Dick Pound

LA or Paris? The strategic play? Or emotional?

LA or Paris? The strategic play? Or emotional?

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — In a Samaranch-style bit of kabuki theater, the decision itself having been ordained long ago, the full membership of the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the double allocation of the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games to the last two cities standing in the campaign, Los Angeles and Paris.

In theory, the IOC will announce whether it’s LA first and Paris next, or vice-versa, at another all-members assembly in Lima, Peru, on September 13. In reality, this decision has been ordained as well. Paris almost surely will get 2024, LA 2028. This deal will be done in just weeks, maybe even before the calendar turns to August, and if you have noted that U.S. President Donald Trump has accepted French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation to visit France on Bastille Day, July 14, well, maybe that is some strategic thinking there.

Anti-doping reality: we all get what we pay for

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Over the past two years, the World Anti-Doping Agency commissioned, in all, four independent reports that trained the spotlight on, and generated considerable controversy worldwide about, allegations of systemic doping in Russia.

Those reports cost a total of $3.7 million, according to WADA.

WADA’s 2016 annual budget totaled $29.6 million. A little math: $3.7 million over $29.6 million would amount to roughly 12.5 percent of the agency’s entire budget. Even spreading the costs out over two years leads to the same problematic conclusion: WADA, perennially cash-strapped, simply does not have that sort of money readily at hand.

In November 2015, WADA president Craig Reedie issued a call to the world’s governments to help pay for investigations.

The response underscores the complexities of reconciling talking the talk with walking the walk in the complex and nuanced world of the anti-doping campaign — where it’s easy, particularly for governments and politicians, to pay lip service to being tough on the use of illicit performance-enhancing drugs but far more problematic to do something about what, at the end, is a problem that challenges the legitimacy of sport and thus inevitably falls on sports officials to confront.

The United States government? It contributed not a penny.

The government of the United Kingdom? Likewise, not a pence.

The government of Germany, which had gone so far as to criminalize doping in sport? Nothing.

The government of Norway, where fair play and clean sport are virtually a mantra? Zero, zip, nada.

In all, WADA says, it had received by the end of 2016 a grand total of $654,903 toward that total of $3.7 million. Romania contributed $2,000. Romania!

For sure clean sport is a laudable goal.

Now the reasonable question for all who say that a level playing field is the goal:

Is this any way, figuratively speaking, to run a railroad?

To recap the long story of the investigations into what’s what in Russia:

The Canadian lawyer Dick Pound was asked to chair the first two independent commission reports. They focused on corruption and doping within track and field’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, or IAAF.

The two reports were released in November 2015 and January 2016.

Total cost for the pair: $1.8 million, per WADA.

The Canadian law professor Richard McLaren headed the next two independent commission reports. They addressed the wider subject of purported systemic abuse in Russia.

He delivered his first report last July. It contained terms such as “state directed oversight,” a “state-directed failsafe system” and more.

The second report was made public in December. It refers repeatedly to “institutional control,” and urged “international sport leadership to take account of what is known and contained in the [July and December] reports, use the information constructively to work together and correct what is wrong.”

Cost for the two reports: $1.9 million, per WADA.

Total, all in, four reports: $3.7 million.

Reedie, recognizing in November 2015 that WADA was looking at a monumental challenge in the months ahead, put out his call to the world’s governments.

In virtually every country but the United States, sport is an arm of a federal ministry. Governments play a key role in WADA governance. Among other things, government funding matches the monies that flow to WADA from sport, and in particular the International Olympic Committee.

Here, according to WADA, is what Reedie’s call for help has brought the agency:

Country

Payment Received From Govt(in USD)

Date Received

Romania

2,000

5-Jan-16

New Zealand

20,000

9-Jun-16

Canada

136,250

12-May-16

Denmark

100,000

28-Apr-16

Japan

187,109

13-Jun-16

Japan-Asia Fund

50,000

23-Dec-16

France

159,544

26-Dec-16

Total

654,903

 

When the French contribution came in the day after Christmas, WADA took note of it with a thank-you news release that said, in part, it appreciated the “tangible demonstration of France’s ongoing commitment to partner with WADA to uphold the spirit of sport.”

The agency spokesman, Ben Nichols, said in a response to an inquiry, ‘WADA is very grateful for the generous contributions made by governments from seven different countries towards our Special Investigations Fund.

“These additional funds are helping support the agency’s enhanced investigations capacity, which is an increasingly important aspect of our global anti-doping work. WADA of course welcomes and encourages any further contributions from other countries that would also be put to good use in protecting the rights of clean athletes worldwide.”

It might be noted that there are 193 member nation-states in the United Nations and 206 national Olympic committees. (The national Olympic committee of Kuwait has been suspended, in a dispute over governmental interference, since October 27, 2015.)

Seven countries contributed to the "Special Investigations Fund."

Last June, or roughly seven months after Reedie’s call for funding, U.S. Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter to WADA asking why it had not moved more aggressively to investigate allegations of Russian doping.

The British Parliament summoned Sebastian Coe, the president of the IAAF, to give testimony in December 2015. Parliament is still in a kerfuffle over what Coe knew, didn’t know or might have known.

"The Government is fully supportive of the work of WADA and makes a significant financial contribution to their work annually, via UK Anti-Doping, to help their operational and investigative work,” a British Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said.

“Sports Minister Tracey Crouch is also one of the European members of the World Anti-Doping Agency's Foundation Board while UKAD, at the request of WADA, is working in Russia to improve their anti-doping regime."

In Norway, fairness and decency are shouted from the top of the cliffs overseeing the fjords as a way of life. There the culture ministry has responsibility for sport.

A spokesperson: “The Norwegian Ministry of Culture follows the WADA budget process closely. Our position regarding funding matters is to make sure that WADA is appropriately funded to carry out its core functions as a regulating, monitoring and supervising body. Norway contributes to WADA's activities through a yearly contribution.”

In Germany, the interior ministry oversees sport. The current minister, Thomas de Maizière, has been something of an anti-doping crusader, in 2015 taking the lead in urging passage of a new law criminalizing anti-doping and then, last summer, in urging “hard decisions and not … generosity” when it came to the Russian track and field team.

A spokeswoman, Lisa Häger, said the ministry received Reedie’s funding request on December 7, 2015.

She also said the ministry “welcomes” the WADA investigations but added:

“Nevertheless, for budget law reasons it is extremely difficult to make available a one-off payment to WADA for its investigations. Under German budget law, German government agencies may allocate funds to agencies not belonging to the federal or state administration only in the form of special allocations that are subject to strict rules and requirements. The case at hand does not really meet the conditions laid down by the legal provisions governing such allocations.

“However, under certain circumstances, the Federal Ministry of the Interior could imagine raising its yearly contribution to the WADA budget to make future investigations possible. Costs incurred by investigations should be borne by all member states since all member states benefit from the investigation results. This would also guarantee fair and transparent procedures.

“For a further debate on financing WADA and its projects, the European Union and its member states, including Germany, have asked WADA to generally discuss WADA’s priorities, core tasks and working methods. We wish to wait for the outcome of this discussion before taking a final decision.”

So which argument might most seem apt:

There’s the easy one: the tediousness of government bureaucracies?

Or the really, really easy one: the sanctimoniousness of government hypocrisy — ministers, senators and others in the public eye looking to leverage sport for easy headlines but unwilling to pay up to do the thankless but essential work it takes to keep the playing field level?

Or, perhaps, there is yet another way to frame this?

The United States paid $2.05 million of WADA’s $29.6 million budget. Rounding up, that’s 7 percent.

No other country is even close.

Moreover, the U.S. Olympic Committee last June approved a 24 percent funding increase to USADA. As an Associated Press story put it, the USOC chose “money over words in an effort to fix a worldwide system that [chief executive officer] Scott Blackmun says is broken.”

The move means the USOC will give USADA $4.6 million starting this year, up from $3.7 million.

The USOC and the U.S. federal government supply most of USADA’s money.

Back to WADA:

Germany and the United Kingdom paid in their 2016 negotiated shares, $772,326 apiece. Norway, too, $135,364.

It is indisputably the case that governments work months if not years ahead in the budgeting process.

It is also the case that a few years ago, when USADA went after Lance Armstrong and entourage, a matter that resulted in sanctions for roughly 20 athletes and coaches, the whole thing — including the costs of defending what turned out to be a frivolous lawsuit in U.S. federal court — ran to, and these are rough numbers, less than $500,000.

Why the discrepancy?

Because, and these are key issues going forward as well:

USADA built into its budget a contingency fund just for this sort of unexpected occurrence. WADA had no such thing.

Because of that, USADA was able to handle it at a staff level. WADA had to pay outsiders, and some of those outsiders were lawyers who, logically enough, billed at lawyer rates.

Big picture:

Asking for contributions can seem an odd way to go about seeking funding.

Did WADA ask for a defined amount from governments x or y? (No. Look at the amounts it got.)

What deadline, if any, was provided? (Seemingly open-ended.)

What justification was provided? (That is, what was the advance cost estimate for what turned out to be four investigations, and what was said about why these investigations — at least initially — could not be covered?)

Was anything said about whether a failure to contribute by a particular date would in any way impact the probe? (Seems like no.)

Back to earth: how is WADA supposed to cover, hmm, just over $3 million in unexpected costs?

 

Maybe there is yet one more way to look at these vexing complexities.

WADA is nearing its 20-year anniversary.

It has seen many accomplishments: the drafting of the world anti-doping code and the subscription to that code by virtually every sporting body and government in our world.

But, as the Russian doping crisis has made plain, the code — and, to a great extent, WADA — represent what in the United States might be called an unfunded mandate. It’s probably the same term, or a variation thereof, all around the world.

That is — an agency is asked to do something but gets little or no money to do it.

If WADA is now going to be charged with investigations, it's only reasonable to ask it internally to tighten controls. Which the agency gets -- it is now building, from the ground up, a staff investigations department.

At the same time, it’s also reasonable that it have the resource to do what it is going to be asked to do.

And there is only one reasonable source. It’s sport. In particular, the IOC.

It's not unreasonable, given that government has such a distinct role in sport in so many countries, for it to have a seat at the WADA table. As the IOC president, Thomas Bach, put it in a speech in South Korea two-plus years ago, “In the past, some have said that sport has nothing to do with politics, or they have said that sport has nothing to do with money or business. And this is just an attitude which is wrong and which we cannot afford anymore. We are living in the middle of society and that means that we have to partner up with the politicians who run this world.”

At the same time, those politicians reasonably can not be expected to give their full attention to doping in sport. They have more pressing problems: war, disease, infrastructure, economic busts and booms and on and on and on.

Besides, when they do turn to sport, they can come up with horrifying discrepancies.

The tennis player Maria Sharapova will return to competition April 26 in Stuttgart. She will have served 15 months off after her two-year doping ban for meldonium, the Latvian heart-attack medicine, was cut by nine months by a sports court that found she had no intent to cheat. Note: this is sport dealing with a sport matter.

Compare: Girmay Birahun, a little-known 22-year-old Ethiopian marathon runner, is now facing at least three years in an Ethiopian prison after testing positive for — meldonium.

Ethiopia, like Germany, criminalized sports doping. This is government dealing with a sport matter.

“I don’t want to support people who have this evil in them,” Haile Gebrselassie, the distance running great who is now head of the country’s track and field federation, told the Independent, a British newspaper, adding a moment later, “Thanks to the government, we also have prison available as a punishment.”

He also said, “In a way I am scared for the athlete, sad for him, for what he will face in jail. Three years minimum, That’s a very bad punishment for someone to face. He will be the first Ethiopian athlete to go to jail and he has been crying non-stop ever since. But I need to work to protect the majority, not the individual.”

Fairness demands the level playing field that so many in so many places pay lip service to.

Talk is cheap. Action takes real money. There’s only one institution that has that real money, and that’s the IOC, flush with broadcast and sponsor revenues.

This, from page 134 of the IOC's  most recent annual report, for 2015:

"For the 2013-2016 Olympiad, the IOC is on track to realize a USD 5.6 billion total revenue target, which would allow it to achieve the overall objective of 90 percent distribution to support the development of sport worldwide.”

Somewhere in that $5.6 billion — again, $5.6 billion, with a b — there is money to fund an anti-doping system that works.

Because about this there can be no argument: ladies and gentlemen, we all get what we pay for.

Congress, yet again, proves Mark Twain right

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“Suppose,” the American author and humorist Mark Twain once said, “you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” The United States House of Representatives, which can’t agree on gun control legislation or pretty much anything, makes it a priority in the doldrums of a Washington summer to weigh in on issues sparked by allegations of doping in international sport?

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce sends a letter to the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, just days before a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report into allegations of state-sanctioned doping in Russia? For what purpose?

The IOC president, Thomas Bach // IOC

Here is the answer: once again, to highlight the ridiculous inconsistencies and political posturing all around, and in particular from the committee, chaired by Representative Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan.

Mr. Upton represents Michigan’s 6th District, in the southwestern corner of the state. His district includes Berrien County. At that county courthouse on Monday, according to authorities, an inmate grabbed a deputy’s gun and shot four people, two — both retired police officers — fatally.

On Tuesday, Mr. Upton sends out a letter to the IOC president?

From the letter: “Athletes worldwide, including those that will participate in the upcoming Rio Olympic Games, must have confidence that their sports are completely free of doping and that all governing bodies in international sport are doing everything possible to ensure that result.”

This is wishful thinking. Completely free of doping is never going to happen. Repeat, never. “Zero tolerance,” like Nancy Reagan’s “just say no,” is empty rhetoric, for two reasons: one, doping works and, two, elite athletes want to win. Including Americans. See, for instance, Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong, among many others.

At any rate, who appointed the U.S. House the moral, legal and ethical guardian of “athletes worldwide”?

Next sentence: “To ensure the integrity of the Olympic Games, we need assurances from sports’ international governing bodies in the form of decisive actions, not just words. The failure to do so is simply irresponsible and we will not remain silent.”

For sure, when it comes to being irresponsible, sanctimonious and hypocritical, Congress has that down. An awful shooting on Monday. The “decisive action” of a letter to the IOC president on Tuesday.

Left to right, in May at the U.S. Capitol: Michigan congressman Fred Upton; his niece, model Kate Upton; and her fiancee, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander // Getty Images via Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Beyond which, and again — it is not, repeat not, the mandate of the United States Congress to “ensure the integrity of the Olympic Games.” Anymore than it is the province of the Japanese Diet, Russian Duma or Israeli Knesset.

If Mr. Upton or his committee might ever seriously be inclined to take “decisive action,” here’s a concrete suggestion:

Stop talking the talk and start walking the walk: find some real money to advance the anti-doping campaign, either within the United States or, on the spurious grounds that this particular House committee has any extra-territorial reach, with its friends (or not) in other governments.

WADA’s 2016 budget is $26.3 million. The United States government contributed $2.05 million. That’s not even 10 percent. Yet Congress wants to play big dog? Absurd.

For 2016, the U.S. federal government expects to take in $2.99 trillion and spend $3.54 trillion. Whichever number you want to use as the denominator — $2 million is an almost infinitesimal fraction.

Here are some other numbers:

Major U.S. college athletic departments run with revenues way, way, way bigger than WADA. Texas A&M, for instance, took in $192 million in operating revenue during its 2014-15 fiscal year. Oregon reported $196 million in 2013-14.

A real difference-maker would be to get that kind of money for the anti-doping effort.

China gave all of $286,365 toward WADA’s 2016 revenues. The United States led the London 2012 medal count. Second? China. The Chinese can’t give more than $286,365?

Kenya, the powerhouse of distance running, also now under keen suspicion for doping issues? The Kenyan government gave WADA a grand total of $3,085. That’s three-thousand-eighy-five. Not $3.085 something. Exactly $3,085.

That Usain Bolt guy? Jamaica contributed precisely $4,638.

Peru? Where, in Lima, the IOC is due to hold its general assembly next year? WADA has invoiced the government of Peru $20,853 for 2016. Total received, as of July 8: zero.

Qatar? Where the 2022 soccer World Cup is going to be staged? Where natural gas made Qatari citizens the world’s richest in a generation, and where a number of leading U.S. universities now have branch campuses? Qatar was invoiced $70,438. They have paid.

The Japanese government contributed $1.5 million, in the ballpark with the American contribution. Do you hear the Japanese — hosts of the 2020 Tokyo Games — writing a same or similar letter to the IOC? Curious.

The governments of Germany, France, the United Kingdom and, yes, Russia contributed the exact same amounts: $772,326 apiece.

The British, too, have a tendency to hold Parliamentary hearings on matters that do little but serve as kabuki theater — for instance, hauling Seb Coe, the president of track and field’s international governing body, the IAAF, into Westminster in a bid to score political points.

As for the French and Germans? Their legislative bodies have more important things to do. Like, maybe, in the wake of Brexit, keeping the European project together.

A letter like the one from Mr. Upton accomplishes precisely nothing.

At least nothing constructive.

To be brutally frank, it holds the risk for real damage in potentially undercutting the Los Angeles bid for 2024, the very thing that actually could effect real change if not bring a well-deserved spotlight throughout the United States, and beyond, to the many ways the Olympic movement — and the anti-doping campaign in particular — could be improved by reform.

To be clear: there has not been a Summer Games in the United States for 20 years now, since Atlanta in 1996. The last Winter Games? Salt Lake City, 2002.

If LA wins, it will be a generation since the Games came to the United States.

And yet Congress is playing busybody?

The only good news: there haven’t been demands for congressional hearings.

This is something of a change.

Because this, for those with a ready sense of history, and rest assured there are many members of the IOC with a keen sense of history indeed, is not Mr. Upton’s first go-around in seeking to leverage the Olympic movement for headlines and political attention-seeking.

He and Senator John McCain, the Republican from Arizona who for years has been the leading force on the Senate’s Commerce Committee — the two panels with oversight over the U.S. Olympic Committee — pop up with regularity, like whac-a-moles at the county fair, when it’s seemingly to their advantage to put the Olympic rings is in the spotlight.

A June 20 letter from that Senate committee to WADA president Craig Reedie went out from the current chairman, John Thune of South Dakota. But you have to be naive to the max to think that McCain wasn’t involved.

And why wouldn’t he be?

McCain is up for election in November. The Olympic movement makes for a convenient target.

Since McCain is himself an avowed student of history, you’d think maybe he would understand that all actions carry consequences.

Let’s dial the wayback machine to the late 1990s, and the scandal tied to Salt Lake’s winning 2002 bid.

According to published minutes from the IOC’s policy-making executive board, its members often expressed considerable friction when it came to Congress and, by extension, the USOC.

As well, and in the context of the current focus on Russia, it’s something of a case of pot, kettle, black or, if you prefer, glass houses — the minutes showing the United States being accused of being inconsistent in the fight against athletes’ use of illicit performance-enhancing substances.

A number of IOC members and staffers, to quote from the story that I wrote on this very issue for the Los Angeles Times in February 2002, said they believed U.S. officials had not been forthcoming in disclosing positive drug tests — in particular, the matter of a U.S. track star allowed to run at the 2000 Sydney Games despite a positive test for a banned steroid. It wasn’t until 2003 that the LA Times reported that athlete was the 400-meter standout Jerome Young.

Indeed, at the public IOC session immediately before the opening of the Salt Lake Games, here was the longtime Canadian IOC member Dick Pound calling on international track and field officials to expel USA Track & Field for refusing to disclose the names of athletes with positive tests. What do you know? U.S. officials consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Former WADA president and IOC member Dick Pound // Getty Images

Sir Craig Reedie, WADA president and longtime IOC member // Getty Images

In the 2016 context, it is well worth noting what Bach said Wednesday when asked about the Russians. He observed, “The right to individual justice applies to every athlete in the world.”

He also said, and if anyone in Congress would pay attention amid what increasingly seems like a rush to demonize everything Russian, Bach was essentially espousing one of the fundamental principles of American justice: “Everybody not implicated cannot be made responsible for the misbehavior of others.”

Pound, meanwhile, served as the first WADA president. Now there are cries that Reedie has a conflict of interest because, just like Pound, he is a senior IOC member and serving WADA as well? Where were those conflict cries when Pound was president?

The reason men like Reedie and Pound serve interlocking directorates within the Olympic sphere is simple: it takes years to understand the politics, finance, diplomacy and culture that attends international sport, in particular the Olympics. Evidence? The USOC hired an outsider, Stephanie Streeter, as CEO in 2009. She stayed for a year, forced out because she didn’t — couldn’t — understand.

When Pound a few months ago delivered the independent WADA-appointed commission report accusing the Russians of multiple wrongdoings, he was widely hailed as a hero. No thorough examinations of the potential for conflict because of his IOC and WADA ties? Curious.

Amid the Salt Lake scandal, both McCain and Upton formally demanded that then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch testify before Congress.

An influential Belgian IOC member at the time, Prince Alexandre de Merode, for years a leader in the anti-doping effort, declared McCain’s letter “extremely arrogant,” saying, “The IOC did not have to justify itself to the United States.”

The then-senior Chinese IOC delegate He Zhenliang, according to those IOC minutes, said he did not wish to “comment on [Upton’s] knowledge about the contemporary world nor pass judgment on his IQ. But what [He] could not ccept was the manner in which [Congress] was treating the IOC, a supranational organization, namely as if they were servants in his house. Such arrogance was unacceptable.”

Jacques Rogge, also of Belgium, said Samaranch ought not testify voluntarily “under any circumstances.” He said, “Despite good preparation and support, this would be bad PR and would be an ambush by the USA.”

Jacques Rogge, the IOC president from 2001 until 2013, and his wife, Anne, at the 2016 Wimbledon women's final // Getty Images

Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC president 1980-2001, with Rogge at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games // Getty Image

Samaranch did end up testifying, in December 1999. It proved not an ambush. He played wise international diplomat.

Rogge went on to become IOC president in 2001, serving until 2013. What happened to American interests in the Olympic movement during his 12 years? Politically, the U.S. was marginalized. Economically, a huge rift erupted over USOC shares of Olympic revenues. Baseball and softball? Axed from the Games. New York’s bid for the 2012 Games? Lost big, in 2005, to London. Chicago’s 2009 bid for 2016? Lost big, in 2009, to Rio.

Bach has been president now for nearly three years. He learned a great deal about how the IOC works from observing, and working closely with, none other than Samaranch.

“We look forward,” Upton’s letter concluded, “to working closely with IOC, WADA and others toward this end,” a reference to the call for “assurances” regarding Olympic integrity.

Good luck with that, congressman. Olympic integrity is assuredly a good thing. But why would the IOC want to work with you? Better you should brush up on your reading before you prove the master right again, for Twain also observed, “All congresses and parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity.”

WADA did not just sit idly by

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Fat headlines are fun. A rush to judgment can feel so exhilarating. Yet serious decisions demand facts and measured judgment.

To believe the headlines, to take in the rush, one would believe that the World Anti-Doping Agency sat around for the better part of four years and did nothing amid explosive allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia sparked in large measure by the whistleblower Vitaliy Stepanov, a former Russian doping control officer, and his wife, Yulia, a world-class middle-distance runner.

That’s just not true.

Yulia Stepanova, competing under her maiden name, at the 2011 IAAF world championship 800-meter semifinals // Getty Images

WADA, like any institution, can be faulted for many things. But in this instance, WADA officials did what they could when they could, and with a greater degree of sensitivity and attention to real-life consequence than the story that has dominated many mainstream media accounts and thus has started to take on a freight train-like run of its own.

“WADA’s foot-dragging has raised serious questions about the agency’s willingness to do its job,” Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, wrote in a May 25 op-ed in the New York Times.

Tygart assuredly knows the rules perhaps better than anyone else. In a passage that curiously ignores the fact that WADA itself had no investigative authority until the very start of 2015, the op-ed also says: “WADA knew of the Stepanovs’ accusations for years; Mr. Stepanov was offering evidence of extensive doping in Russia since 2010. Yet the agency was moved to act only after the German documentary,” a December 2014 production on the channel ARD led by the journalist Hajo Seppelt. It was that documentary that broke the Russian scandal open.

An email that circulated this week from John Leonard, a leading U.S. swim coach, opened this way: “Did you see that WADA and Mr. Reedie knew about the entire Russian/ARD issue for 2.5 years before they finally told the whistleblowers to go to ARD?”

It added in a reference to Craig Reedie, the current WADA president, “Reedie is WADA chair and an [International Olympic Committee] VP, that explains the why they sat on it. Direct conflict of interest. He needs to go, now, from WADA.”

This expressly ignores three essential facts:

One, Reedie didn't take over as WADA president until January 2014. To ascribe responsibility to him for something that happened before that is patently unfair. How would he have known? Should have known?

Two, as anyone familiar with the Olympic scene knows well, interlocking directorates are a fact of life in the movement. Dick Pound, the long-term IOC member from Canada, served as WADA’s first president — and he is now, again, a champion to many for being outspoken on the matter of Russian doping after serving on a WADA-appointed independent commission that investigated the matter.

By definition, it can’t be a conflict of interest when there’s full disclosure that Reedie is both IOC vice president and WADA president. Moreover, to assert that Reedie would be acting in his role as WADA president with anything but the best intent assumes facts not in evidence.

WADA president Sir Craig Reedie, right, speaks beside Japanese deputy Education, Culture, Sports and Science Minister Hideki Niwa during a 2015 news conference // Getty Images

Third, from the outset, as a report published last November from that WADA-appointed commission makes plain, the global anti-doping agency has been met in many quarters with considerable reluctance: “WADA continues to face a recalcitrant attitude on the part of many stakeholders that it is merely a service provider and not a regulator.”

WADA’s incoming director-general, Olivier Niggli, emphasized Friday in a telephone interview, referring to the Stepanovs, “We respect them for having been courageous.”

Niggli also said, “We are not the organization we are being portrayed as at the moment. It’s nothing against Vitaliy and his wife.” Amid a doping ban, Yulia Stepanova emerged as a star witness for that WADA-appointed commission.

“I understand,” Niggli said. “It’s not easy for them.”

Olivier Niggli, WADA's incoming director general // WADA

Nothing right now in the anti-doping movement is easy. Perhaps that’s why, amid the storm sparked by the accusations of state-sanctioned doping, the time is right to take a step back and consider what might be done to make the anti-doping campaign that much more effective.

What’s at issue now is hardly solely of WADA’s doing. And none of this is new.

To be frank, it is — and always will be — part of human nature to want to cheat. The challenge in elite sport is how best to rein in that tendency.

In 2013, for instance, in the weeks and months leading up to the election that would see Reedie take over at the start of the next year as WADA president from the Australian government official John Fahey, all this was going down:

Revelations of teens in Turkey being doped. Allegations that West Germany’s government tolerated and covered up a culture of doping among its athletes for decades, and even encouraged it in the 1970s “under the guise of basic research.” Positive tests involving American and Jamaican track stars, including the leading sprinters Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell. And, of course, Lance Armstrong’s  “confession” to Oprah Winfrey.

Was anyone then braying for the U.S. cycling team to be banned wholesale from the Olympics — which, it should be noted, was underwritten for years by the U.S. government’s Postal Service?

The distinction between the Turks then and the Russians now is — what? That Vladimir Putin is the Russian president?

The Russian allegations are extremely serious. But for the moment, they are just that — allegations, without conclusive, adjudicated proof.

WADA, created as a collaboration between sport and governments, is now roughly 17 years old. Without government buy-in of some sort, the whole thing would probably collapse and yet there’s a delicate balance when it comes to the risk of government interference. Why? In virtually every country except for the United States, responsibility — and funding — for Olympic sport falls to a federal ministry.

WADA’s annual budget is roughly $26 million.

This number, $26 million, forms the crux of the challenge. Most everyone says they want clean sport, particularly in the Olympic context. But do they, really?

Niggli said, “People need to understand the expectation put on us. If they want us to deliver, that is going to take more resources.”

Context, too. An athlete who can pass even hundreds of tests is not necessarily clean, despite the public tendency to want to believe that a negative test result means an athlete is positively clean. Ask Armstrong. Or Marion Jones.

Referring to widespread perceptions of the anti-doping campaign, Pound said in an interview this week, "If you were to ask me that about the NFL or Major League Baseball … I would say they don’t really care. These are professional entertainers. If people are suspended for 80 games or whatever, nobody really cares.”

Indeed, three players — the major leaguers Daniel Stumpf of the Phillies and Chris Colabello of the Blue Jays and the minor leaguer Kameron Loe — were recently suspended for taking the anabolic steroid turinabol, the blue pill at the core of the East German doping program in the 1970s.

Has that, compared to the saga of the Russians, dominated the headlines? Hardly.

The first WADA president and longstanding IOC member Dick Pound at last November's news conference announcing the findings of a WADA-appointed independent commission // Getty Images

Pound continued: “But you watch each time there’s a positive test in the Olympics. That affects people. They kind of hope the Olympics are a microcosm of the world and if the Olympics can work, then maybe the world can work.

“If something goes wrong at the Olympics, there’s inordinate disappointment. If that happens too often, it will turn people off.”

At the same time, when it’s time to put up or shut up — is there genuinely political and financial will across the world to make Pound’s words meaningful?

Maria Sharapova, the Russian tennis star busted for the heart-drug meldonium, herself has enjoyed annual revenues more than than WADA’s $26 million per-year budget. Forbes says Sharapova, the world’s highest-paid female athlete for the 11th straight year, made $29.7 million between June 2014 and June 2015.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova announcing in March in Los Angeles that she had failed a doping test for meldonium // Getty Images

Big-time U.S. college athletic department budgets can run to five, six or more times WADA’s $26 million. Texas A&M’s revenue, according to a USA Today survey: $192 million. The ranks of those whose annual revenues total roughly $26 million: Illinois State and Toledo.

Down Under, in a long-running saga, 34 past and present Australian Football League players have been banned for doping. Just last week, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, which in 2014 initiated action against the players, confirmed its budget was being cut by 20 percent. In fiscal year 2014, ASADA boasted a staff of 78. By 2017, that figure will be 50, the cuts affecting “all of ASADA’s functions, including our testing, investigative, education and administrative units,” the agency told the Australian broadcast outlet ABC.

The World Anti-Doping Code took effect in 2004. After lengthy consultations, a revised Code came into being in 2009. A further-revised version took effect, again after considerable discussion, in January 2015.

Per its new rules, it was only then — January 2015 — that WADA finally obtained the authority to run investigations.

But even that authority is necessarily limited.

Critically, WADA does not still — cannot — have subpoena power, meaning the authority under threat of sanction to compel testimony or evidence.

Moreover: who is going to pay for any and all investigations?

Suggestions have been advanced that perhaps a fraction of the billions in Olympic-related broadcast fees paid to the IOC ought to go to WADA. Or leading pharmaceutical companies or top-tier Olympic sponsors not only could but should contribute significantly as a matter of corporate social responsibility.

All this remains to be hashed out.

Meanwhile, it is without dispute that any meaningful investigation takes time, resource, patience, planning and, in the best cases, sound reasoning.

As Niggli put it, “The message is that these investigations — this is one example — take time. If you want to get something, you can’t react emotionally and throw everything out. In this case that would have been the end of the story.”

Stepanov first approached WADA officials at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“It’s not that in 2010 Vitaliy came to us with a file, a binder, and said, ‘This is what is happening in Russia,’ and we sat on that,” Niggli said.

“At first he came to us and said he had some worries about what was going on. He maybe had some information from his job and potentially some information from his wife.

“This was a conversation for a number of years.”

In 2010, Niggli said, there were “two emails exchanged,” the substance of both was, more or less, let’s meet again and find a way to communicate. In 2011, there was another meeting, in Boston — the thinking that a get-together would hardly attract attention because Stepanov was there to run the marathon. In 2012, more emails. “All this time,” Niggli said, Stepanov had “not told his wife he was talking to us.”

Why? “She was competing and doping, as we now know. He was worried about her and protecting her.”

The Stepanovs in a recent appearance on '60 Minutes' // CBS News

Niggli also said of the period from 2010 to 2013: “That was not at all a stage where we had corroborating evidence.”

The “game-changer,” as Niggli put it, came when Yulia Stepanova was busted for doping, formally announced in February 2013: “They together decided they would do the right thing.”

It was about this time that, according to the WADA-appointed independent commission, Stepanova started making secret recordings with Russian coaches and officials. The recordings would carry on through November 2014; she made them at places as varied as Moscow’s Kazinsky rail station and a hotel in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet satellite.

On Feb. 10, 2013, Stepanov sent an email to a WADA contact. It read, in part:

“After thinking for another few hours and talking to my wife, to try to make a bigger impact we need more evidence. We will not hide anything from you … it’s not really my wife’s fault she is being punished but we feel we can get more evidence. To get more evidence we need more time.”

Two days later, another Stepanov email: “I spoke to my wife and here is what we think right now … we think right now that probably there is no reason to really rush everything.”

The next month, WADA organized another meeting — the Stepanovs and Jack Robertson, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officer who was hired in 2011 as WADA’s chief investigative officer (the argument: the agency pro-actively trying to make advancements though it then had no authority to conduct its own investigations).

Robertson was “very careful to make sure this was confidential, to make sure they would not be put in danger,” Niggli said.

“Obviously, we would not want to share [what it might be learning] with Russia. We did not share with the IAAF,” track and field’s international governing body, “which now looks like a good and prudent decision,” given that then-IAAF president Lamine Diack is alleged to have orchestrated a conspiracy that took more than $1 million in bribes to keep Russian athletes eligible, including at the London 2012 Olympics.

In 2013, WADA went to the Moscow anti-doping lab, hoping to find corroborating evidence. “We found some but not as much as we hoped to,” Niggli said. The agency opened a “disciplinary commission” and for some months it remained uncertain if the Russians would keep the lab, and the Sochi 2014 Winter Games satellite, accredited.

“With the information we had,” Niggli said, “we asked whether this was not putting the whistle-blowers,” the Stepanovs, “in danger.”

The Stepanovs, along with their young son, are now out of Russia, in an undisclosed location.

It was in early 2014 that Robertson sent an email to Stepanov suggesting he get in touch with Seppelt, the German reporter and filmmaker.

The ARD broadcast aired that December.

Just a few weeks later, at the start of 2015, WADA, with investigative authority, commissioned the three-member independent panel: Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, German law enforcement official Günter Younger and Pound.

“That is the big picture,” Niggli said. “It’s not something that happened on Day One. It built over time. It was long work. It was done the right way, to protect [the Stepanovs] and make sure they would not lose the benefit of all that has been done.

He added a moment later, “I’m sure that if we had acted earlier, there would be no result. It would have been dimmed or killed. It would have been Vitaliy and his wife alone, with the denial of a state such as Russia. That,” he said, “would not have held much weight.”

The Russians are coming! Or should be

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Prediction: the Russians will be at the Rio 2016 Summer Games. Reality check: they should be there.

Fundamental fairness dictates that the Russians must be allowed to compete in Rio.

Pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russian sport minister Vitaly Mutko on a Sochi 2014 tour // Getty Images

To start with the obvious, amid allegations that state-sponsored or -sanctioned doping pervaded the Russian sports system:

It’s between a rock and hard place for track and field’s governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, in trying to decide whether to allow the Russians — the track team is currently suspended — into the 2016 Games. A decision is due June 17 at a meeting in Vienna of the IAAF’s policy-making executive council.

Similarly, it’s between that same rock and that same hard place for the International Olympic Committee, which is then going to be charged with reviewing whatever the IAAF decides, and maybe other federations do, too.

Never — repeat, never — has the IOC banned a nation for doping violations.

The IOC has, of course, banned countries from editions of the modern Games. But only for geopolitical concerns:

Germany and Japan didn’t get invites to the London 1948 Summer Games. South Africa’s apartheid policy kept it out of the Games between 1960 and 1992. Afghanistan didn’t go to the 2000 Sydney Games because of Taliban discrimination against women.

To ban a country for doping — especially a country as important in the Olympic landscape as Russia — would set a volatile new precedent.

Improbable, at best.

That said: no matter what decisions ultimately get taken, there’s going to be criticism.

Such criticism is likely to be amplified if the rumor now circulating in Olympic circles turns out to be true — that as many as half of the 31 2008 Beijing positives just announced come from Russia. Again, for now and for emphasis — just rumor.

Look, criticism comes with life in the public sphere. Whatever. If you are Seb Coe, the IAAF president, or Thomas Bach, the IOC president, that’s why you got elected — to demonstrate leadership, to make tough decisions.

Honestly, this one is really not that tough.

The bottom line, and back to fundamental notions of fairness:

You can’t assign collective responsibility in matters — like this one — that demand individual adjudication.

Let’s say that the explosive allegations advanced in the New York Times by Grigoriy Rodchenkov, director of the Sochi 2014 anti-doping lab, turn out to be true: that he substituted dirty samples for clean ones in concert with other Russian anti-doping experts and the FSB, the Russian intelligence service, purportedly having found a way to break into supposedly tamper-proof bottles.

What bearing would any of that, particularly in the Winter Games context, have on athletes due to compete in the Summer Olympics?

Even Bach has been hinting this way, if you stop and parse what he has been saying amid his predictable rhetoric reiterating the IOC’s absolutely ridiculous assertion of a “zero tolerance” policy.

There is no such policy. There never has been. Never will be.

Life is not susceptible to a reduction of simple black and white, of “zero tolerance,” especially in the doping sphere, which is layered with nuance and based on individual determination.

Is American 400-meter star LaShawn Merritt’s 21-month bust for the sexual performance-enhancer ExtenZe, containing the banned substance DHEA, the same as the U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay’s one-year ban for a positive test for an anabolic steroid? Consider: Merritt was hardly secretive in buying ExtenZe; he got it at a 7-Eleven store. Gay voluntarily came forward with evidence against others.

The American swimmer Jessica Hardy got a one-year suspension — missing the 2008 Beijing Games — after a positive test for a banned substance that, the evidence shows, pointed to a tainted dietary supplement. Is that the same as the sprinter Marion Jones using steroids extensively and lying about cheating for years until finally confessing and forfeiting her five Sydney 2000 medals?

Lashawn Merritt anchors the U.S. team to relay gold at the 2015 world championships in Beijing // Getty Images

American swimmer Jessica Hardy at last summers world championships in Kazan, Russia // Getty Images

Obviously not.

Everyone’s case is distinct if not unique.

In a conference call last week with reporters, Bach, asked if the Russian Olympic Committee could be suspended, said, “I will not speculate because there comes a decision we have to make between collective responsibility and individual justice.”

He also said the IOC wants “individual justice for the concerned athletes but also for the clean athletes around the globe.”

It’s that basic, and that was precisely the point the Russian pole vault diva, Yelena Isinbayeva, made in an interview Monday arranged by national track and field officials. Waving forms documenting four recent drug tests she said she had passed, she said this about the idea that she should be forced to stay out of the Games:

“It’s a direct violation of human rights, discrimination.”

If the IAAF or IOC were to move against Russian participation in Rio?

"In the case of a negative ruling for us,” she said, “I will personally go to an international court regarding human rights. And  I'm confident that I'll win."

She is right. She would win. It’s a slam-dunk.

Start wth Rule 44 of the Olympic Charter. It says, “Nobody is entitled as of right to participate in the Olympic Games.”

At the same time, Rule 40 says that to be eligible for participation in the Games, “a competitor” must respect and comply with the charter and with the World Anti-Doping Code, and “the competitor … must be entered by his NOC,” or national Olympic committee.

In 2011, international sport’s highest court, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, was presented with what was widely called the "Osaka rule" case. The IOC executive board had sought (meeting in Osaka, Japan, thus the reference) to ban an athlete from the next edition of a Games if he or she had served a doping-related suspension of more than six months.

The IOC made this argument: “The objective of the IOC Regulation," meaning the Osaka rule, "is to protect the values of the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games from the threat and scourge of doping and to encourage potential participants in the Olympic Games to adhere strictly to the applicable anti-doping programs.”

The IOC also asserted that the rule was “proportionate to the important aims the IOC pursues and does not infringe personality rights as there is no such right to participate in a single event.”

Nope. These did not fly. CAS ruled for the plaintiff, the U.S. Olympic Committee, which had, among other cases, cited Hardy and Merritt. In 2012 in London, Hardy and Merritt won Olympic medals.

“… The Olympic Games are, for many athletes, the pinnacle of success and the ultimate goal of athletic competition,” the panel wrote. “Being prevented from participating in the Olympic Games, having already served a period of suspension, certainly has the effect of further penalizing the athlete and extending that suspension.”

In essence, that’s double jeopardy — being penalized twice for the same thing.

Extending the reasoning:

If since 2011 there is on the books CAS language explicitly saying that being denied participation in the Games amounts to “penalizing the athlete,” it logically follows that it would be impossible to penalize individual athletes who have not been found guilty of anything.

Incidentally, it’s also worth recalling that in its case before CAS, the USOC obtained friend-of-the-court briefs — that is, supporting its position — from around the world. These included the anti-doping agencies of Denmark, France, Norway, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States; the Dutch and Hungarian Olympic committees; the Spanish Professional Cyclist Association; and the Russian Biathlon Union.

In 2012, in a follow-on case, the same three-member CAS panel struck down a British Olympic Assn. guideline that sought to impose a lifetime Games ban for anyone found liable of doping.

There, it said: "By requiring consistency in treatment of athletes who are charged with doping infractions or convicted of it -- regardless of the athlete’s nationality or sport -- fairness and proper enforcement are achieved."

It's extremely difficult to be consistent in applying the doping rules if the doping rules aren't applied to clean athletes, "regardless of the athlete's nationality or sport," in the first instance.

To go further:

Suspicion, even widespread, is one thing. Definitive proof is another. Anyone in that situation, no matter what it was, would want — indeed, expect — that before judgment got passed.

Indeed, Article 10.4 of the current World Anti-Doping Code says that if an athlete "establishes in an individual case that he or she bears no fault or negligence," then there can be no "period of ineligibility."

All of this, by the way, completely ignores the role of personality and relationship in the Olympic movement.

The chairman of the USOC “Osaka rule” panel? Canadian law professor and anti-doping expert Richard McLaren. The BOA case? McLaren.

The WADA-appointed independent commission that was announced last week — to investigate allegations from Rodchenkov and others about Sochi 2014? McLaren heads it.

That WADA-appointed three-member independent commission that issued two reports, one last November, the other in January, about the scope and nature of doping in Russia? McLaren was one of the three (along with Canadian IOC member and first WADA president Dick Pound and German law enforcement official Günter Younger).

That’s not to say or even suggest that McLaren has a conflict of interest. It’s to point out that he understands the layers and the law.

Putin, meanwhile,  is one of the key figures not just in world politics but in the Olympic and international sports scene. That’s what you get when you spend a reported $51 billion for an Olympics, obviously. But more: 2013 world track and field championships in Moscow, 2013 Summer University Games and 2015 world swim championships in Kazan, 2018 World Cup all over the country.

The very first phone call Bach got upon election to the IOC presidency in September 2013? From Putin.

Putin and Isinbayeva, meanwhile, have had a longstanding and obviously constructive relationship. She is the 2004 and 2008 gold medalist, the 2012 bronze medalist. In speaking Monday, it is absolutely the case that she stepped forward as a Putin proxy.

You want evidence? Beyond the fact that her entire interview Monday was specifically arranged so she could make her central point?

Look back at photos from 2014, in Sochi. Who, as a Summer Games star, served as the politically connected “mayor” of the Winter Olympic athletes’ village?

Putin and Isinbayeva in Sochi // Getty Images

Or look at a revealing photo from the Laureus World Sports Award from 2008. A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words.

Isinbayeva, right, fixes Putin's collar at the 2008 Laureus awards. At left: Finnish former Formula One driver Mika Hakkonen // Getty Images

The key position of chief of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games coordination commission? That was announced this past February, amid all the headlines screaming Russian doping: it’s the head of the Russian Olympic committee, Alexander Zhukov. He is a close Putin ally. Who else is on that 2022 commission? Sochi 2014 president and chief executive officer Dmitry Chernyshenko. He, too, is close with Putin.

Coe and Bach go back to 1981, to the IOC Congress at the German resort of Baden-Baden. There they made some of the presentations that would lead to the creation of the very first IOC athletes’ commission.

When Coe ran last year in a hotly contested race for the IAAF presidency, who could he count among his key supporters? You figure it out.

For all this, there is the core argument advanced by those who believe the Russians ought to stay home: the allegations of doping are state-supported.

That, they say, makes it different, akin to the 1970s and East Germany.

Really?

For one, the allegations involving the Russians are, in many cases, still just allegations. The November WADA report suggests clearly that Rodchenkov has issues: “The [commission] finds that Dir. Rodchenkov’s statements regarding the destruction of [1,417] samples are not credible.”

It also says, “There is insufficient evidence to support the figure of 99 percent of members of the Russian national [track and field] team as dopers.”

For another, a huge number would now appear to involve meldonium — a substance about which even WADA has already changed its guidelines. Sir Craig Reedie, the WADA president, says 47 of the 49 positive tests in Russia between last November and May 5 were for meldonium.

Of more import is this: people in glass houses should not throw stones. As the November WADA report makes crystal clear: “… Russia is not the only country, nor athletics the only sport, facing the problem of orchestrated doping in sport.”

Just 12 years ago, the Olympic world was consumed with the United States-based BALCO scandal — which ultimately would ensnare Jones and multiple others with Olympic appearances and medals. Did anyone scream and yell that the entire American track and field team ought to be banned from the Athens 2004 Games?

Three-plus years ago, Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal team finally went down — after years of outright lying and bullying. The U.S.Anti-Doping Agency's “Reasoned Decision” goes on for hundreds of pages in detailing what it called a “massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history.”

Just to be clear: the publication of the Reasoned Decision, in October 2012, and Armstrong’s “confession” to Oprah Winfrey, in January 2013, would put his case squarely within the current four-year Olympic cycle.

Curious that no one is arguing that the entire U.S. cycling team ought to stay home. Or, by extension, the entire American Olympic team.

If it’s state-sponsored doping that is the problem — there’s a very good argument to be made that the American way, with its emphasis on the enormous profit motive inherent in successful doping, is even more perilous.

Which all leads to this:

The reason so many people in so many places don’t want the Russians in Rio is, again, fundamental.

It’s Putin.

Lots and lots of people don’t like, mistrust or, at the core, fear Putin.

But that, in and of itself, is not reason enough to move against the entire Russian track and field, or Olympic, team.

And as the Olympic movement learned painfully a generation ago, with boycotts of the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Games, the notion of punishing athletes for political purposes is wholly unfair, maybe even cruel.

See you along with the Russians in Rio. Maybe even Putin will be there.

Coe in charge, track at an inflection point

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Let’s get the joke out of the way early. For a sport savaged by months of doping stories, it turns out there’s a legal marijuana store literally across the street from the Oregon Convention Center, site of the 2016 track and field world indoor championship, which features a groovy, granola-crunchy green track. Can’t make this stuff up. Seriously, now: track and field arrives for the 2016 world indoors, a four-day run that got underway Thursday night, at an inflection point.

Since Sebastian Coe was elected president last August of track’s world governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, the headlines have mostly been grim. Claims of rampant corruption in the regime of former IAAF president Lamine Diack — allegations that Diack's administration was ripe with conflict of interest, graft, money for cover-ups. And, of course, doping, doping, doping. Russians, Russians, Russians. Oh, and how about the Kenyans, Ethiopians, Moroccans and more?

Wait — what’s this? UK Anti-Doping announces Wednesday a life ban against a track coach there, Dr. George Skafidis, in the wake of nine, count them, nine anti-doping violations, all relating to sprinter Bernice Wilson. In Britain? What?

The focus Thursday shifted to the sport itself, with the IAAF and local organizers, led by Vin Lananna, giving the first night of the championships over entirely to the pole vault. France's Renaud Lavillenie won the men’s event, setting a world indoor championships record, 6.02 meters, or 19 feet 9 inches. The world record, which Lavillenie set two years ago, is 6.16, 20-2 1/2. On Thursday, he made three attempts at a new world record, 6.17, 20-2 3/4. No go. American Sam Kendricks took second, clearing 5.80, 19-0 1/4. On the women's side, the U.S. went one-two, Jenn Suhr winning in a championship-record 4.90, 16-0 3/4, Sandi Morris taking second in 4.85, 15-11. As evidence of the upswing in women's pole vaulting, Thursday's competition marked the first time four women in the same competition cleared 4.80, 15-9.

"I think the Summer Olympics are going to be pretty crazy," Morris said afterward.

Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champion, winning 2016 world indoor gold // Getty Images for IAAF

London 2012 gold medalist and current world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie of France making his into to the 2016 indoor worlds // Getty Images for IAAF

The rest of the field jumping, Lavillenie waits to start -- part of the mental game in pole vault. He entered at 5.75 meters, or 18-10 1/4 // Getty Images for IAAF

Lavillenie after a scary end to his second attempt at 6.17: "I was just able to manage it and fall safely. It’s not so often I do something like that. It happens. Pole vault is very dangerous and very intense. That’s why we love it." // Getty Images for IAAF

Lavillenie, after, meeting the media. Track junkies: in the blue warmup jacket beyond Lavillenie, that's Dan O'Brien, the 1996 Olympic decathlon winner

As the vaulters did their thing, KC and the Sunshine Band could be heard belting out their mid-'70s anthem, “That’s the way (I like it),” just one of the musical numbers featured on a loop that played over the convention speakers. In another twist, the vaulters got individual introductions — each athlete running in turn into the arena down a ramp, his or her name in lights.

Medal ceremonies: back downtown at Pioneer Courthouse Square, with more music and that Portlandia hipster vibe.

Attendance Thursday at the convention center: a robust 6,924.

It's like track and field was, you know, making a genuine effort to be more interesting. And, even, innovating.

Pioneer Courthouse Square: set up to be the 2016 world indoors medals and party center

This is the reality of what is happening with Coe, in particular, and that is particularly worth noting at the start of these championships, the first world indoors in the United States since 1987.

“The USA has historically been the powerhouse of track and field,” Coe said earlier Thursday at a sun-splashed news conference in that square. “Yet given its great economic power, it is still a country where the general perception of track and field is low. The regeneration of that is taking place here in Oregon and I genuinely believe this will be a reawakening of track and field in this country. This is a new and exciting chapter in the history of our sport."

Sebastian Coe at Thursday's news conference, flanked by the husband-and-wife team of Canada's Brianne Theisen-Eaton and American Ashton Eaton, both multi-event stars // Getty Images for IAAF

Let's be real: that's going to take time.

Things were broken. Now they have to get fixed. Coe is the guy to fix them. New chapters, regeneration, reawakening — whatever label you like — don’t just happen overnight.

Which is why the many cries for Coe’s resignation are seriously misplaced.

As Coe said at that news conference in that square, “Our sport is still strong. Not to deny we haven’t gone through challenging, dark days.”

Later, asked specifically whether he believes there are clean Russian athletes, a ridiculous question in its own right, as if an entire country of 140 million people can’t produce one soul that competes without drugs, he said, “I’m sure there are. But the reality is we need to get the athletes,” wherever in the world they might be, “back into systems that people are trusting.”

That's half of what's what. Here is the other: doping is not just a track and field problem (hello, tennis star Maria Sharapova, swim champion Yulia Efimova and others now looking at meldonium issues). It is not just a Russia problem.

“We are responsible for our sport,” Coe said. “We are not the world’s policeman.”

A World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report — the first part delivered in November, the second in January — suggested that Diack ran a closely held conspiracy to cover up certain doping results, mostly in Russia.

Diack and his longtime lawyer, Herbert Cissé, are said to be facing criminal inquiry in France.

Last week, the IAAF’s policy-making council met in Monaco, the federation’s longtime base.

Process isn’t sexy. Process takes time. The press loves (even a hint of) negativity.

At the same time, Coe was duly elected after a hard-fought campaign, defeating the former pole vault legend Sergey Bubka. That means Coe earned — better, deserves — the opportunity to effect change.

The council was met with 51 measures. It approved 51.

It’s a measure of how into-the-21st century the IAAF has to go, alternatively an indicator of how Diack ran the federation for 16 years as more or less a personal fiefdom, that a good number of the 51 deal with basic, albeit essential, governance items.

For instance, things like getting double signatories on checks. Or job descriptions. Or standard HR controls.

Any institutional change is a combination of change wrought from without and within. Coe is — this is key to understand — a change agent.

So, too, Stephanie Hightower, the USA Track & Field president who was elected last August to the IAAF council.

As the USATF board said in December 2014, in a statement when it went with Hightower instead of the longtime U.S. representative to the IAAF, Bob Hersh:

“Change is difficult for any organization. It is especially difficult when it involves long-serving officials. In 2015, there will be significant, structural change at the IAAF – with their leadership, with their direction, vision and politics. This is a different era and a different time. We think Stephanie Hightower provides us with the best chance to move forward as part of that change.”

From 2011-15, Hersh had been the senior IAAF vice president, Coe one of three other vice presidents.

Once Coe was elected, he immediately turned in part to Hightower and to Frankie Fredericks, the former sprinter from Namibia who for years has been making a new career in sports administration.

Some have groused, and loudly, that as an IAAF vice president, Coe “must have known” what was going on with Diack.

Using that same logic, why aren’t the many critics of the USATF process by which Hightower was selected to run for the IAAF council asking the same about Hersh?

This, understand, is a rhetorical question — not what Hersh did or did not know. But those who have been often been the loudest in their criticism are not being consistent. You want to criticize Coe because he was vice president — but think it was somehow wrong for USATF not to re-appoint Hersh, who as the No. 2 man, the senior VP, should have been most closely involved with the organization and with Diack?

Indeed, the suggestion that Coe “must have known” itself betrays logic.

The IAAF council met maybe three or four times a year. That’s roughly 10 days of 365. Coe had been an IAAF vice president since 2007; from 2005-12, he was thoroughly occupied as boss of the London Olympics.

It’s a little bit like being vice president of a school board and getting asked why you didn’t know the high school basketball coach was stealing from the travel fund.

Was there talk at the council during Diack’s latter years about doping in Russia? Obviously: there were public records of sanctions. But if the word from the top was that Russians were being caught because of advances in blood passport work, precisely what more should any of the roughly two dozen on the council have done?

To reiterate a point made in this space before: the point of a conspiracy, which is what Diack alleged to have run, is to keep it hidden from those not part of it.

Coe’s “must have known” is one of four apparent points of objection that have been raised over these past several months, in tiresome fashion.

Coe at Thursday's opening ceremony, with Portland 2016 local organizing chief Vin Lannana and Portland mayor Charlie Hales // Getty Images for IAAF

Objection No. 2:

When he succeeded Diack last August, Coe called Diack the “spiritual leader” of the sport.

Given what we know now, Coe could have used a different phrase, for sure. Hindsight is always 20/20.

But three notes here:

One, when you succeed someone, you generally say nice things.

Two, Coe would never — repeat, never — have used those words if he’d had even an inkling of what is alleged to have gone down. Coe is not only a smart guy, he has had a career in the hard-knocks school of British politics.

Three, there has been zero suggestion from law enforcement linking Coe to any misconduct or wrongdoing, and you can believe he has been in contact with French agents.

Objection No. 3:

Again in Beijing upon election, Coe gave a legalistic response, rather than one more PR-savvy, when asked about his longtime ambassadorial role with Nike, saying in essence his relationship was well-known and -documented. Coe has since relinquished the position.

This was an optics problem, and nothing more.

Those who would savage Coe cried, conflict of interest! Coe was affiliated with Nike for nearly 40 years. That run included the years he oversaw the London 2012 effort. Where were the critics — particularly in the British parliament, where he regularly appeared for status reports for 2012 — during all that time?

Objection No. 4:

Upon the publication early last August of a story in The Sunday Times that claimed more than 800 athletes, and a third of all medalists in endurance events at recent Olympics and world championships had suspicious blood results not followed up by the IAAF, Coe called the allegations “a declaration of war” on the sport.

In turn, that more or less prompted many, particularly in the British press, to declare a war in print with Coe.

Here it is worth referring to Part II of the WADA-commissioned report:

The “database” on which the story revolved was “in reality, no such thing,” but a “compilation of various test results.” The three-member panel, headed by Canadian lawyer Dick Pound, the first WADA president, said it “would not have been legally possible to bring a successful sanctioning process against any athlete based on the values in the IAAF database.”

Also: “The [commission] was provided with no explanation for the differences in approach and cautions expressed … in previously written scholarly publications on the subject matter and the opinions expressed in the work commissioned by The Sunday Times. The differences are quite significant.”

Going forward, it’s worth emphasizing that in significant measure the announcement of new doping cases — specifically in Kenya and Ethiopia — marks the results of basic anti-doping standards finally being applied to, or adopted by, the rest of the world.

Which, in its way, is what Coe observed at that sunny news conference.

He said, “People want immediate action. People want immediate results. People want immediate change.

“It takes time.”

Sebastian Coe is the answer, not the problem

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If you have seen Fight Club, the 1999 movie with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton (New York Times: “surely the defining cult movie of our time”), or, better yet, read the 1996 Chuck Palahniuk novel that inspired it, you know the elemental first rule of Fight Club: you do not talk about Fight Club.

This is the key to understanding what happened at track and field’s international governing body, the IAAF, in regards to doping in Russia (mostly) and cover-ups, and as a spur going forward, because institutional, governance and cultural changes must be enacted to ensure that what happened under the watch of the former IAAF president, Lamine Diack, can never happen again.

It’s also fundamental in understanding why Sebastian Coe, elected IAAF president last August, is the right man for the reform job.

He’s not going to resign. Nor should he.

MONACO - NOVEMBER 26: Lord Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF answers questions from the media during a press conference following the IAAF Council Meeting at the Fairmont Monte Carlo Hotel on November 26, 2015 in Monaco, Monaco. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

To be clear:

We live in a 24/7 world where, increasingly, everything seemingly must be susceptible to immediate resolution.

Regrettably, far too often this jump-starts a rush to judgment.

A powerful driver in this cable-TV, talking-head world, the noise amplified by social media, is protest and moral arousal, as the New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote in his column Wednesday.

Quoting the leadership expert Dov Seidman, Friedman writes that when moral arousal manifests as moral outrage, “it can either inspire or repress a serious conversation or the truth.”

More from Seidman: “If moral outrage, as justified as it may be, is followed immediately by demands for firings or resignations, it can result in a vicious cycle of moral outrage being met with equal outrage, as opposed to a virtuous cycle of dialogue and the hard work of forging real understanding and enduring agreements.”

Coe is the only person in track and field capable of leading, driving and instituting the change that must now be effected.

Any suggestion that the sport ought to be led instead by an outsider is misplaced, and seriously.

Sport entities carry their own distinct cultures, and failure to appreciate, to understand and to be able to move within those cultures is a recipe for disaster.

Evidence: the U.S. Olympic Committee’s turn seven years ago to outsider Stephanie Streeter as chief executive. That ended within months.

To the point at hand: Coe is not accused of any misconduct or wrongdoing. He was legitimately elected. It’s time to get to the “hard work of forging real understanding and enduring agreements.”

In a report made public Thursday, a World Anti-Doping Agency independent commission headed by the Canadian lawyer Dick Pound alleged that Lamine Diack orchestrated a conspiracy to cover-up certain doping results, mostly in Russia.

The conspiracy revolved, in the words of the report, around a “close inner circle.” That is, just a few people: Diack; two of his sons, Papa Massata Diack and Khalil, also known as Ibrahima; and Diack’s personal lawyer, Habib Cissé.

With the “consultants and lawyer in place,” according to the report, Lamine Diack created an “informal illegitimate governance structure outside the formal governance structure.”

Former IAAF president Lamine Diack at last summer's world championships in Beijing // Getty Images

Papa Massata Diack pictured last February in Senegal // Getty Images

Valentin Balakhnichev at last summer's IAAF meetings in Beijing // Getty Images

Their “familiar or close personal ties to [the IAAF president] facilitated the emergence of this powerful rogue group outside the IAAF governance structure, yet operated under the aegis of the IAAF.”

At some level, according to the report, the conspiracy also metastasized to include the Russian treasurer of the IAAF, Valentin Balakhnichev; a Russian national-team coach, Alexi Melnikov; and the director of the IAAF’s medical and anti-doping department, Dr. Gabriel Dollé.

Last week, per the IAAF ethics commission, Papa Diack, Balakhnichev and Melnikov got life bans from the sport, Dollé a five-year suspension.

Lamine Diack and Cissé are now facing criminal inquiry in France.

Balakhhnichev gets to deal with the fallout in Russia. Good luck with that, and enjoy any and all meetings with Mr. Putin, depicted in the report as someone with whom Lamine Diack said he had “struck up a friendship.”

The report is notable for who it names and, critically, who it does not.

Again, Diack and sons; Cissé; Dollé; Balakhnichev; Melnikov.

For good measure, there is also reference to “sports marketing consultant” Ian Tan Tong Han, a business associate (ahem) and close friend of Papa Diack’s — Tan’s baby, born two years ago, is named “Massata” — who “appears to be part of the illicit informal governance system of the IAAF.”

That’s it.

The report notes, meanwhile, that other senior IAAF staff members were quite properly “antagonistic” in regards to the case management of Russian athletes and, from the point of view of the conspiracy, “needed to be bribed to stay quiet.”

These included the director of the office of the president, Cheikh Thiaré; Nick Davies, the deputy secretary general; Dollé; and Dr. Pierre Yves Garnier, at the time in charge of what in anti-doping circles is known as the “athlete biological passport,” a work-up of blood values over time.

From the report: Lamine Diack apparently confirmed in interviews with French authorities that Papa Diack “gave money to one or the other to keep them quiet and so they are not opposed.”

Recent media reports have Thiaré, Davies and Garnier refuting those claims, the report says, adding that Dollé “regrets having been involved.”

Draw your own conclusions about who the “one or the other” might be.

Davies, meanwhile, the longtime IAAF spokesman, is now apparently in line to be made the fall guy for a July, 2013, email to Papa Diack, the report calling the email “inexplicable.” This is a difficult situation for all of us who have known, and worked with, Davies. He cares passionately about track and field, and has sought only to do what — from his perspective — has been the right thing.

At any rate, in the report’s version of the money shot, it declares that “corruption was embedded in the organization,” meaning the IAAF, adding, “It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on his own. The IAAF allowed the conduct to occur and must accept its responsibility. Continued denial will simply make it more difficult to make genuine progress.”

This begs the obvious question:

What per se is — or, more properly, was — the IAAF?

This inquiry is neither didactic nor pedantic.

The report, unanimously approved by all three independent commission members — former WADA boss Pound, Canadian law professor and anti-doping expert Richard McLaren and Günter Younger, the senior German law enforcement official and cyber-crime authority — also says, “The fact of the matter is that individuals at the very top of the IAAF were implicated in conduct that reflects on the organization itself (as well as on the particular individuals involved).”

In practical terms, for the 16 years he was president, Diack was the IAAF. He ran it like a fiefdom. This he learned from his predecessor, Italy’s Primo Nebiolo, president for 18 years before that.

The report asserts that the IAAF’s 27-member council “could not have been unaware of the extent of doping in [track and field] and the non-enforcement of applicable anti-doping rules.” It also says the council “could not have been unaware of the level of nepotism that operated within the IAAF.”

Fascinating.

In virtually every other instance, the report goes into incredible, sometimes granular detail, even providing an appendix at the end, to document  “the non-enforcement of applicable anti-doping rules.” Names, places, dates and more.

But in making such a blanket declaration — nothing.

If the council “could not have been unaware” of doping, when were any or all of them made so aware? Where? Who, in particular? By what means?

For this, nothing — no answer. Just this sweeping assertion.

Was the council aware Papa Diack was around? Surely.

But did those on the council, including Coe, an IAAF vice president from 2007, know or appreciate there was corruption afoot?

The report: “It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged. It is not credible that elected officials were unaware of the situation affecting (for purposes of the IC mandate) athletics in Russia. If, therefore, the circle of knowledge was so extensive, why was nothing done?”

Here the report is disingenuous, or at best there is a powerful disconnect.

It is for sure credible that elected officials were unaware.

Why?

Because of the first rule of Fight Club.

Which also happens to be the first rule of any conspiracy.

This is self-evident: the more people who know about something illicit, the more risk that someone who shouldn’t know is going to find out, and do something to disrupt the conspiracy.

Look, let’s have some common sense.

Did Lamine Diack call over Coe — or for that matter, the senior vice president from 2011-15, American Bob Hersh, or any of the others on the council, including Sergei Bubka, an IAAF mainstay, runner-up to Coe in last year's presidential election — and whisper, hey, guess what I’m doing that I really shouldn’t?

There is zero evidence in the report of any such thing.

So, moving forward, as Pound said at a news conference Thursday in Munich in releasing the report, it is one thing to recommend that the IAAF should, for public relations and other purposes, come clean:

Dick Pound, head of the three-member WADA-appointed independent commission // Getty Images

“Of course, there was a cover-up and delay, and all sorts of things. Acknowledge this. If you can’t acknowledge it, you can’t get past it.”

He also said, quite rightly, “This started with the president. The president was elected four times by the congress. It then went to the treasurer, elected by the congress. It then goes to the personal advisor of the president, inserted into the management structure. It goes to the director of the medical and anti-doping [department]. It goes to nepotistic appointments. I’m sorry. That affects the reputation of the IAAF. You can deny that all you wish but I think you’ve got to take that on board and come out the other side.”

At the same time, it is quite another to say that Coe should, by association, be guilty as well. It’s not enough — not nearly — that he was part of the structure of the organization, and critically at a time when most of his focus was devoted to organizing the London 2012 Games.

That’s not the way things work. Nor should they.

Which Pound also made plain.

In response to a news conference question about whether Coe had lied in regard to a cover-up, Pound said, “I think you’ve got to understand the concentration of power in and around the president of any international federation.” Too, to understand “the relative infrequency with which something like the IAAF council would meet and the level of information that would be conveyed from those at the top to the council, particularly if it happened to deal with problems.

“If you’re asking to me to give an opinion or not as to whether he lied or not, I would say he did not lie.”

[Watch Pound's comments here.]

Pound also said he he believes Coe had “not the faintest idea of the extent” of Diack’s alleged corruption when he took over last August.

Pound said, too, “I think it’s a fabulous opportunity for the IAAF to seize this opportunity and under strong leadership to move forward. There’s an enormous amount of repetitional recovery that has to occur here and I can’t … think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead that.”

Amen.

In the world of possibilities, it must be considered that there is evidence tying Coe to something.

But we don’t live in a world of fiction, or what-if’s. We go by what we can document, and prove. Anything else is just so much more outrage. It’s time now for dialogue and enduring change.

As WADA president Craig Reedie, in a release issued after the news conference, said, “It is now important that the IAAF, under the leadership of Sebastian Coe, adopts the recommendations of the report in full.”

Coe told the BBC Thursday in Munich that the IAAF would “redouble our efforts, to be clear to people we are not in denial.”

He added, “My responsibility is to absorb the lessons of the past and to shape the future. The changes I am making will do that. The road back to trust is going to be a long one.”

Nine days ago, IAAF staff put out a news release in which Coe set forth a 10-point “road map” aimed at rebuilding trust, in both the federation and in track and field competition itself, the idea being that you have to be able to have confidence in the federation itself and, more important, believe what you see on the track or in the field events.

The release drew comparatively little attention. Now is the time for it to take center stage, and the dialogue over how to rebuild that trust and confidence begin in earnest.

“Be under no illusion about how seriously I take these issues,” Coe said in the release. “I am president of an international federation which is under serious investigation and I represent a sport under intense scrutiny. My vision is to have a sport that attracts more young people. The average age of those watching track and field is 55 years old. That is not sustainable.

“The key to making that vision a reality is creating a sport that people once more trust in. Athletics,” meaning track and field, “ must be a sport that athletes, fans, sponsors, media and parents alike know is safe to compete in on a level playing field and one in which clean effort is rewarded and celebrated.”

A historic "road map" for Russia?

Track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, did what it had to do Friday in provisionally suspending Russia after shocking revelations of systemic, perhaps state-sponsored, doping.

The IAAF action followed by a few hours a step taken by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel. It, too, did what it had to do. Among other things, it found Russia non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.

What it all amounts to is this, the real story: a historic opportunity is now upon us, all of us, that may not come again quite some time, to get Russia — if you will — to behave, and stay behaving.

And not just in track and field. Across all sports.

Russian president Vladimir Putin earlier this week in Sochi with sports minister Vitaly Mutko // Getty Images

To reiterate an important point: Russia is not inherently any better or worse than anywhere else. But when evidence emerges of a doping scheme that may well have been state-sanctioned, evoking memories of the notorious East German system in the 1970s, that’s a call to significant action. That was the take-away, loud and clear, in a report made public Monday by a WADA-appointed independent commission.

The twin messages that emerged amid Friday’s action were also manifest:

— One, there is recognition, admission, acknowledgement — use whatever term you want — from the Russians. None of this happens — hello, Mr. President Putin — without the Russians recognizing that, for real, they are up against it.

On Wednesday, Putin, ordering an investigation into the WADA-appointed report findings made public Monday, had said there ought to be “professional cooperation” with international anti-doping bodies.

His coded language makes plain: the Russians realize they have to play ball.

Again, after everything set out in Monday’s report, there is no other option, particularly with the 2018 FIFA World Cup yet to come. You’re naive if you don’t think emissaries further emphasized — at senior levels within the Russian sports and government infrastructure — that this was, indeed, the message.

Message received, the Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, telling the R-Sport news agency on Friday, "We're prepared for broad cooperation." He also said he has asked WADA president Craig Reedie to provide a "road map" Russia could follow.

All the other stuff Mutko is saying? Allegations that the IAAF concealed more than 150 doping cases, mostly from countries other than Russia? Maybe. The British anti-doping system held “zero value” and was “even worse” than Russia’s? Come on.

Look, within international politics at its keenest, which is indisputably what this is, face-saving can be an important skill.

— Two, and this is the challenge in front of WADA and the IAAF: how to push the Russians — hopefully, themselves — into putting new systems in place that can survive both the short and long term?

Of course there is going to be push-back.

Here, for instance, was Yelena Isinbayeva, the Russian pole-vault queen, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medalist:

“To ban innocent … athletes from competing in international events and [the] Olympic Games in Rio is not fair,” she wrote in a letter published on the Russian track federation website hours before the IAAF met via teleconference.

With all due respect, Isinbayeva’s logic proves too simple.

If one runner in a relay tests — and proves — dirty, everyone’s medals get taken away. The entire team has to deal with the sanction.

Same here, just on a systemic level.

Because this is, as the WADA panel’s report made plain, a systemic problem.

The clean athletes in Russia — a note on behalf of skeptics: assuming, indeed, there are any — ought now to be just as eager for change in the Russian track and field system as everyone anywhere else.

Otherwise, the clean Russians don’t get to take part in the world indoors, in March in Portland, Oregon, and in the Rio 2016 Olympics in August.

That ought to make for internal leverage.

The external leverage came Friday from the IAAF, which voted, 22-1, to provisionally suspend the Russian track and field federation.

It’s not clear who the sole holdout is. Talk about being on the wrong side of historic change.

An intriguing issue before Friday’s IAAF teleconference was whether the Russians would declare themselves unfit or, for a variety of political reasons, let the IAAF do it — which ended up being the course.

Make no mistake: the clear intent of the IAAF and WADA actions Friday, all around, is to give the Russians every opportunity to get things fixed, if not by Portland, then for sure by Rio.

As Mutko told Associated Press, “We may miss one or two competitions. But for athletes to miss the Olympics and world championships would be real stupidity.”

The full WADA board will meet Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, presumably to ratify what has already been done and then — prediction — deliver a study group on the notion, suddenly pushed by the International Olympic Committee, of an independent body that would be responsible not just for drug testing but sanctioning, too.

Observations: the last thing world sports needs is a new layer of structure. Give WADA significantly more means and commit to its authority. If you want someone independent to run the doping scene, that’s sensible. But look to WADA, already with 16 years experience.

WADA, for the record, already deserves significant congratulations.

It had the cajones to set up an independent commission in the first place; it fully authorized commission head Dick Pound and his two associates, Canadian law professor Richard MacLaren and German law enforcement official Guenter Younger, who along with staff proved relentless; and it had the will Friday to act decisively in finding Russia non-compliant.

You know who else deserves kudos?

Seb Coe, elected in August the IAAF president.

No, really.

Coe has taken withering media heat this week, with many, particularly in the British press, suggesting he was — because he served for eight years as an IAAF vice president — part of the problem and thus neither can nor should be part of the solution.

There has been, and repeatedly, the suggestion that because Coe was vice president he must have known what the former IAAF president, Lamine Diack, who stepped down in August after 16 years, was up to. French investigators allege that Diack accepted more than $1 million in bribes to allow at least six Russian athletes to compete, including at the 2012 London Olympics.

Also under investigation are Diack’s legal adviser, Habib Cissé, and the former head of the IAAF anti-doping department, Gabriel Dollé.

The figure at the center of all this is probably one of Diack’s sons, Papa Massata Diack. Interesting how he has known in recent days to avoid France.

Ask yourself: would Coe really have been in the loop?

During 2011 and 2012, what was Coe’s focus? Yes, he was an IAAF vice president. At the same time, this is what he was really doing: he was running the London Olympics.

Further, there were — and are — four IAAF vice presidents.

What we know from French authorities is not complete. Nonetheless, the suggestion is that Diack was part of a conspiracy. The only way a conspiracy works is for those involved to keep it, you know, quiet. Do you think Diack called the four 2011-15 IAAF vice presidents — Coe, Ukraine’s Sergey Bubka, Qatar’s Dahlan al-Hamad and the American Bob Hersh — and said, hey, guess what I’m up to, fellas?

Further: French authorities interviewed Coe in recent days. Have they since said anything about Coe being a target of any sort? No.

A side note for those who intently follow USA Track & Field: Hersh was the senior IAAF vice president from 2011 until elections this past August. The USATF board opted last December not to re-nominate him for an IAAF role but to put in his place Stephanie Hightower — even though USATF membership, which typically knows next to nothing about international track, had voted overwhelmingly for Hersh.

Guess that USATF board decision is looking pretty good right about now.

At any rate, a 22-1 vote makes clear the IAAF council is in Coe’s corner.

In an IAAF statement, Frank Fredericks of Namibia, the former sprint star who is now chair of the IAAF athletes’ commission, said the council was “100 percent in support of President Coe and believe that he is the leader that our sport needs to instigate the necessary actions swiftly and strongly.”

A vote of 22-1, meantime, also spotlights a fact of life in international sport that came up time and again at a conference last week in New York sponsored by the Qatar-based International Center for Sport Security:

International sport is big business. Far too often, the governance structures in international sport have not caught up to that reality.

The focus for most now is on Russia, and whether the Russian track and field team will get to Rio. But if you’re paying attention:

The IAAF council, for example, currently stands at a full 27. That’s too many. It should be more like 15. That’s the number on, among others, the International Olympic Committee executive board, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s board of directors and the USATF board.

Further, if the IAAF was too often run by Diack and, before him, Italy’s Primo Nebiolo as expressions of autocratic power in word and action, now is the time for the IAAF to put in place a chief executive officer, and empower him or her to run the thing day to day.

Coe for sure seems to be paying attention, another reason he deserves to be cut some slack. In our 24/7 world, everyone seemingly wants answers now. But process and governance take time.

The IAAF statement announcing the 22-1 vote also included a note about what was called Coe’s “reform program,” Coe’s No. 2 at the London 2012 organizing committee, Paul Deighton, appointed to oversee a far-reaching review, to be carried out by Deloitte.

The plan is to feature, among other facets, a “forensic” accounting and, as well, the creation of an “integrity unit.” The unit, to be made up of a board and review panels, would oversee issues relating to anti-doping and more.

Coe, in the IAAF statement:

“Today we have been dealing with the failure of ARAF [the Russian track federation] and made the decision to provisionally suspend them, the toughest sanction we can apply at this time. But we discussed and agreed that the whole system has failed the athletes, not just in Russia, but around the world. 

"This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated. To this end, the IAAF, WADA, the member federations and athletes need to look closely at ourselves, our cultures and our processes to identify where failures exist and be tough in our determination to fix them and rebuild trust in our sport. There can be no more important focus for our sport.”

Who knew what, when? And what is to be done?

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The World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report that shines a long-overdue spotlight on Russian doping in track and field begs a question in Russian history. As Lenin himself wrote in the famous pamphlet published in 1902: what is to be done? At the same time, and though the report, released Monday, has little to nothing to do with the United States, a bit of political history from the American archives is worth noting, too. From the Watergate years: who knew what, and when?

Make no mistake.

On the surface, this report is about track and field.

Not really.

This is about the intersection of sport and politics, indeed domestic and geopolitics at its highest, most complex, indeed most nuanced levels. Its roots are in the way countries can, and do, lean on sports to advance nationalistic agendas of all sorts.

The WADA-appointed three-member Independent Commission upon the release of the report Monday in Geneva: Canadian lawyer and professor Richard McLaren, former WADA president Richard Pound and German law enforcement official Guenter Younger // photo Getty Images

The report is lengthy, more than 300 pages.

Much like the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s “Reasoned Decision” in the Lance Armstrong matter, made public in 2012, and for the same reason, it reads like a John le Carré spy novel.

That reason: it’s designed not just for insiders but for everyone.

The report is rich with Olympics 101, spelling out the acronym- and influence-rich scene, explaining who is who and what is what — for instance, on page 88, the helpful note that “stacking” means mixing oral steroids with injectable drugs.

In sum, this is what the report says:

— Corrupt state-funded agencies helped Russian athletes to dope and evade detection. These include the Russian athletics federation, which goes by the initials ARAF; the WADA-accredited testing laboratory in Moscow; and RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency.

— The successor to the KGB secret service, the FSB intelligence agency, oversaw the lab and embedded spies at the 2014 Sochi Games, according to witnesses.

— The Russian sports ministry exerted influence on the Moscow lab, issuing orders for athletes’ samples to be manipulated. There was a second, secret lab in Moscow; there, samples — blood and urine — would be pre-screened to identify clear ones for the WADA process.

— Finally, athletes would also get false identities to travel abroad to evade possible testing.

The first question in wondering what is to be done is to ask: if the scale of Russian doping was this monumental, evoking comparisons to the notorious East German regime in the 1970s, how did it take until now to get uncovered?

Answer:

It’s not as if certain people didn’t at the least have strong suspicions. They just couldn’t prove anything.

You don’t just stroll into Russia and go, hey, I have some questions for you — buy you a coffee and we’ll chat?

The report makes manifestly plain the lengths to which athletes, coaches, trainers and more sought to evade the providing of answers.

Further, the international sports movement moves in English. Russia does not.

Beyond that, to secure proof you need either cooperation or, to use a word, leverage. That leverage usually means action from the public authorities, police and prosecutors, who can demand answers at the risk of jail time or financial ruin.

This is what’s happening in France, where Interpol, the international police agency, is based, and where Part II of all of this is due to drop later this year. Last week, the French authorities said they had put under criminal investigation Lamine Diack of Senegal, the former president of track’s international governing body, the IAAF, on suspicion of corruption and money laundering. At issue are allegations Diack accepted more than $1 million in bribes to allow at least six Russian athletes to compete, including at the London 2012 Olympics.

Also under investigation are Diack’s legal adviser, Habib Cisse, and the former head of the IAAF anti-doping department, Gabriel Dollé.

Sports agencies do not wield subpoena power. And those who seek to enforce the rules of fair play have not always found easy sledding.

WADA is now 16 years old. As Monday’s report notes, “WADA continues to face a recalcitrant attitude on the part of many stakeholders that it is merely a service provider and not a regulator.”

The report actually underscores a fundamental flaw in the way, big picture, international sports work. There typically is no check-and-balance within the system.

The only reliable check is good journalism, and kudos here to Hajo Seppelt and the team from the German broadcaster ARD for the documentary last year that led to the WADA-appointed commission, and this report.

Reality: far too often, Olympic and international sports officials treat journalists with that pair of favorites, skepticism and derision. This week’s international federations forum at the IOC base in Lausanne, Switzerland — closed to the press.

Why?

Maybe because far too many are afraid of — the truth? And having it reported?

Earlier this year, Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation and at the time of SportAccord, said at the SportAccord convention, referring to Diack, “I dedicate and I sacrifice my family for sport, I mean sacrifice in a way of dedication, and in my eyes [Diack is] a person who sacrifices sport for his family."

Quickly, many others in the so-called Olympic family turned on Vizer. He lost the SportAccord job.

Time has now seemingly proven him right. So why were so many in senior positions so uneasy at hearing what Vizer had to say? Why was he so ostracized?

And what else -- beyond FIFA -- might be out there?

At any rate, and moving on to the rocks-and-glass houses department for those who think doping in sports is a Russia-only problem:

Cheating is never going to go away. There will always be doping. That's human nature.

From the WADA-appointed report: “… in  its considered view, Russia is not the only country, nor athletics the only sport, facing the problem of orchestrated doping in sport."

Just consider what the United States has been through in recent years: Marion Jones and BALCO, MLB’s steroid problem, Armstrong.

Here, though, is the key difference:

There is no federal sports ministry in the United States.

Dick Pound, the longtime Canadian IOC member and former WADA boss who headed the commission that produced Monday’s report, called what happened with regard to Russian track and field “state-supported.”

He said, “I don’t think there's any other possible conclusion. It may be a residue of the old Soviet Union system."

The report: “While written evidence of governmental involvement has not been produced, it would be naive in the extreme to conclude that activities on the scale discovered could have occurred without the explicit or tacit approval of Russian governmental authorities.”

This is where things get really interesting.

In the Olympic sphere, Russia is arguably the most important country in the world.

The short list why:

The $51 billion that went toward the 2014 Sochi Games. Hosting of the 2013 world track and field championships in Moscow, and the 2015 world swim championships in Kazan. The 2018 World Cup. The 2015 SportAccord convention, back in Sochi. And more.

Dmitry Medvedev, right, now the Russian prime minister, and sports minister Vitaly Mutko at the 2015 world swim championships in Kazan // Getty Images

Without question, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is one of the top five most influential personalities in world sport.

That short list:

Thomas Bach, the IOC president; Putin; the FIFA president, whoever that might be; Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, president of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees and a member of the FIFA executive committee; and Sebastian Coe, the recently elected head of the IAAF.

Why Putin?

When Bach was elected IOC president, in September 2013, it’s wise to remember, the very first phone call he took was from Putin.

The chairman of the 2022 IOC Winter Games evaluation commission? Alexander Zhukov, the head of the Russian Olympic committee.

There can be zero question that, as in the Cold War days, Putin is using sport — and its prestige — to advance his reputation and his nation’s standing, both domestically and geopolitically.

Either that, or you think that hosting the Winter Games, the swim and track championships and the World Cup are all just because Russia and Putin are just good sports.

So, mindful that the FSB was in on the deal, and that control in state-directed Russia can be everything, how far up the chain did the activities detailed in Monday’s report go?

Is it believable that Vitaly Mutko, the sports minister, really didn’t know?

Mutko reports to Putin. Really, neither knew?

Referring to Mutko, Pound said Monday he believes it was “not possible for him to be unaware of it.” And if he was aware, “he was complicit in it.”

Consider:

After the 2010 Vancouver Games, where Russian athletes won only three gold medals, the-then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, made a point of declaring that a raft of sports ministry officials ought to hand in their resignations, or be fired. The resignations ensued.

Medvedev, who segued back to prime minister after Putin took over the presidency again in 2012, also observed that Russia "has lost the old Soviet school ... and we haven't created our own school -- despite the fact that the amount of money that is invested in sport is unprecedentedly high."

Mutko, who has been an ally of Putin’s for years, survived.

The Russians then won the medals count in Sochi, with 33, and the most golds, 13.

A reasonable question: how did that happen?

Pound on Monday: “I don’t think we can be confident there was no manipulation” of doping tests at the 2014 Winter Games.

Monday’s report says the 2012 London Games were “in a sense, sabotaged” because athletes ran who shouldn’t have, because they were dirty. The report targets five Russian runners for lifetime bans. Among them: the London 2012 800 gold and bronze winners, Mariya Savinova-Farnosova and Ekaterina Poistogova.

They got to compete, the report said, because of the “collapse of the anti-doping system,” blaming RUSADA, ARAF and, lastly, the IAAF.

The report recommends that Russia be suspended until there is compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code.

Travis Tygart, the head of USADA, went hard Monday, saying in a statement that the “evidence released today demonstrates a shocking level of corruption,” adding, “If Russia has created an organized scheme of state-supported doping, then they have no business being allowed to compete on the world stage.”

Late in the day, Mutko's sports ministry put out a statement that said, "We are not surprised by most of the points in the report." It declared "we have undertaken measures to remedy the situation, including the appointment of a new ARAF president and head coach. It then turned on the IAAF, saying the ministry "is waiting for such measures from IAAF, where the new president also has zero-tolerance for doping."

Coe took over for Diack in August. On Monday, the IAAF issued a statement saying it would consider appropriate sanctions; such measures could mean no Russian track and field athletes at next year’s Rio Olympics; the Russians have until the end of the week to respond.

“The allegations are alarming,” Coe said. “These are dark days.”

Perhaps, then, that is what is to be done: no Russians in track and field in Rio.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, left, listens in as Russian pole vault champion and Sochi 2014 Olympic village mayor Yelena Isinbayeva, center, whispers during a visit to the Olympic village at the 2014 Sochi Games // Getty Images

Consider: Yelena Isinbayeva, the pole-vault diva and two-time (2004, 2008) gold medalist, the IOC Youth Olympic Games ambassador and Sochi Games Olympic Village mayor herself, would not get one more chance for gold.

Or perhaps Mr. Putin might not like that idea of no Russians in Rio, might not like at all the notion that Isinbayeva, a favorite, might not get the chance for a third Olympic gold.

And where would that lead?

What will be done? Who knows? Who thinks that sports and politics are, truly, separate?

We are living, in real time, in history.

Agenda 2020 -- keeping it real

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The International Olympic Committee is trying, really trying, to prove that Agenda 2020, the would-be reform plan that president Thomas Bach and the members passed last December in Monaco, amounts to significant change. But when confronted with real-world realities, like the two candidates for the 2022 Winter Games, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, which made presentations here Tuesday to the members, the question must be asked: how much change, really, is in the air?

This is the predicament the IOC has put itself in, and it has only itself to blame.

To be clear, Agenda 2020 is at best aspirational. The only concrete point among the 40 that the members approved in Monaco is the development of a television channel.

Almaty 2022 vice chairman Andrey Kryukov answers reporters' questions after the bid presentation to IOC members at the Olympic Museum

The rest are in line with prior efforts at reform — in particular, a 2003 package of 117 specific recommendations that included the format of the Games, the bid process, TV coverage, the extravagance of the opening and closing ceremonies, fiscal accountability and more.

In recent days, the IOC has done self-congratulatory cartwheels over changes, purportedly spurred by Agenda 2020, to venues in Tokyo for the 2020 Games; those moves will save $1.7 billion. Saving that much money is of course to the good. But if the IOC were really that interested in saving money in the first instance it would have chosen Madrid for 2020 — where, all-in, the construction budget totaled a mere $1.9 billion.

We live in the real world. Tokyo was going to be elected because that was part of the three-way deal at the IOC session in Buenos Aires in 2013 — Tokyo for 2020, wrestling getting back on the Summer Games sports program and Bach for president against five challengers.

We live in the real world.

While it is true that Agenda 2020 has considerably strengthened Bach’s standing as IOC president — and the IOC traditionally works best when the president is firmly in charge — Agenda 2020 now has to be measured against the real world.

For the IOC, the first significant test is this 2022 process. To be real, for the IOC this 2022 process probably can’t end soon enough. After the hangover of Sochi 2014, and the $51 billion figure associated with those Games, a handful of western European cities pulled out of the 2022 contest, leaving only Beijing and Almaty.

Almaty presents a compact bid with real snow. That’s far more in line with the spirit of Agenda 2020.

But Beijing, with China’s political and economic strength, has assuredly emerged as the overwhelming favorite.

Even with Agenda 2020, the IOC stuck with the post-Salt Lake City rule that prevents the members from visiting any of the bid cities.

Of course, a significant number of the members spent 17 days, or more, in Beijing at the 2008 Summer Games and, as well, visited China last summer for the Nanjing Youth Games. Big advantage to Beijing.

Because there are no visits, the IOC prepares a report after visits to the candidate cities by what’s called an evaluation commission. The commission visited the cities earlier this year. Many of the members candidly admit they don’t read the report. It’s full of facts, figures and coded double-speak.

Our real world is full of uncertainties. In the 2022 report, 137 pages long, this is the one paragraph that jumps out, from the Beijing analysis:

“Overall, the [organizing committee] budget appears to be well thought-out and presents a viable financial plan. Upside potential on marketing revenues, strong government support and experience gained from hosting the 2008 Games suggest that the degree of financial risk should be relatively low.”

To hammer home the point that the members can sleep at night if the Games go to Beijing, there’s this as well:

The 2008 Games generated $1.2 billion in sponsorship. The 2022 estimate is only $740 million. The commission said the 2022 bid team “appears to have significantly underestimated sponsorship targets” — that is, they significantly low-balled the number.

From the report on Almaty:

“Kazakhstan has limited experience with complex high-value marketing programs relating to sporting events.”

And: “The guarantee regarding the financing of venue costs involving multiple parties, creating ambiguity on the division of responsibility including ultimate financial responsibility.”

And: “Economic factors, including low oil prices and exchange rate issues, could negatively impact Games preparations and the government’s capacity to provide financial and other support.”

How does all this jibe with Agenda 2020?

Let’s see, because the IOC put out a statement Tuesday after both bids made their presentations to the members in which Bach said, “You could see a clear focus in both bids on sustainability and affordability.”

Turning to the Beijing bid, and focusing first on sustainability:

There is no little to snow in the mountains there. The evaluation report is clear that the Chinese would have to use artificial snow, requiring diversion of water from existing reservoirs, which may impact other land uses. The proposed alpine ski and sliding venues as well as the Olympic village in the mountains are next to a nature reserve, which would “impose a number of environmental requirements.” Travel times will be long. Air pollution is a “prime concern.”

Again, from the report: “Northern China suffers from severe water stress and the Beijing-Zhangjiakou area is becoming increasingly arid.”

And: “The commission considers Beijing 2022 has underestimated the amount of water that would be needed for snowmaking for the Games but believes adequate water for Games needs could be supplied.”

It’s almost laughable, really, because the Beijing slogan is “Joyful Rendezvous upon Pure Ice and Snow.”

Pure?

From the IOC evaluation report: “The word ‘pure’ conveys China’s desire to create a cleaner environment.”

To piggyback off the Almaty slogan, “Keeping it Real”: how has that worked out since 2008? Earlier this year, there were pictures of runners wearing masks at the Beijing marathon. That was, for sure, real.

Continuing from the IOC report on Beijing: the ski jump there would require the relocation of 400 people, one of the Olympic villages another 1,100. All 1,500 have been offered “new housing or compensation.”

As for affordability?

Almaty 2022 said its infrastructure budget totals out at $1.853 billion.

For comparison, Beijing said its capital works would cost $1.511 billion. Less than Almaty! For real?

Who believes — after a reputed $40 billion was spent for 2008 — that a 2022 Beijing Winter Games, considering for starters the environmental work that needs to be done up in the mountains, would cost only $1.511 billion? Again -- for real?

There’s a new train line needed between Beijing and the mountain venues. Intriguingly, that’s not included in the $1.511 billion figure.

Dozens of reporters and camera crews, most of them Chinese, eagerly awaiting the Beijing 2022 bid team after its presentation to the IOC members at the Olympic Museum

So now we have a new way of Olympic accounting, to compensate for the Sochi hangover.

Before Agenda 2020, there used to be there were two columns of numbers: 1. Games costs and 2. infrastructure that went with the Olympics.

Now there are three: 1. Games costs, 2. infrastructure that goes with the Games and 3. infrastructure that goes with the Games (like that train line) but is not being identified as going with the Games so that it can never, ever be counted because that way there can never, ever be a $51-billion figure ever again.

Is that even remotely honest? Either from our Chinese friends or the IOC? How is that in keeping with Agenda 2020’s demand for financial accounting and transparency?

This is what the IOC will have to answer for if the members elect Beijing, not to mention seven years of human-rights protests, just as in the run-up to 2008.

This is the opening the Kazakhs tried to take advantage of on Tuesday — hammering, time and again, on the proposition that they were “keeping it real,” reminding the members that they have snow, and lots of it.

To be real, the odds are still against Almaty. But maybe it's a race.

Kazakh prime minister Karim Massimov headed the Almaty delegation and was widely credited with giving an excellent performance, longtime IOC member Dick Pound of Canada, for instance, saying he was “very, very agreeably surprised” by the presentation.

That 2003 IOC report, with the 117 recommendations? It was headed by Pound.

Massimov told the members the bid was a “national priority,” and that Agenda 2020 aligned “perfectly” with the desire to leave “lasting economic, health and sporting legacies for future generations.”

“To put it simply,” he said, “Kazakhstan not only wants the Winter Games, we need the Winter Games.”

The vote in Kuala Lumpur is July 31.