Paris (AFP)

The never-ending Russian affair and the cases of doping or failed controls that follow one another: the clouds accumulate above world athletics, which has struggled to generate enthusiasm since the retirement of the legend Usain Bolt.

. Russian doping, an endless scandal

Four and a half years after the publication of an overwhelming report by Canadian Richard Pound for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), revealing institutional doping in Russia and the suspension of the country by the International Athletics Federation, the case continues to pollute the first Olympic sport.

The situation has even worsened in recent months: accused of having falsified data from the Moscow laboratory, at the heart of the doping system between 2011 and 2015, transmitted to WADA and the Integrity Unit of the athletics (AIU) for their investigations, Russia was excluded for four years from the main international events, notably the Olympic Games and the Football World Cup. The Russian Athletics Federation is also accused of helping 2017 vice height world champion Danil Lysenko to escape punishment for failing to comply with his whereabouts obligations for unannounced checks.

In November 2019, World Athletics therefore decided to freeze the process of reintegration of Russia and that allowing Russian athletes considered to be beyond reproach to participate in international competitions.

Russia has since cleaned up its sports institutions, notably with the appointment to the Sports Ministry of Oleg Matytsin and the arrival at the head of the Russian Athletics Federation of Yevgeni Yurtchenko after the eviction of the office targeted by the World Athletics charges. In return, the International Federation authorized a maximum of ten Russian athletes to participate under neutral banner in the competitions and the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which were finally postponed in 2021 due to the coronavirus.

The holding in Paris since June 8 of the trial of Lamine Diack also throws a harsh light on the troubled role played by officials of world athletics to protect Russia. The former boss of the IAAF (former name of the International Federation), aged 87, risks up to ten years in prison for active and passive corruption, breach of trust and laundering in an organized gang, for having covered doping cases of Russian athletes.

. Suspected track cadors

The image of athletics is especially sullied among the general public by the multitude of doping cases that affect the leaders of the track or the asphalt, proof nonetheless of a real desire to track down cheaters. In less than two weeks, two gold medalists at the World Championships in Doha in 2019 have just been provisionally suspended for having breached their localization obligations.

On June 5, Bahrain Salwa Eid Naser, world champion in the 400m, was first suspended, followed Wednesday by the king of the 100m Christian Coleman, already threatened last year, wrongly in a first, by the American Anti-Doping Agency just before flying to Qatar.

In March, the reigning Olympic champion in the 3,000 m steeplechase, Bahrain Ruth Jebet, was suspended for four years for doping at the EPO.

Three cases which are blemish but which are far from being isolated. A year ago, in addition to the controversy over Coleman's presence, the Doha World Championships were marked by the four-year suspension imposed for "organization and incitement" to doping the prestigious coach Alberto Salazar, former mentor of Mo Farah and master of thought for the Oregon Project, a group funded by the equipment supplier Nike. The coronations in Qatar of several of his protégés (Sifan Hassan, Donovan Brazier) have only added to the discomfort.

A major supplier of champions and records in endurance events, Kenya is also regularly singled out by the anti-doping authorities. In 2016, the country narrowly escaped humiliation, obtaining the right to participate in the Rio Games only after adopting an anti-doping law.

Some big names have fallen recently, such as in 2017 Jemima Sumgong, Olympic gold medalist in the marathon in Rio, or the following year Asbel Kiprop, Olympic champion in the 1,500 m in 2008 and triple world champion. This year, the two marathon runners Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich and Daniel Kinyua were suspended.

© 2020 AFP