Paula Radcliffe blood data: Considerable dismay? And what about some kind of explanation from the IAAF?

Not a word from Lord Coe, who was a ubiquitous soul when seeking election

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Down and down the credibility of athletics plunges, to the detriment of those very many athletes who have made it their lives.

Paula Radcliffe eviscerates an MP for identifying her, says she will not release her blood test data, and within a few hours finds the link between her and a set of numbers is made known. The general public does not understand this. The general public does not understand the numbers. The general public believes that the sport of athletics is submerged in a bubble of denial and introspection, and at the heart of it all there is a stench which no one is prepared to deal with.

The last assumption was certainly laid bare when the organisation which Sebastian Coe was earnestly telling us a few weeks ago he would make better – the International Association of Athletics Federations – piled into the mêlée, with a statement attacking the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for allowing Radcliffe to be identified. “Considerable dismay,” the IAAF said it was feeling.

As instances of breath-taking effrontery go, that one was right up there with the best. This was the same IAAF whose obfuscation had provoked Wednesday’s select committee discussion in the first place. The committee, let’s remember, had taken it upon itself to publish a study by Germany’s University of Tübingen – commissioned in 2011 by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The study did not look very good for athletics and Wada has been unable to publish it because the IAAF has refused permission. “The IAAF is blocking it,” said the lead author, Rolf Ulrich, who they tell me is not one for overexcitement. The select committee told us all this.


Ulrich and his team laid bare a litany of cheating: 30 per cent of athletes possibly cheating at one world event, 45 per cent at another – numbers that had leaked out anyway. Conservative MP Jesse Norman, the select committee’s chairman, has not enhanced his reputation for much more than a wide vocabulary – he being the one who used the word “ungulates” as a term of endearment for journalists. But he served us well by exposing the way the IAAF – from which, God knows, we need transparency – was a roadblock to the truth.

One only imagines how the wider world might have responded if Fifa had shrouded a publication in such secrecy, yet with athletics it seems to be an accepted norm. A shake of the head. The world moves on. The IAAF evidently did not have the mildest concern over the British Government accusing it of censorship. Not so much as a bland press release, protesting its defence, on the organisation’s website. Not so much as a word of response from Coe, who was such a ubiquitous soul when seeking election to the presidency.

So, let’s turn up Coe’s Twitter feed to see what he might have been feeling about the public discrediting of his organisation by his own Conservative Party. There’s just last week’s tweet, telling us that he was “looking forward to the Team GB Ball”, and encouraging us all to “help the team on the road to Rio via our auction”.

Yes, down and down the credibility of athletics plunges, to the detriment of those very many athletes who have made it their lives.