Athletic bloodsports: why the IAAF is the next FIFA

More than 800 athletes from around the world have suspicious blood-test results, which are at best highly unusual, at worst evidence of widespread doping, according to leaked data obtained by The Sunday Times. The not-fit-for-purpose IAAF should be ashamed, and clean and honourable athletes like our Jessica Ennis-Hill (pictured) are right to be outraged

Jessica Ennis-Hill winning gold in 2012. No reason to doubt her integrity
Steven George-Hilley
On 2 August 2015 17:50

So now we know the truth about sport. One in seven professional athletes has probably cheated in competitive sports events since 2001. But somehow I am not surprised, and I doubt I am alone.

Perhaps after the endless scandals around phone hacking, MPs’ expenses, libor rigging, coke-snorting Lords, Sepp Blatter, and FIFA corruption, I’m starting to get used to the idea that man is inherently sinful.

Sinful yes, but yesterday's revelations in the Sunday Times paint a far more worrying picture of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) which appears to be turning a blind eye to appalling cases of widespread cheating.

Maybe we have come to expect this kind of dishonest behaviour from greedy bankers, lecherous lords and power-hungry politicians, but our clean cut athletes?

That warm, fuzzy feeling as our British heroes won gold, silver and bronze at the London Olympics in 2012 now feels a little dirty, and decayed.

As mere spectators, who prefer to enjoy the spirit of the games at these epic sporting events, can we ever recover that innocence again? That feeling that everyone on the track has trained for years to get this far and didn’t need a syringe and an increase in red blood cells to win. Is it gone for good?

Twitter has gone crazy, and there is much speculation about the identity of the top UK athlete that, if they were named, would sue.

The Commentator is aware of the identity of the individual who told reporters from The Sunday Times, “You print it and I sue you.” The paper has not called their bluff.

Such threats may keep the newspapers at bay for now. Our corruption-friendly libel laws are doing their job as usual.

But it isn’t just Britain that comes off badly from the latest revelations. Whilst Russia gets an unsurprising top ranking in the league table for suspected doping, the sad bombshell is that Kenya, known for long-distance endurance success, also finds itself high up the table.

But who are we, the simple spectators to feel conned? My thoughts and sympathies go out to the many thousands of honest athletes who have given their lives to gruelling training schedules and found themselves losing to cheats.

We can take comfort that big name winners like Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah and Usain Bolt are officially clean according to the leaked files. But those who did cheat did more than just deceive the public.

Those they defeated whilst using doping techniques have lost their livelihood, sponsorship, and the public support they should have received. Consider Lisa Dobriskey, the British middle-distance runner who lost out in her 1500m race against two women who had blood scores off the charts. “That race has haunted me for my entire life,” she said.

But amidst this widespread corruption and despair, the real villain emerges as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

It is the organisation that is supposed to protect clean athletes by identifying and investigating those who use doping techniques. It is the organisation in possession of the 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 athletes which is only now receiving scrutiny now because it has all been leaked to the press.

An over-ambitious, devious athlete who can stand on the victory podium having lied their way to a gold medal is one thing. An organisation which apparently stands idly by and allows this to happen at the expense of innocent, hardworking sportsmen and women is another.

Meanwhile experts are concerned the revelations could damage public trust in sport. 

Dr Luke J. Harris of Canterbury Christ church University says: “Athletics has done well to forget the doping scandals of the 1980's and 1990's. Despite the fact that there are constantly top athletes who are banned for drug taking, such as Britain Dwain Chambers and American sprinter Tyson Gay. Surprisingly it has done little to damage the sport’s image both to the public and corporate sponsors. 

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