(Originally written on December 23, 2015, edited on January 1, 2016)
Updated January 3, 2016, for punctuation and clarification.
When I started our athletics magazine, American Athletics, in 1989, with my ex-wife, Christine, we were deathly concerned with insuring that the quality of magazine showed respect for the sport. Trying to launch a track and field magazine is not the brightest way to make a living in media. It took years to build up some credibility in the sport. Many thought we were well meaning, but, well, just north of insane.
Twenty-five years later, I am still at it. I am not sure it is any easier now.
With the current scandals, and the upcoming disclosures from WADA, the timing could not be worse to be in athletics media.
Right now, I am not sure how to react.
In a copyrighted article in the Guardian, written by Sean Ingle, on December 21, http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/dec/21/sebastian-coe-aide-leaked-emails-russia-doping-scandal, a leaked email, shown by Le Monde, provided excerpts of an email from Nick Davies to Pappa Diack, son of Lamine Diack, about some of the Russian doping issues prior to the Moscow World Champs.
I read the excerpts of the email, and was not curious at all about the stories that have come out on the emails. Most reponses to the email suggest that Mr. Davies was trying to hide results.
In fact, Mr. Davies was, however ill-advised, actually doing the job he was hired to do: protect the reputation of the sport under the current leadership.
The job of Nick Davies was to represent the IAAF in the best light possible. It was, and is, a thankless job. I have personally watched Mr. Davies put up with indignities from those who should have known better, that no one should ever have to tolerate. Nick Davies, however, believed in the higher cause of the sport.
I have also personally engaged in discussions with Mr. Davies on several occassions, about cleaning up our sport. Nick was, and is a person who realizes that he has had to work with constraints of the organization.
Sometimes, we all get too close to a situation. My former boss at Runners' World, Derek Clayton, would more than gently remind me that I needed to be careful to get too emotionally involved. In his charming Australian patois, I can see Derek say: " You act as if you have blinders on."
I am still guilty of that weakness.
I am sure all of us have been guilty of such transgressions.
The stories of Pappa Diack were rumored only at the highest levels of the sport. My guess is that few knew how depraved the extortion had become. But, that is the nature of cheating. That is the nature of lying.
Rumors of drug positives, even more than rumors, can not be acted on without following the protocals. One of the most expensive parts of doping control is the legal costs in defending them. In light of that information, Nick Davies comments should probably be seen as someone who: a) is speaking to the son of the President of the IAAF, a marketing consultant of IAAF, b) who is trying to keep Russian drug positives (which no one knows where they were in the drug positive protocals) out of Moscow 2013.
Anyone who observed the Moscow World Champs knows that there were challenges in the basic production and management of the meet. There always are crisis in World Championships.
Managing public relations? Managing damage control? What sport or business does not do that?
The feeding frenzy continues. After WADA's Independent report, part one, the IAAF was shown as a global federation which did not have checks and balances between the leadership and the federation.
Let me provide a bit of history.
Primo Nebiolo took the IAAF into the modern sportsworld. Under Nebiolo, the IAAF, like FIFA, has become a fiefdom. While Dr. Nebiolo was no saint, he did bring the sport of athletics into the modern world. Nebiolo, like President Samaranch of the IOC, did not appreciate the scourge that doping was becoming.
Under Lamine Diack, the fiefdom became even more entrenched. The process in naming and leaking drug positives by various personalities was part of the stench that began to overcome the sport. When Lamine Diack went off speech, which happened often in the past five or six years, it was Nick Davies trying to make some sense out of the last garbled hour with Diack, so that the media could actually cover the sport.
There were many suspicions on Pappa Diack over the years, but rumors and suspicions come about in every organization. ARD-TV did a fine job in showing Pappa Diack for what he has become over the years. Using the power of his father, Pappa Diack has laid waste to the good name of the sport of athletics. But, he must have had support.
The sport really became one of the haves and have nots. Money, first class flights, per diems became what it was all about for some. Most, however, timed meets, worked cross country events, produced great events, making an honest living at a sport becoming more and more dirty.
Pappa Diack has been accused of providing some athletes with a way to avoid doping punishments by adding millions of U.S. Dollars to Mr. Diack's or his company's bank accounts. While Pappa Diack seems to have added to his companies or his own personal bank accounts, even the rumor of the extortion of athletes has battered the sport.
Many sources cite Pappa Diack as the one who released the emails from Nick Davies. Pappa Diack is apparently in Senegal, and he will not go back to France willingly. One can wonder how the government of Senegal would not provide Pappa Diack back to France, as the accusations directed at Pappa Diack and his father are including Senegal's reputation in the mix.
One observer noted to me that Pappa Diack has begun what is called the "Scorched Earth" response. The "Scorched Earth" response was first used to describe what the old Soviet Union did, in the face of the Axis forces' invasion of Russia. Nothing was left standing: water was poisoned, wheat was burnt, food was taken.
Pappa Diack will strike out at anything and everything that he thinks he can injure. The release of the Nick Davies email, no matter if it was ill advised, has taken the focus off what the Diack family has done to destroy the IAAF, under their leadership.
Recently, the French authorities revised the charges against Lamine Diack from passive corruption to a more active set of charges. Surely, this is about reaching out and touching, so to speak, Pappa Diack.
I can not fathom what January 14 will bring.
On January 14, the second part of the WADA report is going to cast the IAAF into an even more sadder light.
My worry is this: in the race to clean up the sport, in the race to place blame, how many will be needlessly injured through loosing livelihoods and reputations?
I used to hate watching the unemployment figures on the news. I remember being fired twice in one year, and starting up a business the very next day. The ten years it took to return to some type of financial stability was one of the longest and most painful times of my life. It was also one of the most wonderful times of my life, as I learnt how deep the love of our families were, and what was truly important.
I always keep that time period in my mind and heart when I write. I understand how damaging words can be, and how the pain never leaves those involved.
A certian Russian despot was quoted as saying: "One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic."
In the upcoming media frenzy, of which I will be a part, I am trying to understand how to stay a critical observer, instead of as a cynical observer.
I believe that it will be very, very difficult.