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Acronyms and Athletes

How are you on acronyms?

I’m hopeless.  I’m asking because I’ve been trying to work out what’s what and who’s who in the Russian athletics doping scandal.  The attempt has left me in a trance, the alphabet dancing like stars before my eyes.

The acronyms for sports federations or agencies tumble off the page, one after another.  Even the names of the humans involved look like anagrams.

The agency that unleashed the dogs of alphabetic war by accusing Russian athletes of taking illicit performance-enhancing drugs – with government approval or even encouragement – is an organisation called WADA.  That stands for World Anti-Doping Agency.  The cheating was officially sanctioned, WADA claims, by the RAF (Russian Athletics Federation) aided and abetted by RADA (the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, of course, also sometimes known as RUSADA).  The Russian athletes should have submitted to drug tests at a Moscow laboratory run by RADA, but actually operated by a body called the FBA (Federal BioMedical Agency) and administered by – this acronym is so indigestible I’ll have to spell out the name: the Moscow Committee of Sport Identification for Prohibited Substances in Athletics Samples.

Seb Coe (I’ve tried making a word out of it but can’t) is now president of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) after succeeding Lamine Diack (I’m not even going to try that one).  Mr. Diack was ousted recently after being charged with bribery.  Mr. Coe is now trying to arrange talks between WADA and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to determine whether Russia should be banned from the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (which perhaps we should now call RDJ.  Nah, Rio sounds like an acronym in the first place).

The scandal has shocked not just the world of track and field but the wider world of sport.  It has broken even as, in another sport, FIFA (Federation Internationals de Football Associations) is under the legal and moral microscopes for harbouring dozens of officials who are now under investigation for bribery.  They include Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s president, who seems to have paid out a large amount of moolah to the president of UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) for ‘services’ that elude precise definition.  The investigating agencies included the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

Bored as well as confused?  Me too.  So let’s call the whole thing off.  I’m not really interested in athletics or football anyway.

One might wonder why these two sports, with so many regulatory bodies looking after their interests, could possibly be so riddled with cheating and corruption.   What do all these acronymic agencies do, anyway?  Where have they been while all this bribing and doping have been going on?

Joining in, that’s what.

Russian athletes taking performance enhancing drugs – now there’s a surprise!  Hardly.

Those of us of a certain age remember fondly the days of the Cold War, when Russia called itself the Soviet Union – or if you prefer, the USSR – and its athletes needed military aircraft to carry home all the gold medals they had won around the world.  In the West, the assumption was ingrained that all these super-humans from the Eastern Bloc were pumped up with steroids – or whatever other substances were being produced then by the perverted lights of medical science.  The wonder was not that they kept winning freight-loads of gold medals but that the athletes didn’t fly home under their own power.  How we used to chuckle at the sight of those female shot-putters and hammer-throwers with gargantuan proportions and chiselled features that made Desperate Dan look wimpy.

We speculated about their true gender, of course, but only for idle amusement.  They were never tested.  Medical officials were probably too scared to intervene.  “Okay now Olga, get ‘em down and let’s take a look at what you’ve got in there,” sounds to me like a death wish.

WADA, IOC, RUSADA, FIFA, UEFA …. What have you all been up to?

As if we don’t know.

Time, I say, to call in the COTWFL (Clear Out The Whole Fucking Lot).

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