Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
In a blog earlier this week, a paragon of clean sport, Richard Pound, seems to suggest we should all be looking the other way while the biggest doping scandal in the history of sport continues to fester. If such a thing as anti-doping royalty existed, Mr. Pound would certainly qualify. Perhaps his point of view should stand unchallenged. Lest respect be confused with concurrence, I feel compelled to comment.
I am troubled by recent remarks which suggest, like some other IOC members, he believes that international sport is the domain of an exclusive group; members of the IOC who alone know what is best for high performance sport. In November 2018, in the Evening Standard, Mr. Pound took aim at the US Anti-Doping Agency and UK Anti-Doping accusing them and other National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) of being out of control and focused on the wrong thing. At that time, he misrepresented the responsibilities and actions of NADOs – not to mention ignoring the World Anti-Doping Code requirement that NADOs be independent in their decisions and actions. This week, for an exclusive Inside the Games blog, he has seen fit to lash out at those who have expressed their points of view regarding an appropriate response for Russia’s failure to comply with a critical World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) deadline (31 December 2018) by seriously mischaracterising and disparaging them as a “lynch mob”.
Since the passing of the deadline, I have seen many calls for WADA to get on with their responsibilities, and to do so immediately. Those calls have been for WADA to bring their significant resources to bear and exercise their authority to ensure the interests of clean sport are protected, and to do so without further delay.
Since the passing of the deadline, the calls for immediate action made by NADOs, athletes, and public authorities have been mostly polite, articulate, reasonable and rational (albeit some have contained minor technical inaccuracies). Is this the “lynch mob” to which Mr. Pound alludes? If so, he knows or should know better. Although he doesn’t say so, I suspect several intended targets of his blog, are members of the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO).
There is no need to dishonour the actions nor impugn the motive of these NADO Leaders, athletes and Ministers. To imply that by expressing their points of view, they don’t respect the rule of law ispreposterous. These are well-informed and well-meaning people, fulfilling their respective duties by expressing reasonable concerns about the missed deadline. In the late days of December, even the CEO of RUSADA, speaking with great courage, expressed his concern about the implications of Russia missing its deadline to comply!
Contrary to Mr. Pound’s claim, the majority of the current calls and previous comments have been supportive of WADA and its role. He claims that no alternatives have been proposed to a robust WADA– in fact, many calls have been made by these individuals and organisations for an even more robust WADA, a WADA that is genuinely independent, fully resourced and empowered to enforce the Code. Many constructive suggestions have been offered to enable this to be achieved.
Contrary to his claim, I have seen no calls reflecting the frontier style justice of a “lynch mob”. We know the IOC will not act further. In fact, Thomas Bach, President of the IOC has gone on the record to say Russia has served its sanction. The calls therefore for WADA to immediately proceed with their responsibilities in the evaluation of compliance, reflecting the rules and the gravity of Russia’s disregard for fair sport, are not out of order nor should they be surprising.
The efforts being undertaken to Russia’s benefit by the IOC, and now WADA, are troubling. Many, including Mr. Pound himself, have decried these approaches regarding IOC actions in particular. In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in January 2018, he stated: “Suspending the Russian team was a good start, but the farther down I got in reading the account of all of this, the more I realised that 99 per cent of what it was dealing with was how to get the Russians back in”. In fact, we all want Russia, and specifically RUSADA, back in the fold at the first appropriate time, but not in a way that allows flagrant non-compliance to be ignored.
This time last year in a letter to IOC President Bach, Mr. Pound felt it was his responsibility to share [his] “concerns regarding the announced arrangements with respect to Russia in the wake of the revelations and proof of its systemic and state-sponsored doping, together with its unprecedented and deliberate attack on the integrity of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games”. Standing on his principles, Mr. Pound declared he “would not participate at the Closing Ceremony [of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games] under circumstances [with which he didn’t agree]”. In doing so, Mr. Pound was respectfully speaking truth to power.
Mr. Pound was the recipient of harsh criticism by his fellow IOC members for speaking out; they as much as told him he could resign the IOC if he disagreed with them. In describing Mr. Pound ’s choices, John Coates (IOC Member from Australia) went so far as to say: “In the end, if you don’t like the coffee that’s served at the coffee shop, and you don’t like the décor and you don’t like the prices, then you maybe go to another coffee shop”.
If, as high performance sport stakeholders such as those disparaged in Mr. Pound’s blog, declaring ‘enough is enough’, means being the target of critique, then so be it. However, in an IOC-skewed environment where stakeholders are chided for respectfully voicing their opinions, where athletes are valued solely as commodities, where Public Authorities are viewed merely as wallets, and where National Anti-Doping Organisations are dismissed as merely contracted service providers… I think we must all continue to speak truth to power.
Chair, iNADO Board of Directors
* The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and may not reflect the opinions of all iNADO members.
• This Opinion was sent to The Sports Integrity Initiative on 10 January 2019.
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