Dear President, dear Lamine, dear Member of the IAAF Council ,
With no doubts these days are the most difficult athletics has had in the last decade. The doping cases have caused a real earthquake in the image of our sport. In Italy, but I think in the whole world the news have covered the facts in a very deep way. The space given to the latest cases is almost the same that it was given by the Italian media to the last Pope Election ! La Gazzetta dello Sport Tuesday headline was “Is Sport still credible?”
I fully agree on the statement that through Nick Davies the IAAF has issued on the last days which MUST BE our own motto “Thanks to these cases the IAAF has gained credibility in his fight against doping.” But THIS IS NOT ENOUGH !
You are obliged, if you really want to show that we are serious and credible on the issue, to enter into the matter deeper and ask yourself why we have arrived to that. When you have a illness you do not only take medicine but you make analysis in order to understand the reason of the illness.
The situation is not due to the few cases just happened, but by all those we have recorded in the last months and to all those which are on the pipeline of the procedural phases or by the biological passport. It looks like there are at least 30 cases which could come out before or around Moscow World Championships. The risk will be that Moscow interest by the media and public opinion will be more on the doping case or on those who are absent, so offending all the other athletes who are clean and correct.
To me the reasons why we are in this situation is very clear and is due to the model of athletics that we have built in the last 20 years (surely my friend Nebiolo had a great responsibility on that). Athletics has been transformed from a sport where the ethical value were symbolized by the gesture of our own heroes, to the sport where on the ideal tape of the finish line instead of the victory there are a bunch of dollars and major elements is the clock on the side of the track that indicates which records you have beaten and what does it mean financially. Before the 90ies the reasons of the doping was due to the Nationalism by some countries in order to prevail in Sport and to establish a dominance of those regime. After the fall of the Berlin wall this has not been the case any more.
World Championships every two years, prize money at the world championships, checks for those who beat world record at the Championships with awarding of the checks on the middle of the stadium, a system of one day meeting which has no technical glue to the public opinion, but only to the local ones, and where only the dollars counts (nobody knows how they are paid and if the fiscal law of each country are respected) and the attempts to beat the world records are important. Without talking about the persons around the athletes, including some managers, that are only aiming to share the royalties of their cash prize.
What would you expect after 20 years of that therapy ? This is the result which is the consequence of the model we have implemented. Other individual sports are blessed by much more money than athletics but they have kept their ethical value and the money are not considered the main target. In Golf at the Agusta Master they distribute millions of dollars but all the focus for the winner is to wear the green jacket given to the Champion. No checks , no prize money goes into the picture. The same in Tennis at the 4 Grand Slam Tournament they distribute millions but this is not the main reason why the play for e 3 / 4 hours. The glory is more important and in their interview after the final no matter who has won Federer, Murray , Nadal or Djokovic they are loyal to each other and they thank publically organizers , sponsors , volunteers , public in the stadium etc. And the champions of the past are there invited an honored to be an example for the young generation.
Dear President, you are on the last two years of your mandate and I do think you would like to leave as the President who has witnessed without any action to the decline of our sport. Your history , your status should not allow this, but you have , before Moscow, to give a different sign not just “these cases just strengthens our credibility” . The risk that in few months under the rubble we will have just the credibility, not athletics.
What to do? Allow me to elaborate things that are shared by many persons but that are practically ignored by the IAAF :
- Continue the fight to defend the ethical value of athletics through athletes, coaches, doctors.
It is a long process but is the only one that can guarantee a future. The IAAF has done a lot on that but it is not enough. What about the National Federation ? Are we sure that this is the priority of each National Federation ? Who is controlling that ? Would not be worth to include this as a condition of the different financial benefit that the IAAF and its Continental Association offer to the National Federation every year ?
- Freeze the World Record list and all the others record list. The IAAF has now 100 years old, those records can be engraved everywhere as the records of the first century. Start a new list , without referring to the doping, it is a enough to justify it with the new century and with the slight changes of the technical rules. But make strict rules on how and where they can be achieved.
- Stop, at any level, to include prize money for World Records, this both in the IAAF events , like in the Diamond League and other one day meetings.
- Drastically reduce the number of individual competition foreseen in the calendar, even establishing that one athlete cannot compete more than x times. Make it a rule, founding an agreement with the shoes company sponsors of the athletes, that at this event athletes are obliged to compete with national vest.
- Introduce a rule which foreseen action against a National Federation in case of too many doping case : starting from not paying travel and accommodation to the IAAF and Continental events, to suspend their participation to those events and finally to suspend that Federation until order on the issue is introduced.
(I do not understand why the IOC instead of using formula not understandable to the public opinion to select sports who should go out of the Olympics has not taken the easiest solution: the one to suspend Cycling for 4 years and eventually in the future other sports. The IOC and the Ifs should never forget that thanks to the money provided by the Olympics, which for many of them is over the 75 % of their budget, they exist).
- Investigate and eventual suspend doctors, physiotherapist, magician and even manager who around athletes with positive case. In most cases they are the one who corrupt athletes to the doping, but on the headlines of the news papers they never appear. In the recent case one coach of the top athletes clearly stated that the manager of the athletes (and he has quoted the name) who has forced a discussed doctor to be part of the team. Has the IAAF done anything ? Not only that that manager has in his portfolio other 20 top athletes!
It would enough when we have a case to suspend temporary all those who around the athlete involved, make an quick investigation and take the necessary action. Only to announce it would have a deterrent effect. And what about the fact that some Athletes Rep are the organizers of IAAF Meetings ?
(Who has had the chance to go through the athletes hotel during any Diamond League Meeting to understand what is the atmosphere there which is the approach of this people to the value of athletics and what is the respect that they pay to the volunteer officials of the National Federations. I have been in some of those hotel lobbies and I consider that the worse “suk” of athletics”).
- The situation of the handling of our athletes is gone so far away that now manager and sponsor have taken over the duty of the National Federation. Alfonz Juck , a very respected journalist, who issue every day a very update release of information during the Championships publish a ranking of medals by manager and by shoe company !
Very soon instead of having the normal victory ceremony we will have something like that :
And we will have the manager to stand on the podium with the athletes .
And at the end of the championships instead of publishing the normal medal tally we will have something like that both for shoe companies and for managers.
Is this model that we offer to our athletes and to all the million of volunteer official around our sport ?
I could continue on making proposal for long time but this is not the point. The point is that You and the IAAF Council before and during the Congress have to come out with statement and deliberation that are not only aiming to defend what you are doing but to enter into the hearth of the problem to the cause of it and without any mercy attack it.
Only through that the IAAF would be credible.
President, Lamine, you have kindly invited me to Moscow but I have decided for family problem not to come. But be sure that I will follow with interest the come out of the Council and of the Congress. Hoping that you will be so wise to tackle the matter differently from what has been done up to now.