Implications of doping damage may finally be decided in court
Published 15/11/2015 | 02:30
In the wake of last week's publication of the WADA Independent Commission Report, it has been slightly forgotten that the allegations in the German TV documentary were not confined to athletics and also referred to doping conspiracies in a host of endurance events such as cycling, swimming, weightlifting, biathlon and cross-country skiing.
Consequently, the IAAF's problem is the world's problem as doubt is cast on medals won by Russians at the London Olympics of 2012, the 2013 World Athletics Championships (held in Moscow), the 2014 Winter Olympics (Sochi) and this year's World Swimming Championships held in Kazan.
If athletics is serious about tackling this issue, they might look to the world governing body for cycling (UCI) who, earlier this year, had to announce sweeping reforms in light of a similar deluge of doping allegations.
Two of the UCI's proposed reforms are of interest. First, the establishment of a centralised, independent anti-doping tribunal specific to the sport and consisting of judges specialised in anti-doping claims. The underlying premise of this idea in cycling is that some national doping tribunals have, in effect, been "wearing the jersey" and have not been as punitive on their own athletes as global anti-doping regulations mandate.
UCI has also proposed that before a team can be registered to compete it must show evidence of a minimum level of compliance with anti-doping regulations; if not, that team's licence can be withheld. Where it is found that two or more team members have doped, the team as a whole ought to be suspended.
This licencing/team-suspension model could be adapted by the IAAF to athletics: on proof of systemic doping, the national federation could be held vicariously liable for the action of its athletes. Beyond athletics, last week's report has repercussions for sport globally.
The first repercussion relates to WADA itself. In 2014, a record 283,304 samples were analysed by WADA-accredited laboratories. Russia (12,556) was second only to China (13,180) in the most tests carried out. Almost laughably, adverse findings were returned in only 0.9 per cent of the Russian samples. One of the reasons for this, as the WADA report revealed, was that the Moscow laboratory's director Grigory Rodchenkov "personally instructed and authorized" the destruction of 1,417 doping control samples three days before a WADA audit team arrived.
The WADA report suggested that Russian athletes' samples should be sent for testing to labs in other countries. And yet, in its 2014 report, WADA admitted that globally, adverse findings were returned for only 1.36 per cent of doping tests. How credible is this finding that 98.64 per cent of tests carried out in 2014 were negative?
The last point of note from the report is that it once again reveals a core weakness in the political governance of world sport - the lack of a separation of powers.
In global sporting terms, the IOC is sport's public House of Representatives; WADA has been delegated executive powers to deal with doping; CAS acts as sport's judiciary. The relationship between all three is simply too close-knit and lacks transparency. There is, for example, considerable and unnecessary crossover in the membership of the executives of the IOC, CAS and WADA.
For instance, FIFA's ethics committee is to examine the WADA report for potential misconduct by the country's sports minister, Vitaly Mutko. Mutko is a FIFA executive committee member and the effective head of operations for the hosting of the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
In short, although 2015 may go down as sport's annus horribilis due to the combination of doping and corruption allegations against governing bodies; the wider picture is that sport is condemned to repeat its mistakes until such time as it realises that its current governance structures are no longer fit for purpose.
The starkest and most perverse manifestation of this in the WADA report is the revelation that the only consistent element of Russia's anti-doping governance regime was that both "clean" and "dirty" athletes had to bribe officials in order to compete.
For those athletes who competed against Russians in the last decade or so, including many Irish athletes, they are left to ponder on how many medals they have missed out on and how they might be compensated for this loss. The full extent of doping in sport may yet end up being revealed, not in the laboratory, but in the courtroom.
Jack Anderson lectures in sports law at Queen's University, Belfast
Sunday Indo Sport