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In Good Conscience

New spirit of leadership needed at IAAF HQ

We have just entered 2016, and the sense that sports are corrupted by the very men appointed to keep them virtuous is complete.

The foul men of Fifa fed off the trough, helping themselves to the profits generated by the World Cup.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is worse. The top officials poisoned their own trough. Not only did the president and his cohorts feed illegally from the sport, they enabled athletes to deceive the doping controls, and then blackmailed the winners to pay hush money.

Football, so far as we know, did not actually corrupt the game on the field.

Athletics, the core of the Olympic Games, apparently did know who the cheats were (which countries, let alone which individuals) and colluded in that cheating on the track and in the field in order to extort millions of dollars through blackmail.

His organisation needs a complete make-over. And if he is the best man to lead that, the most generous conclusion must be that Lord Coe did not know what his spiritual leader was up to in office.

Fifa's crimes are financial: Greedy men filling their boots from the golden triangle of sport-sponsorship-television and from the fact that governments are prepared to either pay or turn a blind eye to bribery in exchange for being granted the rights to stage their tournament.

I wouldn't hold a candle to Sepp Blatter and his deceitful gang of rogues at Fifa House. In fact, I'd make sure that the profiteers are hounded for every cent. And it shouldn't stop with Herr Blatter, it should go all the way back to Joao Havelange, the president before him and the man who started this corruption back in the 1970s.

As to Lamine Diack and sons at the IAAF: They ought to have the book thrown at them for their misdeeds.

Thursday's damning verdict from Dick Pound, the Canadian lawyer and International Olympic Committee veteran who led the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) commission into the IAAF, is that the scandal went "beyond sporting corruption and may be criminal in nature".

Some of us struggle to know the difference.

When athletes take drugs, they and the scientists corrupt the purpose of sport. And when that happens, all of us are duped.

Man beats man, or woman beats woman, is the very essence of what draws us to the stadium. Nation beats nation is a manifestation of that endeavour that, and frankly it has led to distorted state sponsorship of doping.

Russia is doing now what East Germany did 50 years ago. Other countries are under suspicion.

The United States of America would rather point the finger at communist or former communist countries, but corporate giants in the capitalist world do exactly the same, with corporate rather than state complicity.

But the mess at the IAAF (which is housed in Monaco for a similar reason that Fifa is housed in Zurich, to avoid taxation), is even more ruinous.

Football remains compelling despite the crooks in blazers.

Athletics is losing credibility because we no longer trust our eyes when we see what could be great human performance, or could be devious laboratory practice.

It wasn't the officials, the lawyers, or even the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation that got stuck into Fifa who triggered the fall of either the football or the athletics body. It was journalism, just as it was journalists who forced the IOC to come clean-ish after the Salt Lake City bribes for votes scandal before the 2002 Winter Games.

Lamine Diack is an honourable member of the IOC, or rather he was until the police net started to close in on him in November. He then became temporarily suspended by the IOC.

Evidence that the IAAF had hidden hundreds of positive dope tests in world and Olympic circles, has been in the public domain ever since ARD, a German television station, and The Sunday Times in England, obtained leaked documents last summer.

At that time, Sebastian Coe, the former double Olympic 1,500m champion who became Lord Coe under the British parliamentary system, was deputy to Diack.

Coe attempted to ridicule the whistle-blowers and the media as enemies of athletics, people declaring "war" on his sport.

And when he won the ballot to succeed Diack as IAAF president, he called the Senegal-born Diack his "spiritual" leader.

That remark, and Coe's assertion the day before Wada's latest report that there was no cover-up at the IAAF, will hound him for the rest of his days.

On Thursday, he said the opposite. "We know this has been a cover-up - the delays are a cover-up."

Wada described corruption as "embedded" in athletics, and stated that Diack and his son Papa Massata Diack and others took bribes to hide positive dope tests. The report concluded that major championships since 2009 (including the 2012 London Olympics) should be investigated.

Thursday's report named Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Kenya, Morocco and Spain as countries suspected of having high numbers of doping offences.

"Every time we give a report," Pound said, "we get documents from the IAAF dicing and slicing.. . just a few rogue individuals , nothing but loyal servants, blah, blah, blah, blah.

"This started with the president - a president that was re-elected four times."

Pound said the IAAF council could not have been unaware of the extent of doping in athletics and the non-enforcement of anti-doping rules.

Coe had been a member of that council for seven years. Yet Pound said on Thursday that he "could not think of a better person than Lord Coe" to lead the clean-up.

A week or so ago, Coe was clean-shaven. Now he is growing a beard, almost as if he dare not look at himself in the mirror.

His organisation needs a complete makeover. And if he is the best man to lead that, the most generous conclusion must be that Lord Coe did not know what his spiritual leader was up to in office.

The leadership needs a new spirit to convince us that it is worth following.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'New spirit of leadership needed at IAAF HQ'. Print Edition | Subscribe