Over the past 13 months, the sport of Athletics has fallen into disrepute over a number of high profile doping cases and the emergence of evidence revealing systemic doping within Russia. In addition, high-ranking officials within our governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (hereinafter “IAAF”), stand accused of actively seeking to cover up doping violations and in some instances, extorting money from athletes in return for doing so.
The Athletics Canada Athletes’ Council (hereinafter the “Council”), speaking on behalf of Canadian athletes, wishes to express our full condemnation of these actions. The very heart of our sport lies in its pureness and integrity, which are now being jeopardized by the very same people who were responsible to uphold those basic principles.
With regards to the IAAF, the Council would like to applaud the reforms that are being introduced, particularly the creation of a fully independent integrity unit and the doubling of the Anti-Doping budget. Additionally, the Council supports the decisions to suspend ARAF indefinitely, as per WADA’s Independent Commission’s recommendations, and to suspend the four high-ranking officials implicated in extorting money from Liliya Shobukhova in exchange for covering up her anti-doping violation.
The future of Athletics depends on the commitment of the IAAF to implementing these reforms effectively in a manner that ensures fair and clean sport for all. Therefore, the Council believes that for the IAAF to regain trust it must continue to independently and transparently investigate the extent of all wrongdoing and to undertake the appropriate measures against any individuals involved. Given the most recent WADA report, this includes an investigation into the extent that IAAF officials knew about the corruption and bribery that took place under the tenure of former IAAF President, Lamine Diack.
At this time, the Council would also like to express our utmost gratitude to the Stepanov family, the whistleblowers who blew this case wide open. The future of anti-doping lies in the gathering of intelligence. Thus, the Council believes that sport must foster an environment that protects individuals willing to come forward with pertinent information. Having said that, the Council wants to take the opportunity to recognize the efforts made by several individuals within the IAAF who refused to sit quietly by and instead pressured top officials to act, risking their own jobs in the process.
The Council believes that athletes, and coaches, play a central role in helping to clean up our sport – athletes are in the best position to see where doping is occurring and coaches can use their positions of influence to guide an athlete’s career towards clean sport. Therefore, the Council urges all athletes and coaches to actively engage with their Anti-Doping organization and provide information of any wrongdoing. Sitting idly by, aware of any doping that may be going on, is not an option and is, in fact, destructive to our sport. To be part of the solution, report doping to WADA (see https:// www.wada-ama.org/en/report-doping/). To play their part, the Council would like to see more done by Member Federations by actively seeking out coaches with a clean record and taking more punitive action against coaches who have a history of doping related violations.
Canada is no stranger to the damage that doping can have on the sport of Athletics. For years after the Ben Johnson saga, Athletics fell by the wayside as a fringe sport in Canada, but we are now seeing our sport grow again thanks in part to a core group of athletes vying for the top spot on the podium and a strong Anti-Doping regime under the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (hereinafter “CCES”). It is worth noting that Canadian Athletics is not immune to doping, as evidenced by three positive cases in the past 12 months, but the Council remains confident that through CCES, a world leading National Anti-Doping Organization, athletes who have doped, and those who will ultimately choose to dope in the future, will be caught and will be sanctioned appropriately. Having said that, the Council remains steadfast in our stance that the culture within Athletics Canada is one of clean and fair sport. This is embodied by many of our top athletes who are role models, on and off the track. These are the types of athletes we need globally, those that can inspire the next generation to participate in Athletics and pass on these values.
The Council would also like to thank Athletics Canada for being at the forefront of calling for action in regards to doping and corruption. A strong position against doping has a trickle down effect that permeates the whole culture of Athletics, one where athletes aren’t afraid to speak out against these issues.
Based on the above mentioned, the Council calls for the following actions from the IAAF:
- Transparency with all reforms to be undertaken by the IAAF, including the ‘Roadmap’ for the reinstatement of the ARAF, as a Member Federation.
- The creation of a fully transparent governance and management system for the IAAF, including disclosure of all financial and management information through the publishing of annual audited financial statements, annual management reports, full governance policy and procedures, annual governance audits and any other information that will allow all interested parties to determine that the organisation is being managed properly, fairly and in a manner that will benefit all who are involved in IAAF affairs.
- Protection and support for all those that can provide evidence of doping, corruption and extortion.
- The promotion and empowerment of the athletes’ voice and participation within each Member Federation through policy that requires the creation of athlete councils that formally participate in the governance of each Member Federation.
Yours in sport,