It’s hard to believe in governing bodies in sport any more. Sep Blatter’s well-documented demise over the last few months was shocking, but ultimately predictable – FIFA’s decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup hosting rights, and then consequently bending rules and tradition to allow the event to be played in winter, was clearly an indication of the corruption that has deeply infiltrated the entire organization.
Before any of us even had the chance to recover, out comes the news that the International Association of Athletics Federations was paid to allow eight athletes, whom officials recommended should be banned, to participate in the 2012 London Olympic games.
What started as allegations made in a German TV documentary of systematic doping and cover-ups in Russia has now transformed into a whirlwind of investigations and condemnations. German broadcaster ARD/WDR obtained access to the results of 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 athletes between 2001 and 2012 and discovered that a third of the medals were won by athletes with shady test results during those years, including ten medal-winners in the 2012 Olympic games. Papa Massata Diack, former consultant to the IAAF and son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack, was charged along with Gabriel Dolle, former head of the IAAF anti-doping department, and two former senior members of All-Russian Athletic Federation. The investigations are still ongoing, with one investigator from the World Anti-Doping Agency claiming that the results will reveal “a whole different scale of corruption” compared to the FIFA scandal.
The conclusion to draw from all of this is rather obvious – organizational corruption remains the biggest stain to the image and perception of organized sport. Organisations such as the IAAF established to champion the ideals of competition and celebrate human athleticism have now disintegrated into a vortex of venality and fraud.
The worst part about it is that there is no easy solution as it is no longer simply a matter of picking the bad fruits out of the basket – systematic corruption has set its roots into the very nexus of these organisations to the point where faith in human integrity is no longer strong enough to undermine the ultimately tempting inclination to cheat.
Yes, some of the blame can be attributed to the individual athletes who have made a decided effort to cheat the system and robbed others of the rewards of their hard work. Tatyana Chernova, who won gold at the 2011 World Championships over Jessica Ennis-Hill, has since served a two-year ban whilst four of the top five finishers in the women’s 1500m at the 2005 Helsinki World Championships hailed from Russia.
Incidents like this not only make one wonder why the recent IAAF allegations have only just surfaced, but also provide cause for lament in the sense that, ever so gradually, fans and viewers who tune in to athletics can no longer believe that the medals are going to those who truly deserve them – that hard work actually does pay off.
Once that goes completely, sport will have lost its true purpose, all because of the particular faults of certain individuals.
Perhaps the ray of hope lies with the fact that more media attention has been attracted by these scandals, meaning that organisations can no longer get away with wrongdoings or brush them aside as if they are of negligible importance. One can only hope that this continues for the sake of sport’s integrity as well as the faith of fans.