Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Juan Antonio Samaranch spoke exclusively with AS this week about the prospects for future Olympic Games and the sport’s ongoing struggle with doping.
Samaranch criticises WADA over Russian doping
Samaranch – whose father of the same name was President of the IOC between 1980 and 2001, the second longest term in Olympic history – didn’t hold back when reflecting on the IOC’s decision to ban over 100 Russian athletes from competing at this year’s Rio Olympics and the widening gulf between the Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“We were very critical of WADA and we will continue to be,” he said. “They are responsible for what goes on inside international laboratories but their labs in Sochi and Moscow were like Sodom and Gomorrah.
You'd have to be mad or stupid to dope, says IOC chief
“It’s not enough for them to point the finger at the IOC in a panic,” he continued. “They need to be more efficient. We want to overhaul the anti-doping system and make it more independent of the sporting world. It’ll be a tough battle, frankly.”
His late father, President of the IOC for over two decades, was pessimistic about the sport’s long-term chances of dealing with the problem but Samaranch believes that athletics is in a position to take concrete steps towards eradicating the problem. “I’m optimistic,” he said. “We now freeze samples for ten years. Before Rio we tested 1,500 samples from Beijing and London and 120 came back positive. You have to be either mad or stupid to dope; the technology we use today is so advanced that you’ll get caught out.”
Madrid's Olympic bids failed but left a legacy
Samaranch was also frank in discussing the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and Madrid’s numerous failed bids. The Spanish capital submitted two bids to host the Games in both 2016 and 2020 but was overlooked on both occasions.
“It was a hard sell because Spain was on the front page of newspapers around the world for all the wrong reasons, for the crisis and the threat of a huge bailout,” he says. “But the fundamental concept at the heart of the Madrid bid stuck with the IOC. If you read the Agenda 2020 [the IOC’s ´strategic road map for the future of the Olympic movement’] you’ll see the influence of Madrid.”
Madrid’s bid – based on “adapting the Olympics to the city, not the city to the Olympics,” recalls Spanish Olympic Committee President Alejandro Blanco – has set a precedent. Tokyo has scaled back its plans for the 2020 Olympics significantly, away from the original, more ambitious bid chosen by the IOC.
Does that mean it was a con? “The project has been scaled back significantly, yes,” admits Samaranch. “But we can’t have another failed legacy. It fits in with the vision of the Agenda 2020.”
“You read Agenda 2020 and it looks just like Madrid’s bid. It came just a little too late,” he added.
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