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

Updated 16 August 2015

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.”


Injured Serena withdraws from French Open; Nadal cruises

Updated 01 October 2020

Injured Serena withdraws from French Open; Nadal cruises

  • The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match

PARIS: Serena Williams suffered another blow in her bid for a 24th Grand Slam title as the American withdrew from the French Open on Wednesday with an Achilles injury, while 12-time champion Rafael Nadal raced into the third round.

The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match against Tsvetana Pironkova citing the injury that prompted her to skip the Rome tuneup event.

“The Achilles didn't have enough time to heal after the US Open,” said Williams, who admitted last week she was not fully fit after her run to the semifinals in New York.

“I'm struggling to walk, so that's kind of a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”

The injury likely means she will miss the rest of 2020, leaving the Australian Open in 2021 as her next chance to equal Margaret Court's all-time majors record.

Nadal looked in ominous form as he stepped up his pursuit of Roger Federer's 20 major titles with a crushing win over 236th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald.

The Spaniard batted aside McDonald 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 in exactly 100 minutes and will meet Japan's Kei Nishikori or Stefano Travaglia of Italy for a spot in the last 16.

“The aim was to play as well as possible. I'm very happy. I have another difficult match next,” said Nadal. The 34-year-old needs one more major to pull level with long-time rival Federer and owns an astonishing 95-2 record in Paris going back to his triumph on debut in 2005.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem swept into the third round with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) victory over American qualifier Jack Sock, saving three set points to close out the match.

The Austrian third seed will play Norway's Casper Ruud, seeded 28th, or American Tommy Paul for a place in the last 16.

“I'm very happy with my game in the first two rounds. It was not an easy draw at all and I'm very happy not to drop a set,” said Thiem, who defeated 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic in round one.

Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens had to be taken off court in a wheelchair after a fiery win over former finalist Sara Errani.

Bertens triumphed 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 9-7 in a three-hour 11-minute clash which left her in cramps and Italian Errani screaming an obscenity as she left the court.

"After one hour, she's injured but then she's running around like never before," said Errani.

"She leaves the court in a chair and now she's in the locker room and eating in the restaurant, perfect. She exaggerated."

Bertens is due to meet Katerina Siniakova next while Elina Svitolina overcame Mexican qualifier Renata Zarazua 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

The Ukrainian third seed is coming off a title at Strasbourg last week and will next play Russian 27th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, but was briefly taken aback by a sonic boom.

Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open winner, followed up his demolition of Andy Murray with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 defeat of Germany's Dominik Koepfer.

Sebastian Korda, the son of 1992 Roland Garros runner-up and 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, also progressed after a four-sets victory over fellow American John Isner.