Play The Game Conference 2011: Bringing Change to the Heart of Sport

Column by Steven Selthoffer, Chief European Columnist

COLOGNE, Germany, October 12. THE international sport conference, Play The Game 2011, took place Oct. 3–6, 2011, at the Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln, Germany (the German Sport University). Play The Game is the biannual global initiative dedicated to promoting best-in-class sport governance, to fight corruption in sports, to address current issues in anti-doping, and to promote transparency and democracy through sports.

The conference's mandate to strengthen sport ethics and to fight corruption in sport, in combination with senior IOC executives, top anti-doping officials, sport federation personnel and the global sport press, makes it arguably one of the top three most important, sport conferences globally.

Corruption Under the Spotlight
Dick Pound, IOC member and WADA founding President stated in his opening address that one "cannot help but notice, that the overwhelming majority of the international federations gathered under the Olympic umbrella have not grappled with the problem of corruption with any meaningful degree of success."

The blunt statement was also applicable to FINA. Not excluding the fact, that in the Fran Crippen case Pound pointed out that FINA has not handed over all the documents requested under his independent investigation.

Pound also mentioned the IOC's meeting earlier in the year to deal with corruption in sports that was disappointing. "It focused on the wrong issue, namely betting in sport."

Pound explained how the IOC failed to tackle the subject of corruption during the meeting and instead used the issue as an opportunity to explore new revenue possibilities for the IOC as an avenue to make more money. Pound stated, "The most disappointing aspect for me about the IOC initiative was the response of many of the sports officials involved. Instead of focusing upon the problem of corruption, many of them saw the meeting as an opportunity to advance the proposition that because betting agencies have a profitable business in relation to sports, the betting agencies should share those revenues with the sports organizations."

During one session, one expert said there is mounting evidence that Asian betting and gambling syndicates may be affecting even swimming and other aquatic sports.

FINA Problems Continue…
Nikki Dryden, CAN, a human rights attorney based in New York, said the governing body of aquatic sports, FINA, is getting richer and richer while becoming less unaccountable, combined with demonstrating misplaced financial priorities.

Dryden explained from documents that "FINA has 22 full-time staff, and its administrative budget for 2008 was $3.3 million." That averages $150,000 USD per person for secretaries, office assistants, coffee and potted plants. "These revenues are not being reflected in its funding for development programs and provision of prize money (for the athletes)."

Dryden also emphasized that "In 2005, FINA ended the year with excess funds of $9 million USD, but spent just $300,000 USD on development programs."

She also said she would like to see swimmers and athletes representatives "coming out against being used as a commodity," instead of conforming to the system.

Anti-Doping, WADA and the Current Problems
WADA and other anti-doping efforts were front burner issues, with WADA Legal Director, Oliver Niggli, present along with other WADA dignitaries and experts.

Addressing the audience, Niggli explained, "Many obstacles remain in the testing procedures, not least is the fact that scientists are increasingly reluctant to be placed in a position where their testing procedures are challenged in court."

However, that is due in part to the prosecution of Claudia Pechstein and the use of indirect evidence of doping, namely the use of blood values alone in the prosecution of athletes and the incident in Hamar, NOR, between the ice rink, doping control and the Lausanne lab. To this day, emails from Dr. Klaas Faber, Ph.D., (on her defense team) to the Lausanne lab regarding the calculation of the value of the indirect evidence of doping and the communication forensics of what occurred are not known. As Dr. Roland Augustin, former CEO, NADA, stated, "The only thing standing between indirect evidence of doping and all hell breaking loose against the athletes was Claudia Pechstein."

On the same day of WADA, Legal Director, Oliver Niggli's remarks and my Pechstein presentation, Blood on Their Hands: How Statistical Modeling is Threatening Athletes Everywhere, concerning the statistics used in anti-doping and their reporting, WADA issued a press release that morning, Oct. 5, 2011, entitled, "WADA Makes Changes to Enhance Reporting of Anti-Doping Statistics."

The press release stated, "WADA has introduced changes… that will improve the Agency's annual reporting of statistics in 2012 and beyond. The changes… will have a positive impact on the operations of all Anti-doping Organizations." Fine. All good. All necessary in efforts to improve the reporting of statistics employed and the results obtained in anti-doping.

However, it was the second significant press release coincidence related to the Pechstein case.

The first came only one week after the Pechstein CAS Award was published, Nov. 25, 2009. On Dec. 2, WADA announced the approved WADA operating guidelines seven days after the judgment, meaning that Pechstein would still have skated under these guidelines, making the case against her virtually null and void.

Pound summarized his remarks about WADA by stating, "The danger is that WADA may sink into oblivion amongst hundreds and thousands of international organizations, which meet infrequently to talk around the problems and do nothing."

The problems with anti-doping, didn't end there…

Hajo Seppelt, investigative sport journalist, ARD television, discussed a detailed questionnaire that he sent off to dozens of international sport federations regarding "how many samples they were taking from their athletes, and what they were doing with these samples."

The federations included the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF); the International Cycling Union, (UCI); FIFA, the world's governing body for football; the International Skating Union (ISU); and FINA, the governing body for aquatic sports.

Seppelt raised his eyebrows when asked about the results. He stood, shook his head then stated his concerns from the front of the auditorium during and after the presentations.

Speaking purposefully, Seppelt said, "Many (federations) did not fully answer questions related to what types of blood samples that were taken, and which tests were carried out (on the athletes). FINA's reply was very superficial, and very little usable information was provided by the UCI."

Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, General Secretary of the German Basketball Players' Association, told Play the Game that he supported an effective anti-doping system as long as it respected the rights of athletes.

"Sportsmen and women are generally willing to accept some infringements to their rights," he said, "if they helped prove that the athletes and their sport were clean. But if the system is ineffective, invasive and stressful, athletes would be reluctant to participate."

A study undertaken by his organization found that the testing and reporting system across the European continent was "a mess."

"We need to take a hard look at out-of-competition testing and in-competition testing and see how effective it really is," stated Hoffmann in his closing remarks.

Tech-Doping
The presentation Performance Enhancing Due to Technical Aides, by Prof. Gen-Peter Brüggermann, Director, Technical Institute, Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln, gave scientific evidence regarding carbon prosthetics, specifically in running. His scientific work showed that someone (for instance, 400m runner Oscar Pretorius', RSA, bid to run with able bodied athletes in the World Championships and Olympics) was not comparable in the muscle groups, with energy consumption/use and with the bio-mechanical action of running. "It amounts to springing, and not running." The evidence he presented was conclusive.

Also, mentioned in the session was the danger of "tech doping" in swimming with the neck-to-ankle tech suits that were banned by FINA last year. Many actively fought their introduction and use, eventually, triumphing over FINA and the manufacturers, resulting in the suits being banned from the sport 22 months later with the implementation of independent testing for any new suits for rule compliance.

More About the Conference
The Deutsche Sporthochscule is the largest sport university in Europe, led by Rector and professor, Walter Tokarski, who hosted the event. The university has more than 5,200 students enrolled in 19 different scientific institutes (including one for media and communication research), located on a campus with facilities for 30 different sports.

The conference was run by Director, Jens Sejer Andersen, Play The Game, Denmark, in cooperation with the Danish Institute of Sport.

Andersen comes across as a pleasant and likeable sport manager, with a disarming and engaging personality. However, it masks an underlying keen sense of mission and purpose to establish first-class sport governance practices in all sport federations and to eliminate corruption in sports- anywhere in the world, no matter how severe the challenges. That includes tackling the $500 billion USD Asian gambling industry and their betting syndicates, the 15,000 illegal gambling sites in Europe, match fixing, Eastern European and African financial corruption, illegal (PED) drugs and other issues threatening athletes and sports. Andersen and his team have a sober understanding of the fight they have undertaken and monitor the real and present dangers to athletes and sports on every continent.

The conference is not known for its numerical size, but, for creating an intimate atmosphere where the IOC, WADA, sport federation executives and sport journalists can discuss corruption issues and strategies in confidence over the course of the days.

I was invited to attend to give two presentations, one on the Claudia Pechstein, GER, case and the other on the Jason Lezak, USA, disqualification at the Paris Open 2007. Swimming World was recognized for its fight to establish and implement excellence in sport governance and for its long-term commitment to anti-doping over the years.

I also authored, Blood on Their Hands: How Statistical Modeling is Threatening Athletes Everywhere, among other articles. The first presentation exposed the anti-doping statistical and operational irregularities in the Claudia Pechstein, GER, case. I stated on record, that Pechstein was innocent, now recognized by the anti-doping authorities, experts, sport federations and NADOs. Pechstein was the nine-time, Olympic medallist, and five-time, Olympic gold medallist in speed skating who was falsely accused of doping because her reticulyte count (RET%) was 1.05% over an arbitrary limit, done by a non-accredited lab.

The second presentation was given on the final day entitled, From Corruption to Triumph: The Jason Lezak, USA, DSQ in the Paris Open 2007 and the Subsequent Triumph in the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The Lezak disqualification in Paris in the semifinals of the men's 100m freestyle, one year before Beijing 2008, is widely recognized as one of the most blatantly anti-American and most corrupt disqualifications in LEN and FINA history.

Complicating matters, the free-to-air broadcast video footage on French television channel TV5 was ordered concealed by LEN officials and still unavailable to view. Mike Bottom, Head Coach, University of Michigan believes that betting was possibly involved. "There could have been bets on the race, and somebody somewhere was making money. The DQ was discriminant (taking out Lezak). I think the race was bet on and they wanted Lezak out."

It is still an open issue in LEN and FINA, with coaches and others calling for an investigation into the incident and the prosecution of the officials.

Speakers the first day included Richard (Dick) W. Pound, IOC Member and WADA founding President; William Gaillard, Senior Advisor to UEFA President; Mario Goijman, Former President, Argentine Volleyball Association; Declan Hill, CAN, journalist; Nikki Dryden, attorney, CAN; and Doris Peck, Member European Parliament.

The Cologne Consensus: A Call For Action
At the end of the conference, the Play The Game delegates, stakeholders and experts called on the International Olympic Committee to organize a world conference before 2013, to draft a code for international standards for sports governance, now known as the "Cologne Consensus." The Code must deal with the issues threatening the credibility of sport including corruption, bad governance, match fixing, illegal drugs, betting, and organized crime.

The Cologne Consensus states, "The fundamental integrity and credibility of the sports movement is at stake, and this is weakening the role of sport as a positive force in society. Existing principles, mechanisms and institutions to enhance good governance and counter corruption have proved inadequate."

The unanimous Consensus was taken to move the debate forward and to force the leading sport governing bodies to take action. More initiatives to fight corruption will be announced at later dates.

For more information about Play The Game, and to read the Cologne Consensus in its entirety please go to: PlayTheGame.org

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