John Treacy: Russia beyond repair to compete in Rio

John Treacy believes there is no way that Russia can clean up its house after the recent doping scandal that engulfed its athletics body in time for the Olympic Games and has called on the IAAF to be “courageous” in deciding whether they should be allowed compete in Brazil.

David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), revealed yesterday that Treacy has contacted him in the past to ask about sanctions for suspected rogue states, but Ireland’s 1984 Olympic silver medallist was still left shocked at the extent of the Russian doping revelations.

Accusations of state-supported, systematic doping revealed a problem far greater and more entrenched than even the greatest sceptics imagined. Treacy has insisted that the time has come for sporting bodies to prioritise those athletes who will seek to compete clean in Rio de Janeiro.

“The IAAF have to be courageous,” the Sport Ireland chief executive said yesterday. “We are here now in April and you would be asking how a country could be compliant in two months. I know what you would have to put in place: a lab, a good anti-doping programme, rules, and regulations.

“You would need people out on the roads testing athletes that are au fait with this and testing them at the right times. It would take at least about two years to put that system in place and I just can’t see how they could do it in that short period of time.”

The spotlight has shone on other countries besides Russia. Kenya, for example, which has thrown up 10s of doping violation cases in recent years and has been struggling to enact anti-doping legislation in its parliament in time to satisfy WADA deadlines for Rio.

It is Treacy’s belief that all countries participating in the Games “should have good doping systems in place ,so the athletes are fully compliant” and that the least to be expected is that those with less than robust anti-doping regimes should be seen to be at least moving in the right direction.

Ireland has few concerns in that regard. Howman was liberal with his praise for Treacy’s and Sport Ireland’s efforts in the field of anti-doping at the publication of the body’s annual report yesterday, one which confirmed only two positive tests and sanctions for banned substances in 2015.

One was a 15-month ban for a finding of benzoylecgonine, which is a metabolite of cocaine, by amateur touring car driver Thomas Hayden. The other was a two-year sanction for a fringe member of the Monaghan senior Gaelic football panel who was banned for the use of the steroid Stanozolol.

A third case, for a finding of benzoylecgonine, is pending.

Sport Ireland conducted 1,028 tests in the last calendar year, three-quarters of them out-of-competition. Cases of whereabouts failures dropped by 80% and unsuccessful attempts in team sports by 20%. Blood testing increased by 5%.

Both Treacy and Dr Una May, Sport Ireland’s director of ethics and participation, suggested that Ireland’s small size and population, as well as the anti-doping programme in operation here, acted as effective deterrents to wannabe drug cheats.

The same can’t be said elsewhere, with question marks over athletes and countries as disparate as Russia, Kenya, and Ethiopia being followed last weekend by The Sunday Times report on alleged doping offences by some unnamed elite athletes in the UK.

Howman was reluctant to discuss The Sunday Times case specifically, but the question of greater deterrents for those who assist in doping offences, and not just those athletes found guilty of taking banned substances, is a hot topic.

Minister of State for Sport and Tourism Michael Ring told Howman yesterday that “we’re too lenient” with doping offenders and said they should be banned for “many years” but many believe it will take the criminalisation of doping in sport by governments to really tackle the issue.

“That’s not there at the moment and that would be a matter for government itself and law enforcement people if they wanted to go down that route,” said Treacy. “I said last year that it could be something that could examined.”

Italy has long had laws on the statute books to prosecute people guilty of involvement in doping in sport and Germany followed suit last December with something similar, but Howman repeated WADA’S plea that guilty athletes not be handed custodial sentences.

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