Lamine Diack was meant to be the ultimate guardian of athletics, but his alleged part in covering up drugs tests is a staggering dereliction of duty, writes AW ‘s editor
Radio and TV stations rarely call me to talk about exciting athletics performances. They only bother when a big drugs story breaks. So it was no surprise to see my phone go crazy this week following the release of WADA’s damning anti-doping report (see a news focus feature in the November 12 edition of AW).
In one interview, BBC 5 Live asked me to tell them about Lamine Diack and I must say I was a little lost for words. In almost 20 years at AW I’ve interviewed everyone from Bannister to Bolt but surprisingly never done a one-to-one with the most powerful man in the sport.
Of course I’ve sat in many of his press conferences, but he has always been supported – some might say carried – by his more articulate colleagues as he stumbled his way through questions, often giving a rather arrogant impression that we were honoured to be in his presence. Needless to say, there have always been lots of rolling eyes whenever Diack has taken to the stage.
Seb Coe has come under fire this week for praising his predecessor as IAAF president back in August. But in Coe’s defence I wonder how well he knew Diack, especially as he spent much of his period as IAAF vice-president in an office in Canary Wharf organising the London Games.
One thing’s for sure, history will not be kind to the former long jumper from Senegal. As head of the global governing body, he was meant to be the ultimate guardian of the sport, but his alleged part in covering up drugs tests is the ultimate betrayal and a staggering dereliction of duty.
We’ve always assumed the IAAF – led by Diack – were locked in a vicious war with the drug cheats. So to find out that the cheats and administrators might have been on the same side beggars belief and has turned elite sport into a criminal racket.
Russia is almost certainly not the only culprit, but it will send a strong message to suspend them from international competition. Meanwhile moving next year’s IAAF World Junior Championships in Kazan, plus the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Cheboksary, shouldn’t even be up for debate.
Haunted by his words from August, Coe has come under the cosh this week. But I believe he has the widespread support within the sport and is the best bet to help elite athletics discover a brighter future.
I say ‘elite’ athletics, too, because contrary to media reports that “athletics is at death’s door”, I cannot imagine we will see any fewer athletes at this weekend’s many cross country leagues, road races and parkrun events around the country, many of whom probably neither know nor care who Lamine Diack is and whose idea of a performance-enhancing drug is a strong coffee and occasional aspirin.
» Jason Henderson is the editor of Athletics Weekly. The above editor’s comment is included in the November 12 edition of AW magazine which includes a news focus feature on the current doping revelations