The explosion of headlines concerning doping allegations is a “declaration of war against his sport,” says Lord Sebastian Coe – former Olympic athlete and newly-announced president of IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations).
The Sunday Times questioned the IAAF’s efficiency when it revealed that over 800 athletes (of 12,000 whose blood tests they investigated) – and one-third of all endurance events medal winners at recent Olympic and World Championship Games – had suspicious blood tests which had not been investigated.
Although the IAAF pointed out that this does not prove doping, the anti-doping scheme has come under serious scrutiny. Following accusations against Alberto Salazar – three-time winner of New York Marathon and coach – involving micro-dosing in the Nike Oregon Project, athletics supporters are increasingly skeptical.
For some, the recent Beijing World Championships signified the last straw in their support of athletics – many said that Usain Bolt winning in the 100m against two-time former drug cheat Justin Gatlin “saved the sport” as they now remain faithful. This is a rather simplistic view of the ongoing issues. The IAAF needs to work with the World Anti-Doping Agency and other constitutions meticulously to ensure that the sport is not corrupt, and that drug cheats receive appropriate penalties.
Doping is not an unfamiliar term to world headlines. Known as a “pioneering state of doping,” East Germany spent decades feeding performance-enhancing drugs to their athletes as part of State Plan 14.25. From 1956 to 1988 the GDR earned a medal count of 572 at Summer and Winter Olympics. Despite these feats, the scheme affected an estimated 10,000 athletes and it is suggested that over 1,000 sports men and women suffered serious lasting physical and psychological damage. In the 1990’s, another nation-wide doping scandal surfaced: Chinese swimmers suddenly rose to prominence when they shattered expectations to win 12 gold medals at the 1994 World Aquatic Championships. This aroused suspicion and, unsurprisingly, 28 swimmers tested positively for performance-enhancing drugs from 1990 to 1998.
The IAAF’s reputation has been tarnished by media claims, however, as an athlete, I have yet to lose faith in the sporting community and believe the IAAF does its best to ensure athletics remains as clean as possible. I do, however, see recent events as a prime opportunity for the IAAF to develop their technology and systems further, to put a stop to suspicion and assure the world that the first-class competition we love is, above all, genuine.
By Ella (DP1)