Coach Appeal To Clean Athletes: “Time To Act” As IOC Fails To Deliver Fair Olympics

Time for action and a new start …. image by Patrick B. Kraemer
Time for action and a new start …. image by Patrick B. Kraemer

“Protection of doped athletes, at the expense of clean swimmers is the reality. The sickening fact is that no one is going to protect you, Athletes. It’s up to you to protect yourself and your sport. Hard, horrifying facts, clear to all who pay attention. Time for Action”. – the stark message from John Leonard, head of coaching associations world and American on a day when he writes to Cornel Marculescu, FINA director, to give warning that the day is nigh when athletes could sit out Olympic races to the great embarrassment of those making a hash of running world sport.

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Steve Levy

When the moral compass of “leadership” seems focused on continuously moving in the direction that looks after themselves at the expense of those they are tasked with serving then words are powerless to cure the underlying problems. In situations like this where sh*t rolls downhill, the solution is competition: In the same way that a misrepresented local union can defragment out of a corrupt parent union, so is it time for swimmers to leave FINA and form their own association.

With many legends retiring, it might be the time to recruit them as Founding Board members; I suspect that a swmmers’ and coaches’ association – cohesive and collaborative – would not be snubbed at the global level.

Craig Lord

Steve, those planning such things have been working on it. That alone does not guarantee success but a challenge to FINA has got well past the stage of words and philosophical thoughts. Whether it takes off will indeed depend on the will of athletes to take control of their own destinies, earning power, image rights and much more that FINA has had in its sole control. The tipping point would/will come when athletes join hands and say ‘enough’; when they make a stand together. The structures on which elite swimming is built, both domestically and internationally, are not designed to empower the athlete. The athlete’s commission at FINA, just like the commissions of coaches, media etc, disempower themselves by accepting time and again agendas set by Cornel Marculescu and those who lead FINA and control the environment: descent leads to being disenfranchised. The commissions work well where sensible direction is provided on such things as rules and conditions that serve swimming well. But when Marculescu and the leadership don’t want something – it doesn’t happen in 99/100 of the time.

Take underwater cameras being used in dispute resolution. Obvious – but doesn’t happen because Marculescu doesn’t want it – decades-long argument, very sound reasoning – hasn’t happened. Shiny suits was an example of something he and the leadership could not resist. An example of USA Swimming and others joining hands and saying ‘no, not on this issue – we will not tolerate this a moment longer’. On most issues, USA Swimming and others simply roll over, lose a battle here to win a point there.

Take the media commission: FINA – silent on Efimova, not a word when one of the most controversial decisions of the year is taken … where is the ‘media commission’ that is there to provide expertise and advice on media issues? Silent, too. Most members, of course, are not media experts; and all understand that if they make an issue of any issue, their term on the train will come to an end at the next station. With respect to them, they are not there t press the case for doing the right thing; they are there because it’s an easy ride, for self, not swimmer – nor even the media they are supposed to represent, the media bench for written press, magazine and digital including woeful things such as a third of all accredited journalists paying (themselves of their organisations) many thousands for the privilege of being at an event sitting behind the sight line of the finish unable to see how a tight finish unfolded at a live event – and that event after event after event because ultimately FINA leaders rank such things far down their list of priorities, well below cocktails and nibbles and the like; way below the importance of having the Bureau member’s name on a scoreboard for the flower presentation, ay below the importance of providing a limo for every member of the Bureau at a world titles; way below the bullying (in the personal communication I received from Cornel M in the past 25 years, the bulk of it is him asking why I hadn’t sent my ‘kit measures form’ back during my time on the media commission, 2009-2014) that goes into making sure every member of every commission provides their leg size, shoe size and so further so that goody bags stuffed with freebies (we’re not talking essential kit here) all the cost of hosts and sponsors etc etc…

The problem stretches to independent journalists accepting payment for flights, hotels, etc simply in order to be there. How many times do you see on sports websites: “trip and coverage almost entirely funded by the international federation, which is why you’ll see few if any words of criticism here and many a flowery word instead’? None. There is a lack own transparency and disclosure even at the interface of media and sports governance.

All of the above contributes to leaving many folk beholden and the athlete disempowered and under-represented by a country mile. The athlete, as you suggest, will be empowered when leading athletes stand together and take control of there own circumstance and destiny. Not easy but easier now than at any time in history, courtesy of swimming becoming a sport in which older athletes stay in the sport and race for elite honours into their 30s. The other good sign is that the bait of prizes for swimmers through a vehicle that does not serve the sport well – namely, the world cup – is one that athletes have not bitten. One woman swimmer has been made very rich by FINA, a handful of others have done reasonably well. Most attending the world-cup and managing to get prizes have been fed crumbs and the bulk of world-class swimmers do not engage in the world cup as a series, half of those ranked top 30 in the world attend on average ‘nil’ to 1 round of the cup each year. In that model we see FINA HQ and leadership model both being resisted despite financial incentive – and we see a model failing season after season after season with none of the membership pressing hard the case for change.

One big obstacle to overcome if serious change is going to come: programs hardly consider themselves ‘part of the FINA family’; they simply work in their own world of coach-athlete-local support team-parents etc and couple themselves to the wider-world system only in the sense that they make an international team and through that gain access to more support, including financial support. None of those links link them to FINA. The bond is both weak and very strong: while coaches and swimmers may feel little sense of being a part of FINA, those representing them from national federations are joined at head, heart, hip and wallet to the international federation and are signed up to a lifetime of benefits.

Steve Levy

Craig, I’m sure by now you’ve watched the Big 4 opening speech at yesterday’s ESPY Awards.

“Enough is enough.”

By now you’ve also read Ruta Meilutyte’s tweet…

https://twitter.com/meilutyteruta/status/753183245316067330

…and knowing you, you’re already writting a SV article.

My questions to you are…

Which swimmers do you believe are willing to make a bold public statement about the state of swimming under FINA?

Which industry companies are willing to make bold statements about changing their roles to enable returning honesty to the sport?

Which global sponsors of FINA and IOC are willing to risk revenue by speaking out against these ineffective organizations?

Finally – yes, the wallet. Why the US DOJ investigation might very be the tipping point needed.

commonwombat

Steve, the likely answers are as follows”

1. None, other than those who are on the decline competitively and have nothing to lose by doing so. Indeed, it would boost their public profile to do. One wonders what Mr Leonard is actually sacrificing ?

2. None, when its not their core business stream but rather brand exposure exercises. They’ll simply divest and seek other opportunities

3. They may have more tangible linkages and greater leverage but when have they ever spoken out in the past ?

4. DOJ may be a tipping point; as may any Rio debacles. What is already a reality is the diminishing public $$$ investment in elite sports in many developed nations and this will only continue apace.

As for the punters, THEY vote with their wallet and feet ….. and the ballot box. They want their $$$ spent on core services not sport.

Can/will anything be able to resurrected from the ashes should the bleaker scenarios (or even the moderate ones) come to pass ? Therein lies another question; is there actually the will to do so and where will the $$$ come from ……. and will there actually be sufficient “give a damn” factor from the public ?

Craig Lord

Steve,
The Ruta tweet was added to the editorial and framed in context not long after the tweet.

My answers
1. Several are on the cusp of thinking that status and scenario a viable option – and CW is incorrect to think all are on the wane and incorrect to make the distinction when it comes to change. The views of Shane Gould, John Naber, Janet Evans, Susie O’Neill, Libby Trickett, Rebecca Adlington and on and on and on among the club of those no longer at their peak in the water (and not even in the race at all) just as relevant as the views of Schoeman, Bovell, Vyatchanin and on and on and Phelps and on and on, regardless of their current status on the performance chart. All of that said, I think it is a very big step from clear opposition to FINA (no question whatsoever) to opting out of a race on the verge of an Olympic final. In certain circumstances I could see it happening.

2. CW is not correct. We have seen sponsors in soccer and track and field and tennis say ‘enough’ and walk away from particular contracts. It is less impactful in swimming because FINA partners tend to be smaller in magnitude – and most of them work in the swimming industry directly and some of those are market nervous: who buys/hires temporary pools and lane lines and so on for major events? Federations do … the gravy trainers are the negotiators. The kit makers: a little easier for them to take a stand if they are willing to do so – and I am aware that manufacturers have indeed met and discussed a brighter future for swimming. Therein lies hope.

3. A few, under certain circumstances – the eve of an Olympic Games is unlikely to be such a moment but that moment is nigh… some of the key partners risk no loss of revenue whatsoever by saying ‘sorry FINA, you’re out of order and we cannot be linked to such poor governance and lack of transparency – that would be far more damaging to our business.”

4. DOJ – yes, a definite tipping point. Here is the only point on which I find strong common ground with CW when he states a reality as “diminishing public $$$ investment in elite sports in many developed nations”, a trend that will continue. The same can be said of media – and in the void more community exercises will develop but much of their activity is fan/flag-waving and celebrates the rot just as much as the clean on far too many occasions… a lack of sound judgement (let alone editorial judgement) is the stuff of any evening in a local pub 🙂

The Big 4 opening speech at yesterday’s ESPY Awards: no, haven’t had time yet: such is life. I’ll take a look when able.

Steve Levy

CW, more great Q&A…

A1. Not true – just checked the @FINA1908 Twitter stream, looked at responses to Ruta’s initial Tweet, Likes, Retweets, etc…other current Olympians have been vociferous prior to FINA’s decision of a few days ago. I think a rabble rouser like Craig could do wonders to keep this going. As far as what John is sacrificing, perhaps you can add a bit more to the question?

A2/3. I’m certain that if major IOC sponsors would divest athletes on their roster who have tested positive (details clearly needed here as to when the positive test occurred) AND continue to lobby for *clean sports* that not only would their brand awareness be heightened but their brand equity too. I also can’t help but think what positive things a TYR with a gold-medal Founder might do by taking a hard line against FINA’s comedic actions. I can’t help but believe that once one company takes a stand, others will follow (yes, follow the money too).

A4. Great comment – I can’t help but think about when I started swimming when it was all grassroots. But this time around we have social platforms that can be used to communicate positive messages, etc.

Finally, your “give a damn” factor. My gut tells me it will come from within the respective sports communities. Who from swimming will step up?

commonwombat

Steve,

Its easy to talk the talk on social media ……. actually walking the walk and actually boycotting what may be your only shot at the biggest prize on offer. Sorry but unless their own lives/personal security/health is demonstrably at risk; you aren’t going to see major players do anything. Those who’ve already made their record and have “less on the line”; maybe but they’ll be few in numbers.

Craig, I was talking major sports in general (not necessarily exclusively Olympic ones) rather than swimming specific. Corporate dollars, unless intrinsicly linked to the particular sport, are mostly transient.

They’ll simply divest and seek other means to promote their brand name(s), not always in the sporting sphere. THAT will be their statement albeit couched in “corporate speak” but in many cases these dollars ARE transient in any case.

Craig Lord

CW – I think Steve’s point is that there are some fairly stark and big examples in other sports in which a few individuals did indeed stand up, got counted and their actions led to significant change. (a fine example in recent times that I’m aware of is European basketball league – very big, very big audiences, big budget and TV in the mix – all built from those who opposed the euro federation and Olympic folk and others who said ‘ours – do not touch, go away and shut up’ – the change led by non-athletes was supported by athletes who stood together and took hold of their own image rights and destinies and wages and much else. It worked and the change is done. It can and has happened.

On your corporate dollars point: perhaps so, but plenty of examples such as tennis, wimbledon etc that do not suffer transient support – it is there, it is solid and holds firm year after year after year – good product – easy to watch – terrific organisation – stars of the past and present to the fore – the show spilling beyond the arena into corporate and social and day-long fun and entertainment, catering the lot. Media service: brilliant. Huge contrast to swimming – massive. And the sponsors attracted spill to lifestyle – car brands etc – unrelated to the sport directly but speaking to the player, official, the fan and wider crowd, including the social set drifting through for summer fun.

Swimming leaders have completely failed to reach that level – and in the main it is because they have failed to harness the gold in their midst – they don’t even know what they have let alone what they could have.

commonwombat

Craig, whilst there are most certainly notable exceptions to the rule; my professional experience is that you’re lucky to see corporate deals in most sports beyond 3-4 years.

Swimming is most certainly well behind the “cutting edge”. Whilst FINA most assuredly deserve the dumpster load of horse manure poured over them for being “asleep at the wheel”; I’m not sure that it is the easiest to promote in the sports market-place …. especially outside the Olympic peak window ….. and this is proving the case even in a peak stronghold like AUS.

An interesting example you use, Craig and I will grant that. However, isn’t that more a case of them standing up for own “self interest”/perceived commercial rights rather than a moral stand per se ? We’ve certainly seen plenty of the former over the years and some of them legitimately warranted (we saw this in AUS last year when our women’s football team went on strike) ……. but how many on straight “moral grounds” ?

Steve Levy

CW – what CL wrote. But it’s also true that as fickle as market research can be in terms of how it influences corporate behavior, the sports industry is unusual in how it tracks fan behavior in greenfields; a “compete honestly” movement while hardly sexy does resonate today. If brands can find a way to give people the “power” to speak and act out against doped athletes and their handlers then they’ll receive back revenue and loyalty.

Swimmers and their closeness to and openness with the media might be the ideal group to start a groundswell…

Craig Lord

Steve. A side observation on the theme… In Germany there is an interesting example of changing attitudes of late, related to news. There is a shampoo brand that advertised a dandruff product for a few years using the logo: doping for the hair. In the last couple of months, the logo has changed: “Training for the Hair” … not sure that works but clearly a direct response to the fact that the word ‘doping’ mean ‘dirty’, something you ought not to be associated with – it no longer means ‘super-strong’ and ‘bulked to win’. Such general perceptions are important.

Steve Levy

Craig and CW…

http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/news-releases/no-doping-slogan-during-the-tour-down-under-565042931.html

Ironic that the company sponsors the German UCI cycling team Giant-Alpecin.

Steve Levy

Last one…

Had forgotten about Nike’s misguided “Get High”, “Dope”, “Ride Pipe” shirts of 2011; do these slogans condone the behavior? I’d say most people see the difference. But why not take a public stand?

Finally, at the core to this argument are the drugs themselves; here’s one from the US NIH on “Why the war on drugs will never be won”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4641409/

Craig Lord

🙂 Steve… quite – and that extends to normal adverts on TV for the product, beyond sporting realm

Craig Lord

Thanks Steve. Will give it a closer read when I can. 2 instant points: 1. yes, I think people can see the difference BUT when you’re a sports company sponsoring world-class athletes and federations that are signatories to the WADA Code it is entirely inappropriate and they should not go there. Wrong message – and they can do so much better; be far more inventive than that, I would have hoped – and why would they NOT want to be part of the solution, part of the clean-up, instead of part of a filthy past that will come to be less accepted as time goes by not more so, regardless of ever-present attempts to cheat and deny others – if Nike and others want to on the front wave of evolution, they better catch it; and 2. much is made of this ‘war in drugs will never be won’ including those who use it as a mantra for saying ‘see – best just let it all go…’; its a sort of misnomer in the sense that it suggests a beginning and an end to a particular episode, while I never see any form of cheating like that – cheating, like murder and abuse and theft and slavery and many others dark things of the world, will be with us always but that doesn’t mean we give in and accept them.

Ryanfunfan

THE SPIRIT OF THE GAMES:
IOC MUST ban forever all these athletes who have been caught in drugs just once. Have you been just once in drugs? OK, no more OLYMPIC GAMES for you my friend.
The message is very clear at the Olympic Games opening ceremony: Clean Games.

Maybe FINA, IAAF, LEN and the other International Federations could give a second chance in their Championships to these dirty athletes after they finish their suspensions. But just ONE CHANCE. Never TWO.

WISE WORDS RUTA. GO AHEAD!!!

commonwombat

Won’t happen under current regime. The IOC is too interlinked with these international federations.

Does your divine edict classify as guilty those who may’ve had an adverse reading but be found not guilty or just those who’ve been suspended ?

Does your edict also embrace those who may’ve received warnings or may’ve been stood down from events but not officially “sanctioned” as such ? This may be less seen in swimming but certainly the case in sports like cycling with their biometric passport.

Are you going to crack down and also ban those who avail themselves of TUE’s (Therepeutic Use Exemptions) for meds that may otherwise be classified as PEDs ?

DO please illuminate us Mr Ryan with your celestial wisdom on these very real “gray areas” !!

Ryanfunfan

Dear Mr. Commonwombat,

My “divine edict & celestial wisdom” is pretty simple and clear:
An athlete´s got a positive result in a doping test under current regulation of banned substances. He also fails the second test. GOODBYE OLYMPIC GAMES. FOREVER.

TUE Athletes is a different case, of course, but they must be strictly investigated.
Of course the current regulation must improve.

You can agree or disagree, it´s alright, but I find your comment a little… sarcastic?
Politeness is free my friend.

Kind regards,
Ryanfunfan

commonwombat

Maybe I was a tad sarcastic but actually making your proposed regime a reality isn’t nearly as easy as making a pronouncement like yours.

And you failed to answer one of my questions; namely the status of those who have tested positive but have subsequently been cleared on appeal. In law, this equates to no conviction for said offence. Where do THEY stand under your regime ?

Whilst, in principle, I could agree with a “one strike and you’re out” regime for the Olympics; the reality is that under the current systems this is NOT going to happen.

For that to happen, I suspect we would need:

– a complete overthrow & replacement of nearly all international sporting federations given how deeply compromised on both ethical & financial grounds most are.
– ditto for IOC
– Potentially replace WADA & & institute a complete review of what constitutes a PED; TUEs as well as its complete independence from “stakeholders”, its ongoing funding & its operating procedures
– total review of the operations and terms of reference of the CAS

As to whether all or indeed any of these will happen is open to question but these are at least starting points that would need to be addressed to make your wishes a viable reality.

Ryanfunfan

Sorry Mr.Commonwombat, you´re right, and here is my missing answer:

Those athletes who have been found with a banned substance in their bodies after the first and second antidoping test must be ban to take part at the Olympic Games. This is for me enough evidence of guilt.
OK, they could go to the court, appeal, and if they get mercy or if they are guilty and finish their suspension they could still be World, Pan Pacs, Pan American, European, Asian… Champions. But never ever take part at the Olympic Games, which are holy, at least for me, since I first watch them when I was a child, more than 35 years ago.

This my modest opinion

Ryanfunfan

Anyway, looking forward to watching “THE RACE OF THE MILLENIUM”:
“Tae-Hwan DARK” Vs. “The DARK side of the SUN”.

Detti, Guy, Connor & Connor, Horton, I don´t care, whoever: give us the LIGHT!!!

aswimfan

Tae-Hwan DARK” Vs. “The DARK side of the SUN”

LOL.

China will bring their own “Knights of Clen”

commonwombat

Realistically, no meaningful LASTING change will occur unless root & branch reform of ALL involved parties to the process is carried out. Why …. because it only needs one part of the machine “malfunction”/be corrupted to make the system fail.

With regards to the Olympics, the following opinion piece in the Washington post makes a rather interesting suggestion. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/to-avoid-drug-cheat-embarrassment-olympic-medal-ceremonies-could-be-for-show-only/2016/07/15/6a39a7a8-49d0-11e6-acbc-4d4870a079da_story.html

The idea of holding all medal presentations at a end of year gala after all doping results are through has some merit. The mechanics of it all would need to be thought out; perhaps having separate dates for different sports otherwise all on the one date would be hopelessly long but I see it being worth some consideration.

Craig Lord

You modest opinion is a good one ryanfunfun – and the more people keep saying it, keep insisting, the more pressure those running the show will be under to make the change. CW is a lawyer, I believe 🙂 and lawyers often find reasons why things can’t be done. CW makes valid points about appeals and ‘proven innocent’ by the system but he is wrong to suggest Osaka Mark II cannot happen without the overthrow os regimes. The tipping point is night – and those regimes will vote for survival, even if that means doing the right thing not be design but by default. There are many reasons to share CW’s pessimism – and many reasons, too, to keep repeating the messages those in charge need to hear from swimmer,s coaches, programs, fans, media and everyone who has a stake in clean sport. No momentum, no go… and if there is no momentum now, given all that has come to pass, then there will never be momentum. The model for anti-doping cite to be discussed post Rio by IOC, WADA and others will be critical to the direction all of this takes… watch out for those who argue ‘it can’t be done’. Yes it can – if those running sport really want it to happen and those they serve press them to the line.

Craig Lord

CW – yes interesting – forget it. Ask NBC: ok with that? ‘No”. End of discussion – if they can get away with night swimming etc, insisting on the survival of instant medal presentations should be a breeze.
I agree with root and branch reform – it can and will happen if stakeholders press for it… that’s the big question … will they? will athletes take back their rights to images and much more? will federation members around the world insist that those who serve them internationally do their bidding and not follow an agenda set by international sports masters designed to keep the private party on the gravy train?
Sports autonomy should end. It is big business and should be overseen independently and regulated accordingly at domestic level and under international cooperation agreements.

commonwombat

Craig, why I take a very cold blooded view of things is less due to my legal background but that I view the situation very starkly from my own experience.

The fact is that nearly ALL the international sporting federations are severely to irrevocably compromised with regards to financial corruption/governance issues let alone doping collusion. Add this in triplicate for the IOC. WADA has shown themselves to be more politicians than policemen.

Ideally we SHOULD be able to rebuild edifices but in reality is there the will and the capacity for perseverence to see it through ? Where will the $$$ come from ? Ideally, they may be able to recover some (but most likely not all) from the orgs that have been shut down but I’m not sure we can count on too much from the corporate sector let alone govts. A lot of national federations in various sports are likely to take “collateral damage”.

Why do I include CAS in the equation ? Quite simply, its like an orchestra. IF one section is way out of sync then the result is god awful noise not melody. Its operations and terms of reference need to be synced to the rest.

You speak of sportspeople “taking back their sport” and I agree that is a positively spiffing phrase. But how is that to work in reality ? Yes, I get it from the aspect of clean sport but how many will actually have the talents and capabilities going forward to run the sports on both national & international levels ? Some indeed may but, as history is already telling us, are THEY any more immune to the gravy train or corruption than anyone else ?

I agree that NBC wouldn’t touch such a proposition with a barge pole. Mind you, I think there’d be a number of international competitors from many countries entering the clay pigeon shoot event if only NBC’s own “bought and paid for” IOC member, Mr Gilady, was one of the targets !!

Ryanfunfan

Thank you very much Craig. And congrats for having the best website in the World Wide Web.

Yes, I know I cannot compete against CW in these matters, he´s a lawyer and I have no idea about laws. But what I do know is that I have a very different feeling when I watch the Olympics than when I watch any other competition. Because of that I think the rules should be different for the Games, with no mercy at all for those cheaters.

I´m feeling sad, last days a high average of your good articles speak about doping, politics, bans… names as Putin and other politicians should never be in this kind of web sites.

I´m a true passionate lover of swimming sport, and I guess next month we´ll see more dirty swimmers with medals as never before.
So happy though because An Jianbao is finally not taking part. With him China would have been a very solid gold contender at 400 Medley Relay, and watching that with Zetao at free and and Jianbao at breast, could have been terribly ugly.

I also have to say I´ve never criticised cases like Shiwen Ye at the last Games, and I don´t like to read things against her, cause she is a CLEAN athlete, at least al the moment.

Best regards

Craig Lord

Thanks for the comment and kind words Ryanfunfun. I also feel that the Olympics is the standard setter: it is from that high place that much rolls down through the world of sport, including culture and fair play and much else. You are right: Putin et al have no place in this world – but they paced themselves there AND FINA invited them in, gave them honours, pressed the flesh of folk far more powerful in pursuit of … money and power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and FINA has become evermore wedded to a model of governance in which a handful of people dictate what goes. That should not be. As for Ye Shiwen: she was 16, a schoolgirl. I believe that, for a moment at least, she was the victim of abuse. I stand by that view in the framework of my own culture and what would be deemed acceptable and not.

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