“Do you ban an entire country that ostensibly could include clean athletes from participating in Rio? That is a very difficult decision to make”: Johnson. Photo: Dallas KilponenFour-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson has described the corruption and doping scandal engulfing athletics as worse than the one which has rocked football’s governing body FIFA.
There is a cloud over whether Russia will have an International Association of Athletics Federation ban lifted on its athletes competing in international competitions in time for the Rio Olympic Games in August while a number of former high-ranking officials have been slapped with life bans for doping cover-ups.
It has drawn comparisons with the corruption issues which have rocked football, where president Sepp Blatter has been banned for eight years for violating ethics rules amidst a slew of corruption claims against the organisation.
But Johnson, the eight-time world championship gold medallist, said the IAAF scandal was “worse” than anything confronting football and FIFA.
“If you think about the victims it is absolutely worse,” he told the BBC.
Three former IAAF officials, including Papa Massata Diack, the son of former president Lamine, have been banned for life for covering up doping offences after the release of a scathing World Anti-Doping Agency Independent Commission report into the sport.
Former British track star Sebastian Coe has vowed to win back the public’s trust as IAAF president as the sport desperately tries to massage its tainted image.
Johnson was reluctant to lend support to calls for Russian athletes to be banned from Rio and for all world records to be reset to allow athletics a fresh start.
Johnson still is still the world and Olympic record holder for the 400m.
“It doesn’t make sense to me how a reset of all the world records is going to deal with the issue of people cheating,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t create a clean competition and that does not deter anyone from cheating.
“Do you ban an entire country that ostensibly could include clean athletes from participating in Rio? That is a very difficult decision to make.”
He lent his support to athletes who had been cheated out of standing on the podium to win gold medals, including Australian Jared Tallent who finished second in the 50km walk at the London Olympic Games behind convicted Russian doper Sergey Kirdyapkin.
Johnson himself was unwittingly dragged into a doping scandal which emerged after the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 after he voluntarily returned his gold medal from the USA’s 4x400m relay win.
Fellow team member Antonio Pettigrew admitted he had cheated eight years after the Games, while the other two relay runners which made up the USA’s team in the final, twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison, later received bans for doping offences.