Stop the World–Do We Want To Get Off?


Published


BANQUET TALK, ASCA CONFERENCE, 1998

J.A. Samaranch, Big Business, millionaire athletes-sport has changed and not all of us like it. We are operating in a vastly different competitive swimming world to just over 20 years ago.

What do we do?–do our darnest to change things?…. Go with the flow? Or do we cry “Stop the World, we want to get off” and isolate ourselves completely from all this angst.

There is a strong community resistance to whistleblowers, those who stand to be counted in identifying wrong-doing.

“The basic problem and paradox is that obedience to authority, a basic necessity for constructing and maintaining our society becomes [due to pressure to sustain the status quo] a powerfully destructive force when that authority is doing wrong.” *

Juan Antonio Samaranch became president of the IOC in 1980 at the time of the first boycott in Olympic history when a number of nations, included the United States, decided that it was appropriate to protest the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR by withdrawing from the Moscow games . Of course the Russians, joined by their Eastern European friends, as expected, reciprocated in full and withdrew from Los Angeles in 1984. The boycotts were the last straw for the Olympic movement which was on its knees with its coffers empty. The price was low for the handful of sponsors . Television rights went cheaply by today’s standards. The IOC was so broke that the many fold perks for its self-appointed members were in grave jeopardy of being curtailed.

When the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin first to support his ideals and his concepts of the Games gathered around him his Committee of Lords, Princes and well-off nobility, this elite band of IOC members paid their own way to travel to the Olympics. But gradually things improved financially, and there was enough there to provide for more of the good things in life. But by 1984 it looked likely that the millions of dollars would no longer be there to indulge the Lords of the Rings.

There was no rejoicing in the streets when the venue for the 1984 Games was announced. It was Los Angeles, the only applicant!

It had come to this. The cash cow had been milked nearly dry. Nobody wanted the Games. The cloud of the recent financial debacle of the Montreal Olympics threatened.

Out of the apparent necessity to survive, the notion of the Big Business, entertainment games was born and the City of Los Angeles, perhaps for the first time ever, turned in a reasonable profit. This was the green light. Full on professionalism was seen as the answer to harvesting riches from once in the main amateur sports.

Juan Antonio Samaranch and his supporters figured that the sooner the better to cut free of all that “amateur” claptrap of the founder, the good Baron. In fact reference to amateurism must be cut from the Olympic Charter.

If there was a protest from the elite 100 at this betrayal we did not hear of it. One thing the oath of solidarity ensures in this not-so-democratic enclave of IOC members which owns the Games, is that there will be no argument with the predent.

The athletes Mr Samaranch wanted at the Games, and he said this quite openly, were those from the monied sports He wanted the “world’s best” there, fully professional basket-ballers, tennis players, and soon when the price was right, he hoped golfers. America should call off its National

League baseball competition during part of the summer to allow the best players to grace his Games. Indeed this was Mr Samaranch’s grandiose suggestion. What the Television wanted to cover were the big professions sports and who pays the piper calls the tune.

This is what would be delivered to the sole TV sponsor to make commercially worthwhile the huge payments for the monopoly rights. “Being realistic” was what the sell-out of Olympic ideals was called. The dubious “credit” for the highly commercialized new-look Olympics after 1984 must be handed to His Excellency Juan Antonio Samaranch, who in 1980 had moved into the Presidency having only recently retired a Spanish Ambassador to the USSR.

Corporations had to be involved in a big way.

Coca Cola had been around since the 1928 Olympic Games and Kodak since the very first Modern Olympics in 1896 . International Business Machines(IBM) first joined the party in 1960 when computers were little more than glorified adding machines, but recently we read that IBM will take its leave of the Olympic family after Sydney 2000. It is rumored that this sponsorship price was too high.

However you can count on the ubiquitous Coca Cola staying in there with its caffeine-laced beverage and putting at least 100 million sponsorship dollars on the line for the privilege if putting up its signs.

Upset China and you upset Coca Cola with its 4 new bottling plants installed in N.E China within the first half of 1998.

Inevitably this brings us to consider doping, the plague which is destroying the integrity of international sport and threatening its very existence.

Money and sponsorship, such being the frailties of human nature paralyze effective anti-doping action. It can be well argued that the always reactionary IOC in an effort to protect the image of the Games has put up no more than feeble opposition.

Like some countries which trade with China, the I.O.C and its National Committee make a good imitation of not wanting to upset the China whose presence means multi-millions of dollars to the Games, TV needs, the bad guys.

“The Chinese are clean.” So said IOC President Samaranch at the opening of the National Games in 1993 after Ma’s Army of women apparently super athletes had shocked the world. Green turtle soup and Chinese traditional medicines, that was the explanation for unbelievable performances..

It is not politically correct to call a spade a spade and treat the Chinese athletes cheats, Despite all the evidence of wrong-doing with more than half as many positives as the rest of the swimming world put together, and despite denials after denial and yet more positives in 1998 it has been no good asking for independent intensive investigations to be made inside China.

“It’s not in the rules ” FINA tells us. But resistance to act has gone deeper than this. Gradually the voice demanding clean swimming has been become louder.

The swimming Anti-doping Committee after acting in a de facto manner for two years was officially set up by WSCA at the Atlanta Games with John Leonard, Cecil Colwin and myself as spokespeople. We believe our small committee has continued to make good progress, keeping the media constantly alerted with facts and figures, resulting in FINA being provoked into taking effective actions.

There can be little doubt that political and commercial considerations for countries and sponsors have often been allowed to stand in the way of taking sufficient action to ensure fair competition for swimmers.

Do we give up, saying “Stop the World”?

We say NO being determined to stand our ground, to ” blow the whistle” and battle on. But how?

We say NO, we are determined to battle on! But how?

Many have seen WSCA’s Four Points, goals to be sought with FINA.

WSCA has over 2500 signatures attesting to these fundamental goals. Coaching Association newsletters carrying these messages have been read by about 9000 in a number of countries.

These are the Four Points, updated on the advice of the Anti-Doping
Committee( in italics) to meet present situations.

1. That FINA be fully pro-active in fighting the Drug War in a number of ways. In the short term WSCA is asking FINA to publicly demand from the IOC adequate funding to carry on with the Federation’s unannounced testing program. Also that in the immediate future there be set up by FINA intensive 3-month unannounced testing of likely members of China’s team to compete in the Asian Games set down for Bangkok in early December 1998.

2. That coaches, not appointed by FINA, but elected by coaches, sit on the FINA, the International Technical Committee, and the Open Water Committee. It is believed that the time has long past for those from the “engine room” of the sport, the pool deck, to be providing on-the-spot input into decision-making by FINA.

3. That Swimmers and coaches share adequately in the profits made by FINA. If the commercial side of top level swimming is to continue and substantial profits are to be made–and this seems inevitable–then it is better that these profits be distributed mostly between swimmers and their coaches, those responsible for the gains.

4. That FINA be operated and administered in a coach/swimmer participant manner.

This is the thrust of the Four Points. It is maintained that the participants are more important than the administrators or officials and that at international meets good seating arrangements should be made for swimmers and coaches, the real “swimming family,” those who continually support the sport. After this might come the sponsors.

It is the participants, the performers, who should occupy central stage. In the last resort they should have the final say whether they will compete or not on the conditions offered by administrators.

We believe a strong impression has been made on FINA, but we have long realized that for maximum impact and to make further important gains it will need to be demonstrated that swimmers are solidly with us.in our endeavors.

Coaches have long been ignored by FINA. They have been treated as baths attendants as “necessary evils” at best, at least until quite recently.

So how to bring in the athletes?

THE ALLIANCE.
In order to reach our goals the concept of an Athlete’s Alliance was considered at the Perth WSCA meeting (Jan. 1998), where it was debated and agreed to. However, everybody being well occupied in living busy lives this has meant that only now are we ready to launch.

The Alliance basically will be made up of all those, world-wide, who subscribe to the Four Goals. It will recruit in the main swimmers, past and present (many of whom have already signified enthusiastic support);coaches;interested parents;and not least, prominent scientists and anti-doping activists such as Dr John Hoberman (scholar and author of the classic book, Mortal Engines), Dr Werner Franke( West German molecular biologist and prominent drugs expert). They will serve as consultants.

It is envisaged that swimmers will be at the core of the Alliance but it is recognized that current competitorsare kept busy with their training and competitions so it is expected that past prominent swimmers will play the most active role in the movement. These include such luminaries as Dave Berkoff, Shane Gould, Mark Spitz, Janet Evans, and Kurt Grote Many present athletes already have signed their agreement to the Four Points.

The Internet
An intemet site will be set up with, we expect, multiple links to attract potential members. At this stage we envisage joining the Alliance through the site with the acknowledgement of a commitment to the four goals, perhaps with a nominal joining fee.

Regular newsletters and resource articles will appear just one click away on the website. Coaches and others will be encouraged to down-load material for distribution to clubs, potential members, and for media releases. There will be the facility to trade ideas for the betterment of competitive swimming, to communicate, to input ideas.

Hopefully we will move to other languages as well as English.

At an August meeting of WSCA, Directors in Hawai i(NOT with WSCA fund incidentally) it was decided to accept the offer of U.S ASCA to take the reins and be responsible for getting the Alliance off the ground This is an important and exciting break-through not only in fighting the Doping War, but for the general betterment of our sport.

ASCA will at first drive the swimmer-dominated Alliance.

This strategy with its easily administered plan of action should work.

Watch for the Alliance link on your swimming websites soon.

Join please, and have all your swimming acquaintances do likewise.

How many of us want the world stopped so we can get off?

Do we want to say individually “Go ahead, good luck, but I personally am going to opt out of the fight and continue on my merry care-free way?”

We don’t think so. This will certainly not be the position of the Alliance.

The odds may seem to be against us, but we aim at changing things, in FINA. And why not change the IOC which administration, and some aspects of the Olympic Games themselves have long past their usefulness?

Clear in our sights should be FINA, targeted to put our “Swimming house” in order .

We can work on the IOC through FINA.

We want you with us, coaches in WSCA and all swimming people in the Alliance.

“Without the ‘whistleblowers,’ modern society would be lost to the barbarity of market forces, of political expediency damage control, of cover-up and of institutional and corporate lying and mediocrity.”*

We do not intend to be silenced, in fact we will, if necessary, noisily and conspicuously draw attention the ineptness we perceive in FINA whilst coaches and swimmers continue to be excluded from participation in its considerations.

Forbes Carlile, uinton Demster Whistleblowers 1997.

*From K. Jean Lennane. What Happens to the Whistleblowers, and Why

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