Bob Bowman got the ball rolling when he spoke for self and in so doing gave Michael Phelps permission to speak at the pre-racing press conference in Rio. Here’s a reminder:
“I would have to say from a personal standpoint that it is very concerning to me that our governing bodies have dropped the ball on this and the system is broken and has to be fixed.” – Bob Bowman
Asked what he would do if he were FINA President, Phelps said:
“Don’t ask me that one. Don’t get me going: I don’t want to political about it … I agree with Bob that its something that has to be changed in all sports.
His voice creaking with irritation and emotion, Phelps suggested he had never raced in clean waters, adding:
“We all want clean sports. That’s all we want. We want everybody to be on the same playing field. I can honestly say in my career I don’t know if I’ve ever competed in a clean sport. It’s upsetting. But there’s not really a lot that I can control, but me. That’s the main priority for me. We’ve had this problem for how many Olympics and its sad that we can’t control it; that someone who is in charge cannot control this. I can’t say I’ve ever been in a clean competition.”
Enter stage left Mack Horton with courage and an Australian aptitude for calling a spade a shovel shortly before landing one in the face of all the apologists for doping and the dopers themselves. Horton didn’t mince his words – and when he’d done calling Sun Yang* out – he took the plunge again and in the 400m freestyle on day 1 beat the man he would have preferred not to have to race. China trolls went on the attack.
“Clean Machine” and “Champs Vs Cheats” scream headlines Down Under, with similar very far and wide. Doping is the theme of these Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the pool, where teams from Russia and Brazil are shamed by lists of those who have tested positive in the past two Olympic cycles to more than 20 apiece, where the asterisk is a must because clean athletes, their coaches and those behind them have had it with having to race against people who fell foul of anti-doping rules but somehow, by hook or by crook, weasel their way back to the pursuit of honour in the colours of dishonour.“You can’t condemn the stars for a minor doping offence,” said Cornel Marculescu, the director of FINA last year. This week, he is to be found hugging Sun* on the Olympic deck and we hear from Sun that he is “a great friend of Chinese swimming” and a “grandfather” to the athlete who fell foul of doping rules and whose doctor Ba Zhen got slapped with two bans – one for supplying a banned substance, the other for working on at a major international event, with the permission of the Chinese Swimming Association and its FINA Bureau member, at a time when he should have ben serving the first suspension.
In Horton’s wake came Lilly King, who waged her finger back at Yuliya Efimova*, told her she wasn’t welcome in Olympic waters and then proceeded to do what the Australian had done to Sun: reinforce the message in the race and deny the swimmer with the doping record access to Olympic gold here in Rio.
Booing, jeering, cheers, war cold and of words. What a week in Rio. Unprecedented.
The swimosphere is an ocean of high fives for those who speak up and a doldrum of thumbs down for those towing an asterisk or excusing all that entails.
Today brings the following open letter from John Leonard, director of the World and American swimming coaches associations. It is a letter of support for those speaking up and an appeal for more athletes to let their voices be heard. It arrives on the day we say goodbye and rest in peace to Forbes Carlile, a man who fought lifelong for clean sport and good governance, a man who held the feet of blazers to the coals (tribute from Shane Gould).
With no further comment at this stage …
The letter in full:
We see admirable courageous stances by athletes from multiple nations in Rio with regard to the immediate and important need to protect our sport.
This comes about because the IOC and its subsidiary International Federation Puppets such as FINA in our sport, have abdicated their moral responsibility to protect and preserve the sanctity of Olympic Ideals and Values. They have revealed themselves as simply a financial machine generating billions of dollars while sharing pittances with the Athletes on whose backs those dollars are generated, and then, they are so arrogant as to ask the athletes to protect their private money generating circus by not protesting the prostitution of clean sport, as FINA and the IOC have done by allowing the dopers to swim.
Which leaves us with “WHAT TO DO”?
Here are the simple (not easy, but simple) steps:
The real power in sport is with the athletes. Read that again three times. As athletes, you have become so used to the mindset of “big brother IOC will take care of all” that now that that trust has been betrayed, you have not realized ITS ALL ABOUT YOU. Your heart, soul, passion and BODY are what the IOC is getting rich on, and all the IF’s underneath them as well, (Read FINA, with their 100 Million in the bank while you starve.)
Athletes must unite, form your own organisation and tell the IOC under what conditions you will participate in the circus (Suggestions on conditions to follow.)
And PS. You can run your own Swim Circuit without them, earn REAL money, and be in control of your destiny. See golf and Tennis. I am here to help you do it, when you are ready and I have a team in place to help you do it. And I won’t accept an American nickel to do it. No money for me.
This is about you and generations to follow. I want my children who coach, to be able to coach clean athletes and aspire to win in the generations ahead. That’s my personal motivation for the cynics to understand.
Once you have a viable option to the IOC and their Circus, you are in control. Yes, keep the Olympics, but have it drug free, have it the way you dreamed of it when you were a child and emerging elite athletes. Not the cynical freak show of today, all marketing, no soul. Value your Dreams. They can be real. They can be real. They can be real.
What conditions do you want? Here are “suggestions”.
WADA must be rebuilt with a REAL anti-doping reformer at the helm. (I suggest Travis Tygert, of USADA, the only administrator in all sport to truly SPEAK UP for you. He’s real. He’s at odds with the USOC because they are just more fakers hiding behind nonsense like “Zero Tolerance.”
The only ZERO TOLERANCE they recognize is for anything that threatens their bank account. Note to the USOC – why hold an Olympics in Los Angeles when it’s just another corrupt operation serving no clean athletes…..? When you cave in to the IOC on everything, to get the Games in LA, YOU STAND FOR NOTHING!
- ATHLETES, DEMAND A REBUILD of WADA. And real power for WADA to set rules, test for doping and ENFORCE RULES FOR ALL OF OLYMPIC SPORT.
A thing called “High Throughput Testing” which exists today, can find the doping needle in the haystack that current testing can’t. It can immediately create CLEAN SPORT. Why don’t “they” use it now? Because they don’t want clean sport, they want the charade of “Zero Tolerance” rhetoric. The Science EXISTS NOW. ATHLETES, INSIST WE USE 2016 Science to catch 2016 cheats, NOT 1950’s technology which is what is used now.
MONEY – It’s all about the money right now, isn’t it? Why are the IOC making BILLIONS while you struggle to get the money to eat and keep a roof over your head? ATHLETES, insist on a fair distribution of revenue to keep YOU at the center of the picture. How? See number two above.
Athletes, every problem that frustrates you and your coaches and the entire world that wants clean sport , can be solved by YOU. Unite.
OWN YOUR SPORT.
Many of us are here to help you. Fix swimming for your generation and hundreds of generations to come. You have the power to do it. Use it. Please.
John Leonard, American And World Swimming Coaches Association.