IOC vice president Thomas Bach believes that the revelations of a government-backed doping program in West Germany in the 1970s will not hurt his chances to become the next president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Bach, who heads Germany’s national Olympic body, said he was personally behind the study that was published on Monday and revealed a culture of doping among West German athletes for decades.
The report, an embarrassment to German sport, comes less than a month before Bach contests the election to succeed IOC president Jacques Rogge.
“My IOC colleagues know that I myself initiated the study,” Bach told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) news agency on Tuesday. “They’ve known my zero-tolerance policy on doping since decades, especially as chairman of various disciplinary commissions. That’s why I fear no consequences for the election.”
Bach, a gold medal fencer in the 1970s, has been considered the favorite among the six candidates to succeed Rogge in the Sept. 10 election in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The other contenders are Wu Ching-kuo of Taiwan, Sergei Bubka of Ukraine, Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, Denis Oswald of Switzerland and Ng Ser Miang of Singapore.
A prominent former German athlete questioned how much Bach had known about doping in his days as an athlete. Bach won a team foil gold medal in fencing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
“Thomas Bach must have known more than he’s acknowledging now,” former long jumper Heidi Schueller said in an interview with the Munich newspaper tz. “But if you want to be IOC president, you’d better keep quiet.”
Schueller was the first female athlete to give the Olympic oath, at the 1972 Games in Munich.
Bach, in an interview with ZDF television, said he and his fencing teammates had heard “bits and pieces” about doping at the time in other sports, but that they had always been clean.
Bach said that even as an athlete, he had favored a “zero tolerance” policy against doping and lifetime bans for offenders.
He said on Monday that an independent commission had been set up to evaluate the report and make recommendations.
“This is a good day for the fight against doping,” Bach said.
Pressure is growing on sports officials to reveal names in the unraveling scandal.
The report released on Monday contains no names, but the original version reportedly did include names. DPA said the researchers have the right to publish names, but appear to fear legal consequences if they do.
Dagmar Freitag, chairwoman of the sports committee of the German parliament, said the full report should have been published and that its abridged version raised more “questions than it gave answers.”
At the same time, an article in Der Spiegel news magazine says members of the 1966 World Cup team tested positive for traces of an amphetamine. West Germany lost the final 4-2 to host England.
“We have to call a spade a spade,” said Clemens Prokop, president of the German athletics federation.
Speaking in Munich, Prokop said that was the only way to remove West German athletes from blanket doping suspicion.
Bavarian Minister of Justice Beate Merk has called for an anti-doping law because sports federations were unable to “systematically clear up and punish” doping.
“We have to act, we have to uncover, not cover up ... we need an anti-doping law worthy of its name,” Merk said.