Date: 17 Aug 2015, Science, Technology and Culture
Question setter: Mettletest Panellist

IAAF - Doping in Athletics

By the end of September 2015, will the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have publicly declared a change in its methods or strategy to prevent drugs cheating?


Answer: Yes
Confidence level: 60%
Mean confidence level (all requests): 33.20%

The continuing adverse media commentary about the IAAF's handling of doping will be an irresistible pressure for change. This will probably be only minor, as resources in athletics are too small to ramp up compliance oversight. Lord Coe, favourite to win the presidency of the IAAF, has promised to put all drug-testing into the hands of an independent body, presumably so any sanctions can come from them. This may be the only real change and it is not clear that it will make a great difference to eliminating cheating. Other changes could include longer, maybe lifetime, bans or country bans for multiple national cheats. These are unlikely, as there is little will to impose such complex solutions. Commentators also express fatalism that the science of discovery will always lag the science of cheating. One has to hope that the delayed disqualifications, resulting from better techniques testing old samples, will discourage doping but the immediate desire to win is often stronger. Combined with the corrupt attitudes fostered by some countries, effective new strategies will be very hard to implement.

Outcome: No
Score: -60
Mean score (all respondents): -1.20

Expert opinion:

Answer: No

Selected Expert Answer from Derek Wyatt:
The IAAF is not a wealthy organisation. It does not have the clout which F1, golf or tennis have. After forty years in London it ran away to Monaco in 1993 because frankly it did not like our laws.

The IAAF has been indifferently managed since its exodus from the gaze of our smarter journalists. You would struggle to name its President or CEO. Meanwhile, the IOC closed its labs at the LA Olympics because so many athletes were testing negative. In the Seoul Olympics four years later Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal in the 100m.

We should not be too surprised therefore about the latest alleged blood doping incidents in the sport. These should be considered alongside - indeed they happened at the same time - those relating to Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France.

Lamine Diack, a genial Senegalese, is the current President of the IAAF, but he retires shortly. Seb Coe or Sergei Bubka will be crowned king. They will say that the sport needs a shot in the arm. But this is unlikely because of the costs. It will be left to another disappointing organisation called WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) to fill the breach. But quite where has it been this past decade?

For these reasons I doubt if the IAAF will have had a new drugs testing protocol in position by the end of September.

Answer: Yes

Selected Expert Answer from Mettletest Panellist:
The election of the new president of the IAAF takes place on 119th August and the new incumbent is bound to want to begin his term with a clear indication of reform. This may be minor while being backed by another robust restatement of the improvements in the science of sample testing and the extension to 10 years in the sport's statute of limitations. Success in identifying 28 further suspects has recently been announced and medals could be reallocated.
The IAAF has too few resources, £40m pa, to institute really large changes. It relies partly on countries' own anti-doping regimes to weed out abuse and there is no doubt several countries are complicit in cheating.
There are 3 major reforms the IAAF could propose:
1. Criminalising doping - difficult given different national attitudes
2. Forcing athletes to publish all their own test data for transparency - raises ethical questions about medical records and does not add to the sum of IAAF's own knowledge
3. Ban entire countries if their athletes continue to cheat - would receive limited support and create invidious decisions between censuring individuals and their sponsors
More likely is that longer individual bans will be implemented, including life bans for repeat cheats. I expect something of the sort before September is out.

Outcome: No

Comment on outcome from Mettletest Panellist:
As expected no great new regulations our resources have yet been initiated. Nevertheless, there has been a major effort to be seen to be enforcing the current rules with the revisiting of old cases and due sanctions imposed..Better monitoring is also claimed. It has not been enough to satisfy the doubters or stem the rumors and innuendo.