London Evening Standard
Dick Pound believes the power to clean up sport rests with the companies that pour billions into it.
Pound led the WADA commission which this month exposed Russia’s state-backed doping program for athletes and his team is preparing a second report into allegations of corruption within the IAAF.
Then, on Monday, dozens of Kenyan athletes stormed the offices of their national association as they accused the organisation of mismanagement.
Football is reeling from its own corruption crisis which has engulfed its powerbrokers while cycling is still dealing with the fall-out from the Lance Armstrong drugs scandal.
More than 90 per cent of the £3.3billion commercial revenues for the London 2012 Olympics came from TV and broadcast rights and from commercial sponsorship. It is this massive influence that Pound says must be harnessed for things to change.
“If the sponsors as a whole said to sports we will only provide financial and promotional support if we are satisfied with your governance, it would have an impact,” says the former WADA president. “Most international federations feel pain only in their wallets. They might feel it now. Sponsors may withdraw. They did with cycling when things got bad. Broadcasters withdrew.
“Sport is not telling it like it is [about drugs]. The problem is bigger than anyone cared to admit. It needs to be addressed otherwise the credibility and marketability of sport will disappear. And with that loss of private sector funding, you don’t have an international sports system.”
Two weeks ago, Russia was banned from international athletics after the WADA commission revealed the extent of doping with accusations including that the Moscow laboratory had been infiltrated by the Russian Secret Service with 1,400 samples there destroyed.
The ban followed a meeting of the IAAF Council, headed by new president Seb Coe.
“I was worried they might not suspend Russia,” says Pound. “I hope Seb Coe can remodel the IAAF and everybody round him realises that, if you don’t get this genie back in the bottle very quickly, athletics faces serious problems. Without athletics, the Olympics is not as we have traditionally understood it. But nothing is too big to fail.”
The ban stays until WADA are convinced Russia has overhauled its anti-doping regime and there have been questions as to whether that will happen before next summer’s Rio Olympics.
“It is a stretch for Russia’s athletes to take part in Rio,” says Pound
Yesterday, Russia accepted its suspension and vowed to work “very actively” with the IAAF to eradicate the doping culture.
The mood was different, reveals Pound, when his commission met Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko in Zurich in September. Although Pound’s report was yet to be finalised his commission thought it would be useful to warn the Russians what might be coming.
“We thought it would be better if we met on neutral territory. It couldn’t be Canada [where WADA are based], couldn’t be Russia, and couldn’t be Germany where some of the commissioners came from.
“I was very surprised to see him come on his own. The only person with him, just kind of along for the ride, was the chap heading up the 2018 World Cup organisation [Alexey Sorokin]. Mutko spoke in Russian and there was an interpreter.
“I told the minister, ‘You will not like reading some of the conclusions that we have reached, based on our investigations. You should be prepared for that’. At the end of a two-hour meeting, we invited him to respond.
“The needle of his response went from extreme defensiveness to extreme willingness to be guided. He said all these secret tape recordings [with whistle blowers] were contrary to Russian law and these people should go to jail.
“But then he said, ‘Tell me what you want me to do so we can get rid of these problems?’ Once the report came out, his initial position was this is all rubbish. Too bad the report wasn’t based on fact, blah, blah, blah. I don’t think he’s read the report. The report was in English. It has to be translated. Some of his staff have to read it and tell him what is in it.”
Since then, President Vladimir Putin has spoken about tackling the problem. “Putin recognises that you have got to convince the IAAF that a deeply corrupt era has been cleaned up,” says Pound. “And you have to convince WADA that the things that we found non-compliant — the Moscow lab and with RUSADA [the Russian Anti-Doping Agency] — have got to be solved.”
Putin would have had even more to worry about had Pound got his way when the commission was appointed.
“Our terms of reference were probably a little narrower than they ought to have been in the sense we were only examining one sport. It would have given a better picture of the whole country and its approach to sport to look at all sports in Russia.
“If you look at what was going on with RUSADA, the sabotage of out-of-competition tests and the ‘whereabouts’ system, in our view it was pretty naive to think that only happens in Russian athletics.”
Pound then went even further. He says: “I don’t think any country or any sport is without risk. Could other countries have similar problems to Russia? Oh yeah, for sure. There are many other dark secrets to be revealed. What you hope is our report takes the lid off the proverbial can of worms.
“Whistle blowers can be reluctant to come forward because they think, ‘All this shit is going to happen to me and nothing will be done about it.’
“Now I hope that the signal gets out to potential whistle blowers, not only in Russia but in other countries and in other sports, that by coming forward they will actually accomplish something.”
One country which Pound would like the commission to examine is Kenya, which topped the medals table at the World Championships in August.
Kenyan athletes staged their protest this week claiming their national governing body have failed to tackle doping and alleged that senior officials had accepted secret payments from Nike. Athletics Kenya and the sportswear firm both deny the claims.
“We will have to do something à la Russia with Kenya,” says Pound. “Let’s go and see what happened. Who was selling drugs? To whom? Who was using them?”