Tuesday 20 February 2018

Coe's ire fired at the wrong target

IAAF president Sebastian Coe Photo: AFP/Getty Images
IAAF president Sebastian Coe Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Eamonn Sweeney

Sometimes you'd wonder if doping in sport is taken all that seriously by those in authority. Because it appears that when a high-profile case of doping comes to light, they seem to think that marks an end to the problem and the immediate beginning of a new whiter than white era.

You might, for example, think that after all the revelations of cover-up and corruption in the IAAF, it would be a while before the organisation's president Sebastian Coe got all self-righteous again. Coe, after all, has embarrassing personal ties to some of those caught up in the scandal.

But the former Tory MP is not one to be swayed by such petty considerations. So when Nestle announced they were going to pull out of funding the IAAF's Kids Athletics Programme because of the "negative public perception regarding corruption allegations and doping in sport against the IAAF. We believe that this could adversely affect our reputation and image," Coe decided to let them have both barrels.

"We will not accept it," said Coe, conjuring up images of Swiss businessmen being held at gunpoint by the IAAF until they fork out the $1m a year the organisation will lose. Describing himself as confused and angry, Coe declared: "It's the kids who will suffer." Indeed they will: the Nestle money would have helped to train 360 lecturers and 8,640 PE teachers in 15 different countries.

But in lambasting Nestle for letting the kids down, Coe merely looks clueless. Companies are not duty bound to fund sporting organisations and there are far more attractive options for them than the sewer which the IAAF has revealed itself to be over the last year. More sponsors will pull out of the sport as the criminal investigations into the likes of previous president Lamine Diack continue. It might be helpful if Coe focused on the enemies within the sport because it's they who have done the real damage.

Instead he appears determined to maintain the siege mentality once displayed by Sepp Blatter and Pat McQuaid. Although Nestle have said that their withdrawal of the money was to take immediate effect, there were hopes at the IAAF that this was not a done deal. However, negotiations will hardly be helped by the president's description of the company as "Hypocritical. Clearly it wasn't a decision made about reputation because since 2001 they've been the global partner to the Tour de France and renewed at the moment when cycling was in its worst position around doping."

It's a bit reminiscent of the man who when caught for drunk driving asks the cops why they aren't somewhere else arresting murderers. Even as the allegations of bribery and blackmail increase, it seems Coe still feels he has a right to assert the moral superiority of athletics. 'There's drugs in cycling too so why not sponsor us and all' is not really the brilliant argument he apparently thinks it is.

Though now that you mention cycling, I see David Millar, the doper hired by British Cycling to advise young cyclists about the perils of doping, has named six other dopers in a dream team of his favourite former team-mates. Which would appear to show that appointing him to the job in the first place was a Brexit from common sense. There are apparently still people in cycling and athletics who look at doping as a venal sin to be regarded in a 'worse things happen at sea' kind of way.

Meanwhile, in FIFA news, the favourite to succeed Sepp Blatter is Sheikh Salman al-khalifa, who was allegedly involved in the stamping out of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain by that country's repressive dictatorship.

So if you're despairing about the quality of candidates which will be available to you when you enter the polling booth on Friday, chill out. Even the worst of them won't be as bad as some of the people who run major sporting organisations. And they'll probably do a lot less damage.

Sunday Indo Sport

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