Hours after the World Anti-Doping Agency released the results of its exhaustive findings in a 323-page report on Monday about the wide-reaching Russian track and field doping scandal, Victor Conte was already weighing in on the matter.
And even though Dick Pound, founding president of WADA, delivered forceful rhetoric in the report, describing Russia’s massive problems as state-sponsored doping and the attention-grabbing conclusion of the independent commission’s months-long work, Conte wasn’t shocked by the report’s findings.
“I have only read the first 50 pages of the Pound report thus far,” Conte told The Japan Times on Monday night. “None of this surprises me.”
For years the BALCO founder, who once supplied a who’s who of elite athletes with PEDs before serving time in prison in 2005, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the way sports governing bodies, including the IOC, WADA and the IAAF (track and field’s global governing body) have enforced (or avoided doing so) and administered drug testing over many decades.
Despite WADA’s gargantuan report, the acceptance of elite-level athletes having support systems in place to mastermind doping schemes big and small, destroy the evidence and/or bribe officials to ignore failed drug tests is not a secret.
Conte has noted on many occasions that the athletes and their enablers simply stay one step ahead of the drug testers with a proven formula of deception, micro-dosing and other common practices. And, he’s stated, it’s more widespread than Pound and his colleagues are stating, even in their bulky report.
“I believe that WADA lacks a genuine interest in catching athletes who use PEDs,” Conte added, continuing his razor-sharp analysis.
“I believe that the IAAF has always been corrupt. I also believe that state-sponsored doping has existed in many countries around the world, including Jamaica and the Bahamas.”
On Wednesday, Conte tweeted, “IMO (In my opinion). Russia is guilty of ‘state sponsored’ doping & needs appropriate penalties including no track athletes in Rio.”
He expanded on that point in a Tuesday interview with USA Today, advocating a fouryear ban for the Russian Athletic Federation, noting that Olympic drug cheats are given a four-year suspension after their first failed test.
“Anything less would be a slap on the wrist,” Conte was quoted as saying by USA Today. “They’d just be back to doing business as usual. These guys are corrupt, bad people.”
The aforementioned report is focused solely on Russian athletics, which entered WADA’s radar after a Russian whistle-blower named Vitaly Stepanov revealed the extent of the systemic doping in his country. (The documentary bombshell was delivered by German broadcaster ARD in December 2014.
More than 1,400 samples were destroyed, according to published reports.
Compounding the crisis is the criminal investigation that has cast a shadow over former IAAF president Lamine Diack, a former honorary IOC member whose legacy as a global leader of athletics has been tarnished, and his inner circle.
Diack held the top post for 16 years before then-vice president Sebastian Coe was elected as his successor in August.
As The Associated Press reported earlier this week: “The (IOC) board agreed on the provisional suspension of Diack, the former IAAF president who was placed under investigation by French authorities last week on charges of corruption and money-laundering related to the coverup of Russian doping cases.”
Pound’s recommendation to the IAAF: Ban the Russian track and field team until the end of 2016.
“The biggest penalty levied against Olympic athletes caught doping is preventing them from competing in the next Olympics,” Conte told USA Today. “They don’t deserve to be able to compete. There needs to be serious consequences.”
Meanwhile, even with ample attention being placed on serious doping problems in Russia, Kenya has increasingly seen its track and field athletes in the news for PEDs. According to an AFP report, since 2012 more than 30 Kenyans have been handed suspension and five others banned for failed drug tests.
Top sports officials for the East African nation have expressed concerns that these drug cheats have caused irreparable harm to the nation’s reputation, especially in the eyes of WADA.
“They think Kenya is sweeping doping issues under the carpet,” Kip Keino, chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya who captured gold medals in the 1,500 meters at the 1968 Mexico City Games and in the 3,000-meter steeplechase four years later at the Munich Olympics, told AFP.
In a related matter, the unfolding scandal that’s engulfed former IAAF boss Diack’s regime has only added fuel to the fire for those critics who view the IAAF crisis as a bigger threat to the sport’s credibility than FIFA’s own enormous scandal and criminal investigation that’s reached the top of the organization, including embattled president Sepp Blatter.
Compounding the crisis, Dr. Gabriel Dolle, ex-director of the IAAF’s medical and anti-doping department, has also been a key figure in a criminal probe: under suspicion of receiving €200,000 in bribes in an alleged coverup of the aforementioned positive Russian doping tests, according to French police officials in published statements last week.
Regarding all of these findings, serious allegations of coverups and overlapping corruption, real and perceived, involving IOC and IAAF officials, Keino expressed disgust and issued a stern statement via email to The Japan Times earlier this week.
He said: “l am doing my own investigation but personally am very disappointed with the whole thing. Whoever is involved action should be taken and banned for life. This is a very serious offense and we cannot allow it to continue.”
Editor’s note: In August, The Japan Times published a four-part series examining widespread problems with performance-enhancing drugs in sports. The series is archived online: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/column/the-doping-epidemic/
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