Q&A Interview on Russian Doping, Sport Cartels And The “Family” Of Governing Bodies

sport cartels

By Steven V. Selthoffer. Chief European Columnist Swimming World Magazine

Stuttgart, GER– The earthquakes and tremors continue to reverberate from the revelations from the ARD/WDR documentary “Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia produces its Winners,” by Hajo Seppelt. The documentary and transcripts has sent the IOC, WADA, IAAF, the Russian NOC and other international sport federations into their Situation Rooms to manage damage control.

Below is an insightful interview with Thomas Kistner, Sport Director for the award-winning, German newspaper, Süddeutschen Zeitung.

Kistner’s strategic focus is sports governance. He is one of the leaders fighting doping and corruption in sports. Kistner was awarded the “Sport Journalist of the Year” in 2006 and has been awarded the Theodor-Wolff-Prize for Excellence for the article “Spritzensport Fußball”/Doping-Sport Soccer.” Kistner is well known in the halls of the IOC, FIFA, DFB and other sport federations. He is one of the leading journalist who has exposed the corruption in FIFA along with Andrew Jennings UK, Jens Weinreich GER and others.

SW: Thank you for taking the time to be with us today. What are you first initial reactions regarding documentary by Hajo?
Kistner: What the documentary shows is how politics, sports, medicine, lab officials and anti-doping officials form a… cartel, they act like mafia, literally. They like to call themselves “a family.” You hear it many times at the large sport conferences. And there is this unspoken rule of omerta. No one will turn the others in. They constantly emphasize “family” to protect themselves.

SW: You saw the Russian athletes and their statements and revelations. Your comments?
Kistner: What the documentary shows is not new. We knew about much of it for a long time. We just couldn’t say it. Why? We couldn’t get the evidence. We saw the traces of these things, indications… we had information… here and there, but, this shows how well connected the entire doping systems are, how integrated and how far over the “borders” (trans: the line of criminality and illegal doping) and how deep the doping systems go.

SW: What concerns you the most?
Kistner: This program finally shows what we have been wanting to say for a long time. But, we couldn’t.

Everyone has to face it. The WADA anti-doping labs were under suspicion, but, we couldn’t say that. Now we can. As long as there is no proof, you can’t write it.

What is so deceitful about this whole issue is here you have anti-doping officials, anti-doping experts that WADA works with, who are playing both sides of the issue. They are like double agents. They are anti-doping experts and representatives at the highest levels. Then they go back to their countries and sell their information to the federations and athletes.

Take for instant the doping tests. Everything about them is explained to the national anti-doping officials, NADOs and labs. The new tests are not threatening to the corrupt officials or doped athletes. Do you want to know why? When there are new doping tests, when things change, it makes these corrupt anti-doping officials even more valuable to the countries they are from and to the coaches and athletes.

SW: Explain why? And what does this mean for everyone else?
Kistner: Because then they can charge higher prices for the latest information they have. The new anti-doping tests only made these people (richer) and more valuable. Their attitude among the sport federations and athletes is like this, “We have everything under control.” And they do.

This is the new perspective we have to deal with in anti-doping. This is the environment we have to face clearly and operate in, in order to defeat doping in sports. This is reality. You have to deal with the truth of what it is really like. You can’t ignore these things.

SW: Explain how they get their information.
Kistner: We have all of these pharmaceutical companies, very large corporations, universities, numerous laboratories around the world. The information is easily accessible to anyone. They (pharmaceutical companies) are doing good work worldwide, helping humanity in so many different ways to go beyond (human) barriers. They are making better medicines and substances for better health to improve lives medically.

For every scientific advance to help individuals, other people, you have another group trying to use that knowledge, that medicine, that procedure for illicit means in sport, to give them an edge, to increase their performance. Those sport functionaries in Hajo’s documentary, those doping managers are trolling the internet, constantly looking for something new, an advantage.

The problem is- we can’t control it.

SW: How important a role does money play in sports now with richer athletes? How do we fight the money?
Kistner: Only the stupid guys are getting caught. The poor ones. In the documentary it made it clear. If you have more money, you can get things they have not tested for. And they will make everything OK. The more money paid and you will have top science behind you to get new things, new substances, they don’t have tests for. If you don’t have the money, you’re only going to get caught. They can tell you how to mask and hide the substances, how long it stays in the body so you won’t fail an in-competition doping test in the morning. Take for instance the Tour de France. The riders would take it at night. Then, they were clean in the morning.

In general, the way to fight this is at the athlete level. Whether to do it or not. Even with all the effort we have put into anti-doping education, it’s not enough. We have to do more. What happens now is there is still pressure on the athletes in these countries. They are saying to them, “Everyone else is doing it.” So, you the athlete, think you have to do it too. That’s where the decision is made. You’re convinced they (other athletes) are doping.

We have to face reality. We have to fight this in every country. Constantly.

Take for instance Jan Ulrich, Team Telekom, cyclist. In every interview he ever did, he never said he doped. In response to every question on doping he said, “I never cheated.” That is an important distinction. Because, he thought everyone else was doing the same thing as he did. So, he wasn’t “cheating” from his point of view.

SW: And what about the labs? The anti-doping officials? The politicians?
Kistner: This is the worst thing to deal with! This systematic and coordinated doping with these anti-doping experts involved, the sport federation officials, the politicians, the compromised anti-doping labs, the coaches, managers and athletes… this is the absolute worst! It’s a whole industry, a business and we have to realize that.

These people break every rule. They break every ethic, not only in sport, but, in human life as well.

These sport functionaries… I mean look at the doctors involved. This all goes to the top.

SW: How important is sports governance to this problem?
Kistner: The main problem we have with sports is the autonomy. International sport federations think they are special. They are up in Switzerland. There are no external controls on them.

WADA has no independent control. Look at the ridiculous selection of CAS judges. They’re lawyers and CAS judges and they virtually make their own laws, their own CAS decisions. Some decisions go one way, some the other way. This is all part of the problem.

The lack of independent oversight at all levels. They think they have it, but, they don’t. There is no independent investigative process.

SW: We know about that well at Swimming World. We have been calling for an independent investigation into a number of issues with WADA and certain international federations.
Kistner: Yes. Absolutely. Anti-doping is an industry now. So is the systematic doping. It all has to be stopped. We must have an independent investigation process. We must give governmental authorities the power to investigate these things. Sport cannot remain outside the control of society. This has to be stopped.

SW: Thank you for your time Mr. Kistner. We appreciate you taking the time to speak with us, and sharing your thoughts.
Kistner: Thank you. Good talking with you.

For more information please go to: www.SDZ.de

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