Nick Butler

A BBC “News at Ten” broadcast last Wednesday (June 3) in Britain must have created some sort of broadcasting history.

After opening with a lengthy feature on the BBC’s own investigation into the alleged doping of former Olympic gold medal winning sprinter Allan Wells, and Mo Farah's coach  Alberto Salazar, attention returned to FIFA and the latest escalation in the sordid mass of scandal so engulfing the football governing body.

We were 16 or so minutes into a 25 minute broadcast and sport, or sporting scandals to be truly accurate, had constituted the entire programme. Even the satirical news quiz Have I Got News For You diverted much of an episode last week to discussing FIFA, recruiting former England captain and Barcelona striker Gary Lineker to the guest presenter role to add substance.

In other parts of the world these issues have made far less of an impact, but as the Olympic Movement assembles here for tomorrow’s Winter Olympic Candidate City Briefing, FIFA and SportAccord are surely two of the most muttered words reverberatng throughout Lausanne's many restaurants and hotel lobbies.

Rather than trying to defend FIFA in any way, most people are admitting that levels of corruption there are remarkable in comparison to that seen virtually anywhere else.

Yet at the same time, it is expected that fresh questions will now be asked of many other bodies, particularly those International Federations which reveal virtually no details about finances, salaries and expenditure.

He may not have been here for his own Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) meeting two days ago due to his “exceptional absence” to attend the Champions League final - and, one would presume, accompanying meetings - in Berlin. But the consensus appears very much that Kuwait’s sporting kingmaker and newly appointed FIFA Executive Committee member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah may be best placed to ultimately take over.

Future ambitions of Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah is one leading topic of conversation at the IOC meeting in Lausanne ©Getty Images
The future ambitions of Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah is one leading topic of conversation at the IOC meeting in Lausanne ©Getty Images

SportAccord’s future following the resignation of Marius Vizer last week appears bleaker even than FIFA's. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) yesterday hammered another large nail into the organisation's future when it “suspended its recognition” of SportAccord a largely symbolic step as they were not a member anyway, and withdrew its funding.

IOC director of communications Mark Adams attempted to give the impression the body was a simple pander to the prevailing whims of the Federations, but it is hard to take this at face value. The conflict between Vizer and IOC head Thomas Bach has shown a different, more ruthless side to Bach, although the sheer belligerence of Vizer, shown again last week in a remarkable letter to Bach’s-ally in the Federations, Francesco Ricci Bitti, does partly provoke such a reaction.

It may be indirect and behind-the-scenes, but it is clear the IOC will play a strong role in shaping the next SportAccord President, and how much scope and influence the body - which seeks to represent 58 non-Olympic sports as well as the 35 Olympic ones, lest we forget - will be permitted in the future.

But doping, the issue which took up the first chunk of that BBC news broadcast, has occupied rather less time on the agenda. A World Anti-Doping Agency report was on yesterday’s IOC Executive Board agenda here but, according to Adams, neither the latest reports nor the claims about the Russian athletics team last December were mentioned.

Except for the document appearing to show how United States' top distance runner and London 2012 10,000 metres  silver medallist Galen Rupp was using testosterone at the age of 16 when still at high school, there was not too much absolute or concrete evidence in the BBC report. But the testimonies and circumstantial suggestions were pretty damning and, like with FIFA, it could prove just the start of a conveyor belt of damaging evidence.

The latest BBC allegations pose questions of Galen Rupp (left) and Alberto Salazar (centre), but also by association, Mo Farah ©Getty Images
The latest BBC allegations pose questions of Galen Rupp (left) and Alberto Salazar (centre), but also by association, Mo Farah ©Getty Images

What has shocked me most was a subsequent statement, sent by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to Sports Integrity Initiative, daring to blame journalists for supposedly “undermining” the investigation.

“There have been allegations against the Salazar group for at least two years now and the IAAF has remained consistent in stating that it will never deny or confirm that it was undertaking an investigation into allegation of doping by athletes or supporting personnel,” it was claimed.

“By confirming that an investigation is going on before it is complete is risking the efficiency of said investigation by tipping off those being investigated. The IAAF shares the USADA [US Anti-Doping Agency] point of view that attempts to sensationalise and publicise what are confidential and process-driven inquiries can end up ruining a lot of careful, painstaking work to uncover doping practices in sport.”

What a load of drivel.

History has proved that if catching high profile dopers is left to organisations like the IAAF, then virtually nothing will ever come out. All the scandals to have emerged over recent decades, including the one involving Dwain Chambers uncovered by my own editor, Duncan Mackay, have broken due to the painstaking research of journalists. It is often said that the Ben Johnson story, arguably the biggest of them, only made the public eye due to a mistake from an IAAF spokesperson who divulged from the party line and failed to deny the reports.

Certainly with Lance Armstrong, it was the work of journalists like David Walsh and Paul Kimmage - shown below in an infamous press conference showdown in 2009 - to provoke US authorities into acting. This unexpected alliance between the Anglo-Irish hacks and US law has been seen again with regard to FIFA, where the likes of Andrew Jennings and the Sunday Times have played a key role in paving the groundwork for the FBI to swoop.

I may be one myself, and therefore subject to bias, but it is clear that sporting scandals show the vital nature of impartial journalism, and it is only by continuing such work that a myriad of as-of-yet uncovered scandals will emerge.

Recent remarks from Sebastian Coe, the favoured candidate in the race for the IAAF Presidency, have also been surprising. After bringing out the customary claim that athletics is “not the only sport” with doping problems, he claimed there are “other challenges out there far more profound than one facet” when asked if doping was the biggest challenge for the governing body.

Today, Coe is quoted defending his “friend” Alberto Salazar, insisting the American coach of Rupp and Britain’s double Olympic champion Mo Farah should be allowed to defend himself before being presumed of guilt.

I realise anti-doping might not be the biggest vote-winner in IAAF circles, and Coe must embrace every voting-member as well as just the Western world, but for me he is on very dangerous ground here, particularly if rumours about his "friend" Salazar’s behaviour when he was an athlete turn out to be true.

And athletics right now is clearly in a horrendous position. Its reputation is probably worse than that of even cycling, particularly so given the success of athletes like Justin Gatlin, like Salazar a Nike-sponsored athlete, so far this season.

More about the latest doping scandal will surely emerge over coming days, just like more will emerge with regard to FIFA and SportAccord.

But the last two weeks have been utterly remarkable, and surely all pillars of the sports world, including the IOC, should work together to find urgent remedies.

Because, absurd as it seems, it won't take too many more news broadcasts devoted entirely to sporting shame to derail modern sport and its administrators once and for all.