Sport is dead when we don’t believe, warns Diack

Updated 16 August 2015
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Sport is dead when we don’t believe, warns Diack

BEIJING: Doping is a “scourge” and “sport is dead” if track and field fans don’t believe what they see, outgoing IAAF president Lamine Diack has warned in an interview with AFP.
Speaking ahead of the vote by the 214 member federations of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to choose either Sergei Bubka or Sebastian Coe as their new president, Diack told AFP of his admiration for Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt, but also lamented the fact that doping remained a massive issue.
“When confronted with painful issues such as doping the IAAF have always stood firm and we continue to lead the way in this global fight against cheating,” Diack insisted, with the world championships due to start on August 22 after the IAAF Congress.
“We will not let doping damage the credibility of our sport, and we will not stint in our crusade to have a clean sport, and to the extent of our investment and resolve in this respect athletics arguably leads the sports world’s fight against this scourge.
“The IAAF completely understand the importance of the credibility in competition. I have said on many occasions that when the day comes where we no longer can believe what we see then sport is dead.
“But I am convinced that the majority of athletes compete clean. We have an obligation to them to root out the cheats and make sure that it is possible to win clean.”
The IAAF has in recent weeks been at the center of allegations of widespread cheating and suspicious blood tests involving hundreds of athletes. The Monaco-based body responded by calling the claims “sensationalist and confusing.”
“Despite recent allegations, I have no doubt of the quality of the IAAF’s anti-doping work over many decades. It has been exceptional,” Diack said.
Turning to the likes of American Justin Gatlin, who has served two doping bans but is now a serious threat to Bolt in Beijing, Diack was adamant that he had the right to compete under current IAAF anti-doping rules which are fully compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“The IAAF is a member of WADA and we fight doping under that international umbrella organization. One of the responsibilities and obligations of membership and of signing up to the World Anti-Doping Code is that you adopt the same universal rules and regulations as all sports,” Diack said.
“This has historically meant athletics does not have the power to implement the harsher sanctions against cheats as many in our sport would like.
“When originally joining WADA we had to give up our right to impose four-year suspensions which went against the will of the IAAF Congress which is made up of our member federations.”
Diack, 82, was vice president back in 1999 when his Italian predecessor Primo Nebiolo passed away and the former Senegalese long jumper was suddenly promoted to president of the IAAF.
His tenure has been enlightened by the blistering performances of Bolt, the popular Jamaican showman dominating sprints since claiming treble gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Diack likened Bolt’s impact on track and field to that of American sprinter Jesse Owens, who famously won four golds at the 1936 Berlin Games which Adolph Hitler had intended to use as a backdrop for notions of an aryan master race.
“If I have to be selective then, in the period since I have been president, Usain Bolt’s outstanding performances across many competitions stand out,” he said.
“His fame has transcended athletics. In that respect he is like Jesse Owens in his era. Legends both.”
Diack will head into retirement in the knowledge that athletics has changed massively from the time he was elected vice president in 1976.
The sport has in that time been “democratized” to grow and develop the sport of athletics beyond its European and North American core, it has moved from amateur to professional status, there is complete equality in events and prize money for men and women, and international competition circuits for athletes in all the disciplines have been established.
But Diack added: “The IAAF has now consolidated its commercial stability by extending the current agreement with its marketing partners Dentsu right up until 2029.
“The long-term financial security that such a deal provides is the greatest gift I can pass on to my successor as president. It is much easier to embark on a program of change when the basics of financial security have been met.”


Algeria ready for ‘match of a lifetime’ — Guedioura

Updated 19 July 2019
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Algeria ready for ‘match of a lifetime’ — Guedioura

  • The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands

CAIRO: Algeria midfielder Adlene Guedioura says Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Senegal represents the “match of a lifetime” as his country bids to capture the title for a second time.

The Desert Foxes lifted their lone trophy on home soil in 1990 but coach Djamel Belmadi has reinvigorated a team that crashed out in the group stage two years ago and then flopped in World Cup qualifying.

“I think it’s the match of a lifetime for a lot of players in the team and for Algeria,” said Guedioura, who at 33 is the oldest member of the squad.

The Nottingham Forest journeyman has started five of six games in Egypt and insisted much of the credit for Algeria’s eye-catching performances must go to former national team midfielder Belmadi.

“He really knows the players and what he wants. The good thing is he knows how to get through to the players and how to listen,” said the 48-time international.

“If you don’t have a good cook you can’t have a good recipe. With that we realize we can be all together and it’s important to be a team.

“It’s important for Algeria because we used to have good individuals and now we feel very strong as a team and we want to achieve as a team.”

A Youcef Belaili goal earned Algeria a 1-0 victory over Senegal in the group stage, but Belmadi was quick to point out the statistics were heavily weighted in their opponents’ favor.

“Of course we can lose this match. We have an opponent that is number one in the FIFA rankings for Africa. They were at the World Cup. We were eliminated in the first round in 2017,” said Belmadi.

“If you get to the final, the aim is obviously to win it. The game in the group stage wasn’t decisive but now it is and that’s the difference.”

He added: “The most important is to stay concentrated and determined yet calm at the same time.”

Algeria will have the backing of an additional 4,800 fans for the final.

Some of them will arrive in Cairo on military planes organized by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands.

In April, long-standing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned after weekly Friday protests against his expected candidacy for elections, and football fans have been heavily involved in demonstrations.

“We know what’s happening. The people we represent have been wonderful,” said Guedioura

“It’s magnificent what is happening. We’re focused on football but we want to win the final for the people,” he added.