IAAF upstages FIFA as a case study of leadership challenges


Move over FIFA, make way for the IAAF, which braced itself on Monday [9 November 2015] for an explosive independent report set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)


The two global sporting organisations IAAF and FIFA provide fascinating case studies of leadership dilemmas. As Sepp Blatter approaches the end of his stewardship, and with FIFA in crisis, Lord Coe begins his leadership of IAAF having to address serious problems of corruption and systematic abuse of performance enhancing drugs.

“Dark days for the sport”

Lord Coe, newly appointed president of athletics’ governing body, the IAAF, has admitted these are “dark days for the sport”.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek, Coe added:

“The day after I got elected, I started a massive review. Understandably, in the light of the allegations that have been made, that review has been accelerated. “I’m more determined than ever to rebuild the trust in our sport. However, this is a long road to redemption.”

The independent commission was given a “very narrow mandate” to “determine the accuracy” of allegations made in a German TV documentary about Russian athletics last December. It claimed that Russian officials systematically accepted payment from athletes to supply banned substances and cover up tests, while the IAAF was implicated in covering up the abuse.

WADA president Sir Craig Reedie, said of Monday’s report: “I think it will be very robust in terms of what it was set up to do, which was to examine serious breaches of doping rules in Russia, and the anti-doping community and sport should be ready for that.”

1400 GMT: The report is published

The report is published on WADA’s web site with a press conference in Geneva. The sensational headline summary is that the Russian Athletics Organization ran a state supported operation of doping and cover ups with infiltration of SSB [Government ‘Secret Service’]

The WADA three person commission chaired by Richard Pound was of highest level of experience,and acceptability for their unimpeachable integrity. The commission itself is not WADA, and was allowed to release the report which, as Richard Pound stated is ‘good because the information will get out as opposed to some other reports’ [TR: I presume the FIFA rejection earlier in the year of its own corruption report]

Systemic failures in Russian Athletics and IAAF

The first big recommendation of the commission is that Russia is to be suspended from athletic competitions, including the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.   Interference with doping control procedures was widespread including pressure from Government agents.

Criticisms of malpractices of a criminal and sporting nature

The malpractices discovered included institutionalized provision of drugs to athletes and drug testing corruption at The major Moscow Laboratory.

The IAAF was criticized

The IAAF was criticized for its excessive laissez-faire treatment of the drugs issue, in overseeing the 2012 Olympics. As a consequence the London Olympics were severely compromised (‘sabotaged’). A high ranking official is under investigation for criminal acts as a result of the German whistle blower and documentary which triggered the inquiry.

Russian Government implicated

Russian government officials are said to have put considerable pressure on the Laboratory’s practices. Young athletes were put on drug-supported training with ways of covering up the institutionalized process of sports development

Athletes identified

Athletes are named whose medals at the London Olympics are found to have been won through drug- assisted performances. A life ban on five athletes and five coaches is recommended.


Interpol is acting to conduct a global investigation. A specific chapter of the WADA commissioned report on IAAF is currently being held back because of criminal investigations being carried out in Germany.

Vitally Mutko

The Russian Federation of Sport leader, Vitally Mutko, who is also a high ranking member of the Government, invited information from WADA to enable them to rectify errors but he was warned in advance that he might be considerably saddened about the recommendations.

Lord Coe acts swiftly

Coe, in the space of an hour, acted. [15.00 GMT]. IAAF is to put in place measures to authorize implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. He gives the Russian authorities to the end of week to respond to charges. Mr Mutko challenged the authority of the commission and the ‘rationality’ of the proposed sanctions.

Discussion points for leadership students

What dilemmas do you consider faced Lord Coe on the release of the report?

What dilemmas faced Mr Mutko

What might be even wider consequences of the release of the report?

Do you see any parallels with the recent FIFA scandals summarized here?

To Be Continued

September 10 2015

An excellent summary of report findings is to be found here.


2 Responses to IAAF upstages FIFA as a case study of leadership challenges

  1. Allan Cameron says:

    Lord Coe acted swiftly to defend himself! He looked completely shattered in the interviews he has given, and clearly recognises the loss of his own credibility. His defence rang along the lines of what we have seen from Sepp Blatter about being the right person to sort things out, retaining the confidence of his board etc etc. Is difficulty fessing up a dark side leadership personality trait?

  2. Thanks Allan,

    Subsequent stories suggests he is dumping some of his inconvenient baggage. There’s more to come on this story.

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