I admit upfront that I’m writing a second editorial this day under the influence of performance-detracting substances, typhus and various other shots coursing through vein as I contemplate words that, nonetheless, spark some of the clearest thought I ever had: Julio Maglione*** (that’s our new asterisk denoting FINA officials who should resign for bringing the sport of swimming into disrepute) is unfit for purpose and should step down from the FINA presidency without hesitation.
Why? Well, we start with his view on the WADA IP report led by Prof. Richard McLaren. The independent commission, says the chap from Uruguay, that towering temple of swimming excellence he has helped build all these decades, has “exceeded its power” by uncovering state-sponsored doping in Russia.
No, surely the chaps at the Sputniknews misheard him when they report Maglione as saying (sit down those of you less solid than Shirley Babashoff):
“Its [WADA Commission] members exceeded their powers. For me WADA, and sooner or later this needs to be clarified, is an organisation with a function to control the doping abuse, approve the relevant rules and not to talk about the situation in a particular country, it must be done by the head of the Olympic Games, that is by the International Olympic Committee.”
In other words, one might imagine – ‘shut up. We’ll tell you if we’ve judged anything to be bad news’.
- NB: Sputnik was launched in November 2014 by Rossiya Segodnya, an agency wholly owned and operated by the Russian government, which was created by an Executive Order of the President of Russia on December 9, 2013
Perhaps they heard right. Anyhow, here’s an explanation, yon Julio Maglione, ye who broke a presidential campaign pledge to stay for two terms only but want to fight on well into your 80s to keep the top seat in swimming for reasons best know to yourself (competence in the job cannot be one of them): the reason why WADA has had to step in (and thank God it did) … because:
… you, FINA, the signatory to the WADA Code have failed miserably, decade after decade, to stand up for clean athletes and cut out the rot of doping in the primary sport under the umbrella of the organisation of which you are now chief among custodians (that a title far more important than ‘president’).
The thing is, Julio, you say you want clean sport; you say you are zero-tolerant; you say dopers should be punished. And it may well be that you are sincere. And yet the record paints a different picture. I feel very comfortable writing that uncomfortable truth, starting with the fact that more than 50 Olympic gold medals since 1976 have gone to swimmers who fell foul of anti-doping rules, most of those on your watch as FINA Bureau member and that’s just counting the ones that we can say that of without a shadow of a doubt.
Outfoxed by the extension of Russia’s masquerade from the mousehole in the lab wall to the court room of arbitration, Maglione presides, yet again, over another fine mess: when Yuliya Efimova* and entourage take their case before the CAS, what do you think is going to happen, Maglione, to the FINA grand plan of nodding to the IOC’s unwillingness to impose a blanket ban that would have got the job done?
What do you think might be said about cutting out the Russians who have had a positive test to their name in the past while leaving your star turn, China’s Sun Yang*, FINA world titles man of the meet, Korea’s Park Tae-hwan, and others with an asterisk to their names (NB: you get three, Julio, because you’re a very important person) in the Olympic pool?
Vladimir Morozov went on Facebook to make a parallel point today, writing directly to Maglione when he says:
“I am sure that I am a clean athlete and my name must stay clean, supported by the facts of testing throughout the years. I am sure that in a justice-driven system I have full right to take part in the Olympic Games.”
He has a point: when you are punished, the least those punishing you should do is let you know what your offence is.
Three ways of looking at it: Maglione and Co at FINA are either (feel free to tick the box you perceive as most appropriate):
- deliberately divisive
- lucky gamblers
- or, complete nincompoops
CAS will decide. Now, it could well be that the sports court, having sided with the IAAF to keep Russian track and field athletes out of Rio because the rules say that it can, may find a way of making exceptions of Russians who have tested positive even though Justin Gatlin**, with a big thumbs up from USOC, will be there making a sham of the track and field events.
It may be that the CAS finds that in response to exceptional circumstances, all who have been found wanting previously under the WADA Code will be locked out of Rio. Now that would be a great day for the Olympic Movement.
I’m not a betting man, Julio, but if I had to place a wager, I’d say that CAS will struggle to forge either of the two suggestions above out of the cauldron of chaos the IOC placed on the stove the moment it abdicated its responsibility to FINA and its peers in other sports and failed to say to Russia:
‘You have been involved in systematic doping and we cannot and will not tolerate that – come back in 2020 and show us that you’ve placed your bad habits and abuse of minors on the compost of bad practice that has no part in the Olympics nor any elite world sport in 2016.’
Is that not what you, Maglione, and FINA ought to be saying, too? Have you, Maglione, asked Vladimir Salnikov, fellow Bureau member and head of the Russian Swimming Federation, about those two EPO positives that never got reported – in contravention of the WADA Code?
I only ask because if WADA isn’t the body to look into such things, then it must be you. So, where are you with it?
Of course, it may be that it will take you some time to get to it, given that the queue of unresolved issues at FINA dates back to the days of the German Democratic Republic and State Plan 14:25.
Have you got that silver pin back yet, Julio? You know the one, the services-to-swimming award the Bureau you served gave to Lothar Kipke … for services to what? Well, monstrous abuse, as it turned out.
You honoured the GDR beyond Kipke, of course. You’ll remember at least some of these:
The FINA Eminence Prize
Kornelia Ender (GDR) – 1975 … that was the year she won two solo golds, a solo silver and two relays golds at the world championships, while Shirley Babashoff (USA) won two solo golds, a solo silver, a solo bronze and two silvers in relays behind the GDR and State Plan 14:25. Ender would later recall the little blue pills, the injections and the growing out of t-shirts in three months in her mid-teens.
Go down a peg and we have …
The FINA Prize:
Kristin Otto (GDR) – 1988, six golds at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games. On the image to the right, Julio, you’ll spot the ‘positiv’ anabolic steroid test result she returned in-house at the IOC-accredited Kreischa laboratory, that a process not to reveal the cheating inherent in State Plan 14:25 but to hide it from the world.
Where were you, Julio, when the evidence flowed like a river of blood all through the 1990s and culminated in the criminal conviction of coaches and doctors and officials for abuse of minors?
What did you do, Julio? I ask because you were right there at the top table throughout all those years in the GDR and China-crisis era. Here’s a reminder in case you’re forgotten:
- 1984: voted on to the FINA Bureau
- 1988: promoted to Vice-President
- 1992 (beyond the first very clear evidence that State Plan 14:25 fuelled the GDR success from 1973 to 1989): promoted to Honorary Treasurer.
And, then, all through the years of the China doping crisis, your journey as a career politician earning a vast wage in per diems even though your every expense is covered beyond the need for any per diem … did you, Julio, ask whatever happened to Yuan Yuan and her generation? Did you care to know if they are of good health, Julio? What can you tell the world about the health of the GDR girls long since women and the Chinese girls long since women and their offspring and the doctors who treat them? Is there anything you’d like to say to them, Julio – if so, do feel free to pen your thoughts and we promise to publish every last word you write.
- 1996, 2000, 2005-2009: returned to the treasurer’s position which you held for 17 years until…
- 2009: voted into the president’s chair on the back of a campaign in which you pledged to stay for two terms only.
That brings your tenure to a close next summer in Budapest. Or not, given that you called the troops together and told them something along these lines: ‘look, chaps, we’re all in this together and wouldn’t it make perfect sense for me to stay for a third term: all it will take is another change to the constitution I had changed in 2009 and hey presto, I’m your octogenarian leader once more even though my age rules me out of being a member of the IOC under modernising Olympic rules’.
Guess what, all you people who are ‘served’ by Maglione and Co? They bought it, USA Swimming, the lot of them. Paolo Barelli was among the only few who, for whatever reason, thought that FINA might be better off with some younger blood to steer the ship into new waters and get the organisation out of the stagnant pond and stench of inaction and inability to deal with the ghosts of the past.
So, let’s return to those honours given out during the years Maglione was a decision-maker, a leader on the FINA Bureau and a man giving the thumbs up to a Russia right there at the heart of the prevailing crisis, courtesy of a recommendation from president Vladimir Putin:
FINA Honour Plaques
- 1980 – Vitali Smirnov (URS) and Vladimir Rodichenko (URS)
For those too young to recall, the URS is the Soviet Union and this is what Putin said of Smirnov, the now 81-year-old, this past week as he recommended him to lead the ‘independent’ anti-doping commission in Russia at the start of a process of ending the bad old days:
“The question is, of course, who would head the commission? Clearly, the answer is a person with an absolutely impeccable reputation, somebody who has credibility and the respect of the Olympic family. We have a person like this in our country. It is Vitali Smirnov, Russia’s representative in the International Olympic Committee, a member since 1971. I think we should ask him to head up the commission. I hope that he will accept as a person who has devoted so many years to the Olympic movement and the development of sports in our country.”
Absolutely impeccable reputation? Well, here’s Smirnov’s record:
- IOC member from 1971-2015, now an honorary member
- First Vice-Minister of Sport of the USSR (1970-1975)
- Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation (1981-1990) among other senior positions
- Executive President of the Organising Committee of the Games of the XXII Olympiad Moscow 1980 (1975- 1981)
- USSR National Olympic Committee President (1990-1992)
- President (1992-2001) then Honorary President (2001-) of the Russian Olympic Committee.
- A player in the Olympic bids of the 1990s (St. Petersburg and Sochi in early stages) which were connected to allegations of money laundering and other olympic deals.
- Involved in a costly and failed Olympic Lottery scheme that was the subject of ligitation in Russia and Switzerland
- Cited by IOC inquiry in several olympic schemes of alleged bribery (Atlanta 1996, Salt Lake City 2002)
According to a Russian historian, Mr Smirnov was also a KGB agent. As German journalist Jens Weinreich noted so well this week, the historian, Yuri Felshtinsky, wrote in his book “The KGB plays Chess”, published in 2009:
“Vitaly Smirnov, the Vice President of the International Olympic Committee and head of the NOC of the USSR, was recruited in 1978 by the deputy head of the Fifth Directorate of the KGB, Major General Ivan Abbramov.”
So, Maglione, we press on with those FINA Honour Plaques:
- 1982 – Juan Samaranch (ESP) – IOC President and former ambassador for Spain in the Soviet Union
- 1991 – USSR Swimming Federation
And on to the Pins, gold, silver and bronze:
- Georg Zorowka (GDR) 1984; Gerhard Hecke (GDR) 1988
- Georg Zorowka (GDR) 1980; Gerhard Hecke (GDR) 1985; Lothar Kipke (GDR), 1985; Eberhard Bade (GDR), 1985; Egon Muller (GDR), 1988
A quick trawl of all pin awards 1977 to 1997 – 20 years of honour for services to aquatic sports: 210 pins handed out – 200 to men, 10 to women.
Those GDR awards were handed out during the years when State Plan 14:25 was being rolled out. Let’s remind ourselves:
The masterminds behind the plan were Manfred Ewald and Dr Manfred Hopper. At Hoeppner’s right-hand was Dr Lothar Kipke, member of the medical commission of FINA. In that capacity he bangs the anti-doping drum but back home he is one of the worst offenders in the sporting crime of the century. A former member of the Nazi party, Kipke was described in a German court in Berlin in 2000 as “the Joseph Mengele of GDR sport“. He will also be damned by Hoeppner’s hand.
“In preparation for team travel to the US, Dr Kipke forced … athletes to be given testosterone injections. Dr Kipke is brutal in giving the injections. He doesn’t consider any pain it causes to the athlete and almost rams the shringe into the body.” – Hoeppner’s notes to his Stasi liaison officer.
Hoeppner and Kipke sat at the helm of a covert network that coerced and corrupted doctors, coaches, scientists, chemists and swimmers, among others athletes. He keeps a tight ship: beyond issuing “supporting means guidelines” with specific instructions on dosages, he orders abortions:
“Should a pregnancy occur while anabolic steroids are being taken then it is recommended in all cases that an abortion is carried out.” Children born to athletes who had taken steroids are to be delivered in a Stasi clinic so that “a decision could be taken as to what to do” in the event of “complications”.
Hoeppner later got cold feet as the monster he created got out of control and coaches started to choose their own doses for their girls (and boys). Most victims were teenage girls. Carola Nitschke and Antje Stille were 13 when they were put on a steroid regime, court cases would reveal in 1999 and 2000. In his trial, Kipke adopted the role of Nazi concentration camp guard: “I was only following orders…”. There to hear him was former swimmer Martina Gottshalt, who urged her abuser to “look my 15-year-old son in the eyes and tell him you were just following orders”. Her son, Daniel, sat beside her, his clubfoot swinging under the bench.
That, Maglione, is what the FINA Bureau voted for when it granted the man a pin for his services to swimming.
Are you absolutely sure that you feel WADA to have exceeded its powers. After all, you did nothing about it yourselves; you left it to others and they filled the void.
After all, you have now spoken out on an issue beyond your jurisdiction – would you feel that an abuse of power, Julio?
No, probably not. But what you should now do is resign, step down immediately for bringing the sport of swimming into disrepute through a voting record on the Bureau that has backed the GDR, then done nothing to put that right in the intervening years even though the evidence was overwhelming, even though a court in Germany confirmed criminality, names attached, and even though you have been asked time and time and time again to reconsider the issue.
I know that because I asked you myself in 2013. “Let sleeping dogs lie,” you replied. SwimVortex and Swimming World, a petition signed by many hundreds of leading athletes, including dozens of Olympic champions, asked the FINA Press Commission to request Bureau consideration of a reconciliation ceremony for victims on both sides of State Plan 14:25. The press commission agreed unanimously to send the matter on to the Bureau.
- You, Julio, have not even had the decency to send a single word of reply back.
- You, Julio, have not even had the decency to send a single word back to Bill Sweetenham when he asked you to consider an independent review designed to improve the structures and governance of FINA in the interests of athletes
- You, Julio, have not had the decency of speaking to the coaches of the world represented to the tune of 17,500 professionals when they think something called the World Swimming Association would be a better alternative than keeping a deaf FINA alive.
- You, Julio, with those words to Sputnik, have now ridden roughshod over the rights of clean athletes to have independent oversight and inquiry of monstrous events in the world of sport in which a state stands charged with assisting (at the very least) systematic doping of athletes, some, like one of the swimmers you, FINA, have now barred from Rio 2016, as young as 14 when they tested positive for doping.
Oh, back to those prizes, forgot one:
The FINA Order:
- October 2014, on the cusp of crisis – Vladimir Putin
As FINA even having any role at all in anti-doping in the future heads to the table at the September conference of the IOC and WADA, have you ever asked yourself if you are part of the doping system as opposed to the anti-doping system, Julio? I ask only because your words to Sputnik suggest that you’d rather not have seen any inquiry at all.
If I’m wrong on that, do send me your clear view on doping with a list of all the measures you have taken to investigate the evidence unearthed by ARD, the New York Times, The Times, SwimVortex, SportIntelligence, Sport & Politics a whole raft of other media and journalists around the world; the WADA investigators; the courageous Russians who brought the woeful news to the world … and so on.
You mustn’t feel picked on, Julio. The thing is, the same questions are being put to Thomas Bach – and he’s even more important than you.
Take this from dpa, the German news agency on a day when the IOC president has been savagely lambasted by a host of leading athletes and coaches in his native country:
Discus Olympic gold medalist Robert Harting heaped massive criticism on IOC President Thomas Bach today, saying of his countryman in the wake of the IOC board’s failure to impose a blanket ban on Russia for the Rio 2016 Olympic games in response to clear evidence of state-sponsored, systematic doping and associated cover-up:
“For me he is part of the doping system, not the anti-doping system. I am ashamed of him. I have often expressed my disappointment about Thomas Bach. But this is now a new level of disappointment.”
On the IOC’s decision not to invite whisteblower Yuliya Stepanova to race in Rio, Harting said: “That’s not right. She has averted so much damage to the athletics world. Her being able to start [to race] would have been a slap in the face for Mr. Putin. Therefore, she cannot take part.”
Did you, meanwhile, Julio, ask Vladimir which coach, which doctor was responsible for Ustinova’s positive. Just that I see no adult on the list of those held to account for a 14-year-old testing positive for a banned substance – and since you’ve now removed all spent cases from the public domain, we are left with only one image for Daria K. Ustinova, now 17, then 14: cheat.
Is that fair, Julio? Or don’t you think you might have exceeded your power? CAS is about to decide.
Those dogs lie sleeping no more, Julio Maglione. They’re up, they’re hungry, they are athletes – and they have turned their gaze to you and yours and those who have spent decades in self-service, sitting on hands, asleep at the wheel as victims get run over generation after generation. Those victims are the clean athletes of the world, Maglione.
What do you have to say to them as you advocate that only the IOC leadership can deliberate on matters doping like some latter-day dictator.
Out of step again, Julio: time for independent handling and oversight of anti-doping; time for the end of autonomy and the start of independent oversight of sports governance from business to structures of leadership and accountability.
I’d like to believe you when you declare zero-tolerance on doping as your mantra. Your words speak far louder than your deeds.
Your time is up, Julio. Go in peace. But go. And now.