IAAF official says reform efforts parried at every turn

Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:05pm EST
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - A top global athletics official said she took up her role at the international athletics body IAAF in 2011 with her "eyes wide open" about problems of doping, but found efforts to reform the organization parried at every turn.

Former Dutch pentathlete Sylvia Barlag was speaking ahead of an anti-doping agency report expected to criticize IAAF handling of a doping scandal that has shaken the sport. November's first part of the report cited a "state-sponsored culture" of doping in Russia but suggested misconduct may reach well into the IAAF.

"I felt sad and angry and now it feels as if we are waiting to be slaughtered (by Thursday’s report), but it's better that it has all come out," said Barlag who, after sharing the same track as Sebastian Coe at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, now stands shoulder to shoulder with the IAAF president in seeking radical reform to save it from the biggest crisis in the sport's history.

Barlag, who became an IAAF Council member in 2011, said several Council colleagues had expressed concerns that the world body was failing to deal with the growing issue of doping.

"I came in 2011 with my eyes wide open," Barlag told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I was warned but still surprised when I found out how frustrating it was that the questions we were trying to ask weren't producing answers.

"At one point in 2013 it was announced that there was to be no progress in terms of governance so effectively we decided we would have to wait for the next presidential election in two years."

Former president Lamine Diack, succeeded by Coe in August, and other IAAF officials are now under investigation by French police and Interpol over corruption charges. Coe's chief of staff Nick Davies has "stepped back" from the organization after a leaked email appeared to show plans to delay naming Russian dopers to avoid embarrassing the country while it hosted the 2013 world championships.

After November's first half of the Independent Commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report, Russia was banned from the sport and must act quickly to show it has reformed enough to be readmitted for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.   Continued...

A view shows the IAAF (The International Association of Athletics Federations) headquarters in Monaco November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard