Bach: Sports bodies must clean up to protect credibility

LONDON: Sports organizations must work harder than ever in 2016 to clean up their act after a year of corruption and doping scandals that tarnished the Olympic movement, IOC President Thomas Bach said Tuesday in a New Year's message.

Bach said the entire Olympic world must live up to the public's expectations of integrity and heed his call from a year ago to "change or be changed."

"One just needs to look at the events over the last 12 months to realize that this message is even more urgent today to safeguard the credibility of sports organizations and to protect clean athletes," Bach said. "Undoubtedly, recent developments in some sports cast a shadow across the whole world of sport."

While Bach didn't cite any sports by name, he was clearly referring to the corruption scandal that has enveloped soccer governing body FIFA and the allegations of bribery and doping cover-ups involving the IAAF and Russia's track and field program.

Noting the public's growing demand for ethical behavior by athletes and sports bodies, Bach said: "It is our shared responsibility in the Olympic movement to provide new answers to new questions."

FIFA is reeling from a corruption scandal that has led to the arrests of dozens of soccer and marketing officials and eight-year bans for outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA head Michel Platini. Blatter is a former member of the International Olympic Committee.

Russia's athletics federation was suspended following a damning report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel that alleged widespread, state-sponsored doping in the country. Russia's track and field athletes could miss next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The IAAF's former president, Lamine Diack, was arrested and charged by French authorities with corruption and money-laundering, stemming from allegations that he took money to cover up positive tests in Russia. The IAAF's former anti-doping manager was also arrested.

The IOC went through its own major corruption scandal in the late 1990s, with 10 members ousted for receiving cash and other favors during Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

Bach said sports federations and national Olympic committees must implement the IOC's "Olympic Agenda 2020" reform program, approved last year, and apply rules of good governance.

"We have called on and we expect all sports organizations to follow our lead," Bach said.

He noted that the IOC has proposed taking drug-testing out of the hands of sports organizations to make the system more independent and credible. The IOC wants an independent anti-doping system in place ahead of the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"We are convinced that all these changes are necessary to better protect the clean athletes and enhance the integrity of sport," Bach said.

Looking ahead to the Olympics in Rio, the first in South America, Bach said he expects Brazilians to welcome the world "with their joy of life and their passion for sport."

The buildup to the games is taking place amid Brazil's worst recession in decades, an impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff and a vast corruption scandal centered on state-owned oil giant Petrobras.

"We know the current economic and political situation in Brazil will make the next months of final preparations more challenging," Bach said.

The Olympics, he said, "will bring the world a message of hope and joy during difficult times."