Turkey’s government needs to do more to demonstrate that it is dealing with its country’s doping problem if Istanbul’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics is to be successful, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Lamine Diack has warned.
More than 30 Turkish athletes have failed drugs tests in the past year, including last year’s Olympic 1500-meter champion Asli Cakir Alptekin, and Diack has told senior Government officials that the situation is seriously jeopardizing their bid.
“They cannot bid for the Olympics if they cannot control their athletes,” said Diack, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “I’m not saying we get rid of the Federation, but they need to clean their house.”
Diack held talks with Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan earlier this month in Lausanne, where Istanbul gave a presentation on their bid to IOC members, along with rivals Madrid and Tokyo, ahead of the final vote in Buenos Aires on September 7.
“It’s not the Olympic Committee or the [athletics] Federation who must solve the problem – it’s the Government,” said Diack. “I have already talked to them [the Government]. They asked me, as an IOC member, what my advice would be. I said, ‘Look, there is an important issue – it is that you have to finish with doping.’ I told them that if they are going to win the bid I think you need to take care of this big issue. They are bidding for the 2020 Olympics, but every few days we have three or four athletes caught for doping.”
The National Olympic Committee of Turkey (NOCT) promised that they were taking the problem seriously and the spate of positive recent tests demonstrated that they were being more vigilant. Although, in the case of Alptekin, it was the IAAF who caught her following abnormalities with the athlete’s biological passport.
“Turkey is totally committed to making our anti-doping procedures among the best in the world, so of course we take any advice we receive from senior members of the Olympic family on this subject extremely seriously,” a NOCT representative said in a statement to insidethegames.
“Unfortunately, recent events have shown that doping is still a global issue, and Turkey is no exception.
“But, more cases in Turkey is not evidence of more cheats – it is evidence that we are stepping up to fight this problem more aggressively and coming in to line with top-tier sports nations.
“The national government is leading this fight from the front and coordinating a major nationwide effort to find and expel cheats from Turkish sport, in conjunction with International Federations and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency).
“In the short-term, the redoubling of TADA’s (Turkish Anti-Doping Agency) testing and sanctioning procedures will mean more positive tests. But in the long-term, thanks to an extensive government-led education program, the numbers will level out and decline.
“Our Olympic bid has been an added extra stimulus for this process; our seven-year preparation process would accelerate it even further.
“We want clean young Turkish athletes winning medals on home soil in 2020.”
A senior figure in Turkish sport told insidethegames that the fight against doping was being continually stepped up, led by Uğur Erdener, President of the NOCT and the representative of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) on the WADA Executive Committee and Foundation.
“It’s clear that for some time Turkey’s anti-doping programme lagged behind its sporting aspirations,” the source said.
“But, it seems that it’s now being put right – for three main reasons.
“First of all, you have the leadership of the Turkish NOC and its strong connections with WADA.
“Secondly, there’s the country’s long-standing Olympic ambitions: Turkey must be seen by the international sports community not just to be paying lip-service to zero-tolerance, but to be actively and rigorously enforcing it.
“Finally, the success of this intensified testing program and spike in positive tests has, I think, caused a growing realization in the government that this has the potential to effect Turkey’s standing in world sport and beyond.
“They will be keen to take action to ensure that effect is positive.
“Obviously, this is not an experience they are keen to repeat in the glare of the media spotlight.”
Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.