BEIJING (AP) – His sport under siege, the president of the IAAF dismissed the notion that track and field’s credibility has been compromised by a storm of doping allegations. He called it “ridiculous” to suggest the federation has ever swept evidence of positive tests under the rug.
“The credibility of our sport has not been impinged,” the IAAF’s outgoing president, Lamine Diack, said during a combative news conference Friday, the eve of world championships.
Diack’s protests aside, the lead-up to worlds have been swamped by doping questions. Citing leaked test results from an IAAF database, media outlets in Germany and Britain have asserted that doping was rampant in track and field and the IAAF wasn’t doing enough to stop it. Since then, the IAAF announced that 28 athletes had been caught in retests of samples from the 2005 and 2007 worlds.
Appearing with Diack at the news conference was Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee. Bach disagreed with the notion that the centerpiece sport of the games was in deep trouble, and said doping investigations need to go through the proper channels, not the media.
“Protecting clean athletes in these circumstances also means we are not making allegations against athletes who enjoy the presumption of innocence,” Bach said.
Either way, clean athletes have to deal with the issue.
On Thursday, Usain Bolt’s news conference was dominated by questions about doping. He called it sad, and insisted he couldn’t save the sport by himself.
On Friday, 1,500-meter runner Jenny Simpson of the United States was asked about the latest doping news: 2012 Olympic champion Asli Cakir Alptekin’s agreement to give up her 1,500-meter title and serve an eight-year ban for blood doping.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Simpson said. “But my job here is to perform to the best of my ability. I’m encouraging the governing bodies in charge of regulating athletes to step up and catch people.”
Bach said a proposal by IAAF president-elect Sebastian Coe that would place an independent third party, such as the World Anti-Doping Agency, in charge of the IAAF testing program will be discussed in October.
That move would bring the IAAF more in line with the gold-standard anti-doping programs, said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
“There’s an inherent conflict when a sports organization whose job it is to promote itself also attempts to police itself,” Tygart told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “It’ll always go for its best interest.”
Tygart called the IAAF’s aggressive defense of its doping program, combined with its detailed denunciation of the news reports, “sort of a classic attack” that’s to be expected from a federation under fire.
“It’s where you’re attacking the messenger but not thoroughly investigating” the allegations, Tygart said. “That’s why we pushed WADA so hard to do an investigation. Hopefully, the commission will be given the resources to get to the bottom of it.”
A WADA commission hopes to have results of its investigation into all the cases brought up by the German and British reports by the end of the year. But already, WADA has said many of the tests the IAAF was accused of turning a blind eye to wouldn’t have been considered positive at the time they were taken.
Diack, who is on his way out after serving as IAAF president for 16 years, clearly isn’t leaving without a fight. He spent about a half-hour insisting his sport wasn’t in bad shape, and that the media is focusing on the wrong thing.
“If you think one positive result is more important than 1,000 negative results, well, there’s nothing I can do for you,” Diack said.
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