. Don’t affiliate with agents, coaches, sponsors or support personnel who have been involved in shady behavior in the past. What’s shady behavior? That’s for each athlete to decide but if you make a stand and stop giving these individuals business then slowly their cash flow will dry up.

There are sponsors who regularly send athletes they sign to coaches who are known “Drug coaches” by just about everyone in the business. It’s not just that they are drug coaches by reputation, it’s that they’ve had 3,4,5 or more athletes test positive and banned before. This is a major problem.

Yet it’s continued to be allowed day after day, year after year. The IAAF, USATF, and whoever else is supposed to be in charge of the sport enables this type of activity.

Where is the large money in track and field? Shoe sponsors. Follow the money and see if there’s any bribery, payoffs, and so forth going on.

It’s this enabling that is killing our sport.

So if you’re an athlete, choose wisely. It might not seem like it, but not taking the money and being forced down this path, may be the only way to save this sport.

5. What about WADA?

Dick Pound is the man. Besides the obvious name connotations, this guy seems to do damn good work and fight for clean sport. He and the others involved in this commission seemed to nail it.

But I have to ask, what in the world is the head of WADA, Craig Reedie, thinking. A few months ago, he sent an email to the head of Russian anti-doping that said:

“‘I wish to make it clear to
you and to the Minister that there is no action being taken by WADA
that is critical of the efforts which I know have been made, and are
being made, to improve anti-doping efforts in Russia…‘It is my view that the content of the
[ARD] television programmes was based on a period of time that pre-dates
the changes in legislation and the investment in [Russian anti-doping]
that have been made.’”

Now either Reedie was expressing non-consequential platitudes to the Russian Anti-Doping head or this is deeply troubling. Given what Pound’s report found, how in the world could anyone in their right mind think that Russia is on the up and up.

I’m not sure entirely what to make of this, but it is concerning…

6. The athletes are pawns.

Newsflash to athletes, the IAAF doesn’t really care about you. You are pawns to make them money, whether it’s through being “fillers” for Olympic heats or diamond leagues or through extraordinary performances. Under Diack’s reign it was shown that he didn’t care how people got great performances, he just wanted them. Ethics be damned.

The exact governing body meant to protect you has been insuring that people like Alysia Montano miss out on FOUR (yes, four!) world championship or Olympic medals in her career because they accepted some Russian athletes bribes to compete.

Let that sink in.

They don’t care about you, you are a pawn. And nothing is going to change unless athletes stand up and make a statement for themselves. If we’ve learned anything from this fiasco it’s that no one will look out for the athletes interest at the highest level. So instead of complaining at meets behind closed doors, take a stand in the public.

What happens with anti-doping is what happens in actual drug trafficking. You catch the user while the drug dealers go scot free, and their master planners are safely at the top of the pyramid with nothing to worry about. We catch drug users while coaches, agents, sponsors, heads of governing bodies, and so forth go free.

This scandal shows that athletes are disposable. Diack and co. put together a system where athletes were used. If they wanted protection, then they had to bribe their way to it.

7. This is the tip of the iceberg

It’s cliche to say, but this is only the beginning. If the report stops here, the sport is doomed and we’ll continue along our merry way with heads buried in sand which is what the IAAF seems to want.

Instead, we need to see what happens with the French investigation. We need to ask the difficult questions and push for answers. Athletes MUST demand action and change and not settle for platitudes. We may need people to pull a Nick Symmonds and boycott events to make a stand.

The bottom line is that if the very very top of the sport was corrupt, then it’s only logical that the man in charge and reigned for almost two decades had set the tone and culture of one of complicit corruption.

It’s almost unbelievable to say, but all the conspiracy theorist who would yell cover-ups and corruption at the highest level, turned out to be right.

Consider the other implications. We found out that Diack’s son took money from Qatar for consideration of the world championships. We know Qatar got named 2019 world champs host and then without a vote Eugene got named 2021 hosts shortly after. Given the allegations of corruption and how this was handled, perhaps we should look into how these decisions got made?

So what do we do from here?

Blow it all up. Nick Willis tweeted that we should blow it up and start from scratch and I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve always said, the problem with our sport is that the athletes who grew up doping or accepting doping in sport then went on to become the governing figures in sport. If we have those in charge who were okay with it during the hey days of the 70’s and 80’s what makes you think they are going to change it when they have power?

There’s a reason the laughable records of the Chinese, East German, and so forth are still on the books.

Perhaps it’s time to get off our high horse, claiming we have the best anti-doping system in the world, and look at what happened in Cycling. It seems like we are following the same exact path, perhaps worse because we have evidence of blatant cover-ups, only we’re a few years behind.

Every option needs to be on the table. Every organization, country, sponsor needs to be questioned. It’s time to dig deep and let the world see all of the dirt. Only then, can we build things back up.

And lastly, I’d like to point out that if it hadn’t been for two whistleblowers from Russia, we’d still be sitting here with an entire country covering doping scandals and a president and regime that enabled doping at the highest level.

The whistleblowers went through hell and ridicule, even from those within the sport, and the journalist who reported it did too.

Without them, we’d be listening to the IAAF tell us how great Diack was a president and Alysia Montano would have 4 less medals, and Jarrad Tallant would still be waiting for his Olympic Gold medal take by a cheating Russian race walker….Oh wait, he’s still waiting…

Something to consider.


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