Sport, Lies and Stasi-Files - A Golden Opportunity for the Press
17.06.1997By Andrew Jennings
I'm sorry to say that in most countries the standard of reporting about the reality of modern sport is usually appalling. Too much journalism has become the tame pet of the powerful interests who seek to profit from TV and sponsor-driven sport.
In Britain - as in most other countries - we have news reporters who sometimes publish untrue material, fail to check their facts - and write dubious stories that will get them free trips, drink, food, clothing, cash and other benefits.
But the very worst manifestations are to be found in sports reporting. Of course, there are honest sports reporters; but we still have to ask how reliable is their work? Can we trust journalists? Or don't we care? When I look at modern sports reporting I am saddened because too often I find:
Reporters who don't tell the public what they really know. Many reporters are aware of endemic corruption in sport - but don't reveal it.
Reporters who are too close to the international Emperors of sport; the Samaranchs, Nebiolos and Havelanges.
Almost criminally bad standards of reporting; laziness, reluctance to ask questions, a reliance on press releases.
Too much accepting of hospitality from the people they are supposed to report on.
My own background in journalism
I'd like to tell you a little about my background in journalism. I began in 1967, working with the investigation department of The London Sunday Times. I learned an immense amount not just about technique - but also high standards of research and integrity in the production of a story.
One special lesson I learned then was this: When the pack of reporters go in one direction - go in the opposite direction. Avoid the crowd, stay away from the mob of quick turn around, newsbite reporters and go away and dig until you think you are getting to some truths. Some independent truths are better than none.
I then worked on a lively evening paper in the North of England but within a year began working for a series of British popular papers: The Daily and Sunday Mirror; the Daily and Sunday Express; the Daily Mail - twice; the Sunday People; the News of the World. I've written for nearly every British daily and sunday national newspaper.
Then I moved to radio and then television. Currently, I'm filming a sports corruption story for Britain's leading TV investigation programme - and also writing it for a quality London daily paper.
I've had the good luck to work with some wonderful journalists: Men and women who were honest, intelligent and talented. They taught me the basics of journalism: high ethical standards, keep digging until you find out what the authorities do not want published - and then tell this to the people.
I've always been inspired by the words of that great reporter, Louis Heren, a Deputy Editor of the Times of London. He told his reporters, "Find out why the lying bastards are lying". You can hear what he was saying: Don't just expose corruption: find out - and then tell your readers and viewers - why corruption flourishes in your own society.
So I learned my trade writing and filming investigation stories.
The standards of accuracy and proof were very high. Again and again, editors and lawyers would send me back to get even more proof, more documents, until we had a water tight case. At the same time I was working alongside ethical journalists covering domestic and foreign news, economics, the environment, cultural affairs - all of them delivering to the highest possible standards.
Sport is the soft end of journalism - and many avoid investigating
In newspapers these stories usually appear at the front end of the paper - the sharp end. Sport is usually printed at the back of the paper. When I started investigating sports politics and business I was horrified to discover this was the soft end of the paper. It seems to me that many editors - who take great care about accuracy at the sharp end - don't care about the soft end - as long as the sports reporters get the football scores correct.
The same editors encourage their reporters to investigate corruption in government, the police and business - but don't notice that many of the sports reporters do their best to avoid investigating corruption in sport.
This is serious: every day we see more and more sponsorship money coming into sport; the TV payments grow tremendously; what I used to call sport is now known as the leisure industry. Too few reporters bother to ask simple questions about the effect of this money on the practice of sport.
The very worst effect has been the covering up of doping in sport. Now that sport is a valuable commodity for sports bosses and TV bosses, they don't want its clean image damaged by the truth - that doping is massive in nearly every sport where money can be earned. So sports reporters - many of them parents - encourage children and teenagers to worship top athletes as role models - although they know that these heroes and heroines are junkies.
And they are pressurised to suppress, to censor their reports - in the interests of the national team, their country's international image - and because the needs of Coca-Cola and other big sponsors are more important than providing a simple, truthful service to readers and viewers.
Exposing Samaranch's fascist past
I got involved in this area of journalism by accident. Back in 1988 I was finishing a four-year investigation into corruption in the London police and was introduced to a man who had helped create the modern monster of sports sponsorship. He wasn't interested in sport. Only money. He talked ... and talked .. and talked.
I heard about how elections in the international sports federations and at the IOC had been rigged to produce leaders favourable to business interests. I heard about bribery, covering up doping and how cities got to host the Olympics and world championships. That was a great start. But then I had to start checking and doing my own original research. This is just some of the research I've done since I started work on sports politics and business in late 1988.
In Spain I've collected vast amounts of Spanish newspapers going back to the 1950s. They are full of stories and pictures about a prominent Barcelona politician who was ultra loyal to the dictatorship of General Franco. That politician is today the president of the IOC.
In the newsreel archives in Madrid I found moving pictures of IOC President Samaranch in his fascist uniform, kneeling before the dictator Franco. And I also found, in the archives of the Civil Governor of Barcelona in those fascist times, the secret police reports stating what a good and loyal fascist was Juan Antonio Samaranch.
We may be near the end of this century, but we cannot forget the cruelty and mass murder imposed on Europe by fascism in the middle of this century. I find it depressing that a leading, enthusiastic fascist is today the leader of world sport. More importantly - we should be asking Why? Who allows this? Who encourages it?
The doping conspiracy between Stalinists and fascists
In East Berlin I went digging in the archives of the Stasi - the secret police who until 1989 not only terrorised the people of East Germany but also ran top class investigations into the leaders of world sport and how they corrupted international sports organisations.
These documents were never intended for publication. The East German regime needed this information so they could discover how other countries covered up the fact that so many of their athletes were dopers. Privately, the East Germans knew that world sport was heavily influenced by survivors of the fascist armies mostly defeated in 1945. In public they attacked fascism; in private they did deals so their own junkie athletes were not exposed.
This suited both parties. The East Germans won gold and the IOC boasted about new world records. It was a conspiracy of old Stalinists and fascists against decency in public and sporting life. East Germany may have disappeared - but the conspiracy against us continues - and our sports reporters are doing little to expose this. Also in the Stasi archives I found the evidence that leads me to state that if you know the right people - you can pay bribes to win gold medals. I'll return to that story later.
IOC sex scandal covered up in Sweden
I went to Falun in central Sweden to examine the archives of that town's many attempts to win the winter Olympics. It's there for anyone to probe: many, many shelves of boxes; millions of sheets of paper, much of it in English.
There I enjoyed reading letters from IOC members marked "private and confidential." I found out how they covered up a sex scandal - there's a number of male IOC members who know it's safe to abuse and harass those pretty young women employed as hostesses by every city bidding for the Olympics.
In Falun - at the heart of democratic, anti-sexist Sweden, it was decided to cover up this scandal, because publicity would lose them the Games. Even when Stockholm bid for the Games of 2004, leading Swedish sports leaders, politicians and businessmen did not want to discuss this scandal in public - because winning the Games was more important than protecting innocent women from being abused by dirty old men - who are members of the IOC. In my last book I named the worst of these men as "Mr Wandering Hands".
I've been to Washington where, in the archives on Capitol Hill, you can find the truth about Dr Un Yong Kim, an IOC member from South Korea who is tipped as a contender to replace the old fascist Samaranch.
Dr Kim is also president of world Taekwondo. Well that's not quite true. He was appointed president of the World Taekwondo federation in 1972 by one of the bloodyhanded generals who was then dictator in Korea. There are other taekwondo federations but only Dr Kim's is recognised by IOC President Samaranch. Maybe that's because Dr Kim is as much a life-long fascist as Samaranch.
On Capitol Hill are the files from the 1976 KoreaGate investigation. A Congressional committee, assisted by the FBI and the CIA investigated allegations that Korean diplomats had systematically paid bribes to American politicians. In that archive are documents revealing that Dr Kim was Assistant Director of the Korean CIA - a bunch of gangsters who murdered opponents of the military regime wherever they found them - in Korea, Europe and America. Dr Kim also tried to solicit bribes from American companies which wanted to do business in Korea. Dr Kim is now a leading IOC member and it amused me in Atlanta last year to see leading American politicians, businessmen and TV executives, shaking hands with a man who once did his best to undermine their democratic system. That's the power of big money over honesty and truth in public life.
I've also researched - or had research done for me - in Norway, Russia, the Ukraine, Japan, Australia, Indonesia and countless other countries. Is there anybody else in the world who has, like me, read every copy of the IOC's monthly "Olympic Review" from 1946 until 1994. And then read them all again! How many reporters bother to read the juvenile garbage on the IOC's WWW site? It reads like the weekly newspaper of imperial Rome, Stalin's Russia or Hitler's Germany.
Everything is sunny in the world of Samaranch. There are no scandals, no cheating, no corruption, no theft of money or rigged elections. Just great men - and very few women - having serious discussions about the future of world sport. It's an obscene farce and we reporters could put an end to it tomorrow - if we cared. Some sunlight and some honest reporting could end this corruption swiftly. Are you up to the challenge?
I've discovered many important documents around the world. Documents that reveal that the IOC and many of the international sports federations lie to the public - with the complicity of the reporters from the soft end of the papers. Perhaps the most interesting documents I've acquired are the minutes of every IOC Executive Board meeting and annual Session since 1980. These really are a reporters' dream. There you find the absolute proof that the IOC say one thing in public - and the absolute opposite in private. Here's just one example form this reporters' gold mine: In public President Samaranch denies that he is campaigning for the Nobel Peace prize. But when you read his secret documents you learn that since April 1987, Samaranch has been using an American public relations company to lobby for the prize.
That is a disgusting waste of money that could go to helping poor athletes - but it's also very funny. Anybody who knows the Norwegians know they would never give the Nobel to a Franco fascist. So Samaranch continues wasting money on his irrelevant and farcical Olympic Truce and his endless speeches about how the Olympics bring world peace - and Norway ignores him. These are just some examples of the benefits of research. Research helps us get to the truth. The stupid and lying press releases from the IOC turn reporters' brains into scrambled eggs. I'd now like to look at the state of the media - when it reports international sport.
When it comes to honesty in sports reporting, TV is now a disaster area. Look at NBC in America, the BBC in Britain and those channels around the world that have paid fortunes to get rights to screen the Olympics. With a handful of honourable exceptions the truth about the corrupt, dope-fuelled Olympics is now banned from the public airwaves.
This is the real price of those very expensive TV rights to show the Games exclusively. It's the moral degeneration of TV news reporting. Networks like the BBC and NBC, who have paid so much for this sports event, dare not tell their viewers the truth. Having invested so much money,they do not want to cast any doubts on the purity of Samaranch and his bunch of gangsters. Instead we get a culture of evasion and lying.
Norway was an exception in 1994: Their TV channels reported the Lillehammer games and - at the same time - rivalled their lively tabloids in reporting the excesses and anti-democratic practices of the IOC. The Olympics will never be given to Norway again - and that means little hope for Sweden where they too have an independent press. Giving the games to of 2004 to Stockholm would have been followed by jubilation for a few weeks - and then six years of exposes of waste of money and corruption. This situation offers tremendous opportunities for the press. As TV becomes the Olympic Lie Machine, newspaper reporters could be digging away,exposing the corruption. Newspapers don't buy rights and their readers would enjoy - and be educated by - some Olympic truths. Sadly, few newspapers have yet to take up this challenge. How despairing that normally lively and challenging newspapers just roll over and repeat the Olympic cliches.
The press has got much better on doping: That seems to be one taboo that's been knocked down. They report many of the scandals. They could have started a long time ago and, yet again, there is very little research and little memory. I have not seen any newspaper in the world that in one article has published the following facts: - In Moscow in 1980 - the IOC claimed there were no positive tests. That is unbelievable.
In my last book I published an interview with a KGB Colonel who admitted being involved in destroying several positive tests in Moscow. - In Los Angeles in 1984 the IOC Executive Board took a decision not to reveal how many positive tests were discovered. They admitted to 12. But it was not until 1994 when a BBC TV programme edited by my friend Vyv Simson, who co-wrote the first Olympics expose book with me in 1992, revealed that about another 10 tests were hidden. - It was good research - but not the hardest to achieve.
The reporters simply went to the scientists who worked in the LA laboratory. They had been waiting for 10 years to be asked some simple questions. Those scientists confirmed that around nine more positive results had been sent to Samaranch and his EB - and they had never heard anything more. One of those scientists told the BBC that he believed the IOC had covered up these positive tests because they did not want to damage the new sponsorship and TV money that was flowing into their Swiss bank accounts.
In Seoul in 1988 a number of positive tests were not disclosed. We cannot be sure how many because it is impossible to get to the raw data. Scientists point out that nobody can believe the IOC's claims on positive tests because, unlike any other scientific organisation in the world, they will not reveal the raw data collected at the Olympics by the testers. - After the Barcelona Games the head of the IOC's medical commission revealed that he believed that one in ten of top class athletes were taking steroids. That would be 1,000 of the 10,000 athletes in Barcelona. And he wasn't talking about the more expensive drugs like testosterone, human growth hormone and EPO. The Prince de Merode said this because he had seen the raw data which showed so many athletes had traces of hormonal drugs - but not enough to prove regular doping.
And what happened in Atlanta last year? We don't know. During the Games there were 5 positive tests involving the drug Bromatan - then the IOC decided that was alright. But it won't be legal in future. Officially, there were two positive steroid cases. Since then Sweden's IOC member Dr Arne Ljungqvist says there were seven positive tests that have never been reported and in March this year Swiss TV in Zurich reported there may have been 17 positive tests. I can find no evidence of any concerted attempt by the world's media to force the IOC to tell the truth.
I accept that it is difficult for reporters to do research in far away countries. Not everybody has the financial resources to travel, find sources and work in archives. But there are plenty of stories in your own countries and regions. I don't know of any other reporter who has investigated the Continental Olympic organisations or the ludicrous ANOC run by IOC member Mario Vsquez Raa. Look at your own sports federations and your own National Olympic Committees. Are they loyal to your own athletes and your own national interests? Or has their loyalty been bought by the International federations - controlled by people like Primo Nebiolo in track and field - and by Rana and Samaranch who control the Olympic moneybags? These are areas where you can learn how to investigate sport. Go for documents, get administrators to talk to you in secret. If you want help with finding out what your administrators really get up to when they travel out of your country - contact me and I'll see if I can help.
Now let's look at the subjects of our international investigations: the IFs and the IOC. There is quite a lot of good reporting about the lack of democracy and accountability in the IFs. Thank goodness that we very rarely read anything pleasant about Track and Field's Primo Nebiolo. He took over the IAAF in 1981 - without any election - and has prevented any elections ever since. A couple of years ago a Kuwaiti sports official, tired of Nebiolo's corruption, announced he would stand against Nebiolo for the presidency. Primo flew to Kuwait - spoke to the non-elected Sheik Al-Sabah who rules the country - and the official with-drew. Primo was safe again.
The corruption in the IAAF is quite well-known; from rigging the elections for sportsmen and sportswomen of the year to covering up positive dope tests. Primo's officials even rigged the long jump result at the worlds in Rome in 1987. In soccer we have Havelange's iron grasp that soon will be removed. In swimming we have a leadership put in place by the money of the former Adidas boss, Horst Dassler. Nearly all the IFs are worth investigating - and I hope some of you will do this.
But the IOC is the great story. Never in world history has such a corrupt organisation got itself such a wonderful image of purity and decency. They have achieved this because too many sports reporters have been too lazy, too corrupt themselves, to investigate this organisation that gets them so many lovely free trips around the world.
I've published two books based on my detailed research of corruption in President Samaranch's IOC and his Olympic Games. Here's a snapshot of the IOC:
- It was created in 1894 by a bunch of European aristocrats who were worried about the increasing demands of the working classes of the Western nations for democracy in politics and openness in their own sport. From that day, 101 years ago, these upper class people have recruited people like themselves on to the IOC.
- American professor John Hoberman - undoubtedly the best thinker and researcher there is about the IOC - describes the IOC as an offshore refugee camp for survivors of discredited regimes. Hoberman first pointed out that a rabble of German Nazis and Italian fascists were invited on to the IOC in the 1930s and the last one left in the 1960s. He was Karl Ritter van Halt and he had been Hitler's last sports minister. The Norwegian government refused to allow him into their country in 1952 for the Oslo winter games - whilst welcoming the young German athletes.
Another German IOC member was General Walther von Reichenau who was responsible for sanctioning what one historian has called "a stupendous massacre of Jews" in Kiev, in 1941. If von Reichenau had not died during the war - he would have been the first IOC member to stand trial at a war crimes tribunal - and been hung by the neck until he was dead.
Who is on the IOC today? One influential member is Indonesia's Bob Hasan, the world's largest rainforest logger and close friend of the dictator Suharto. A new recruit last year was Korea's second member - Mr Kun Hee Lee - who has since been given a two year jail sentence for paying massive bribes to government officials. He is the boss of the Samsung electronics empire, the IOC's latest sponsor. Fortunately - it's a suspended sentence so he will be able to go on attending IOC meetings.
Many of the self-selecting members have been involved in corrupt military regimes - and in no way represent any openness in sport. Look at who has been given the Olympic Order - the IOC's version of a Nobel prize:
- The Swiss politician who recently called Jewish demands for return of stolen money "emotional blackmail" - and was then forced to apologise.
- Former East German despot Erich Honecker.
- Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceaucescu - Bulgarian dictator Tudor Zhikov
- Japanese property billionaire Yoshitake Tsutsumi who owns next year's Nagano winter games.
- Former Italian premier Giulio Andreotti. He is on trial for Mafia membership and conspiracy to murder. Samaranch gave him a Gold Olympic order. If he's convicted, will they ask him to return it?
- Former Korean president Roh Tae Woo also got a gold Order after the Seoul games. He has since been jailed for 22 years for involvement in an army massacre and spectacular corruption.
- A silver Olympic Order went to Manfred Ewald, who oversaw East Germany's state doping system. That's the same award they gave to the great Jesse Owens.
- Discus thrower Al Oerter, who between 1956 and 1968 won four consecutive Olympic golds, was dismissed with a bronze Olympic Order. At the IOC - athletes don't matter.
The IOC is not accountable to anybody. Not to sport, not to athletes, not to sports federations. Their power depends on only one thing: They own the copyright to the five Rings and the word Olympic. They now have at least $150 million dollars worth of assets in Switzerland. They spend some of their profits from the Games, training up the next generation of athletes that their TV masters and sponsors need. The IOC Members themselves always travel better than athletes, live in better hotels and cannot lose at the Olympics. Samaranch has one major achievement to his name.
As the old ruling classes were swept away by democracy - a new set of Olympic bosses had to be found. Without hesitation, Samaranch sold the Olympics to Coca-Cola,Panasonic,Kodak and the other multinationals who need the credibility of sport to maintain their images.
Under Samaranch the IOC are now accountable only to these sponsors and to America's NBC - which has contracted more than $3 billion to own rights until well into the next century.
The Games have also become a vehicle for transferring public wealth to the private sector; public welfare for the private rich. The sponsors make profits, the IOC makes profits, the TV networks make profits - and the athletes get nothing and their national taxpayers usually contribute to the cost of training and transport.
And who has been given the Games? Berlin and the cancelled games of Tokyo 1940 were gifts to dictators. Mexico, Moscow and Seoul were again manipulated to get a good press for dictatorships. The cost was borne by taxpayers who could not say No - as in Montreal, Sarajevo, Calgary, Barcelona and Lillehammer. Atlanta was going to be a triumph for the technical skills of American capitalism. They were a technical disaster. Why did Atlanta bid for the Games? Because the local construction industry had used up all the local and federal tax money available for big projects. If they got the Games, there would be half a billion dollars of new construction - and the profits that went with it.
The Atlanta Olympics was a squalid festival of marketing hype and logistical disasters. Samaranch still praised them. Nagano next year is another great burden on Japanese taxpayers. But the IOC and their friends will make millions. There is no hope of reforming the IOC and as journalists, we have a duty to investigate and publish and educate and inform the public that we have to find another and more moral way of organising international sport.
Here's the good news: In Germany two excellent reporters, Thomas Kistner in Munich and Jens Wienreich in Berlin contribute excellent research and analysis. They write intelligently and critically and their readers are the best informed in Germany about sports politics.
In Sweden the Stockholm bid for 2004 has received a great deal of criticism from the media. That's partly because of Sweden's terrible experiences over the last 15 years bidding for the winter Games. Their hostesses suffered sexual harassment from at least one IOC Member.
The IOC repeatedly encouraged Falun to bid, assuring them that they would win eventually. They were tricked, exhausted, embarrassed and rejected. But now a gang of businessmen - and sports administrators who see "jobs for the boys" if Stockholm wins - are quite happy to see tax bills rise - for the privilege of hosting a drug-fuelled,commercial TV sports show.
But a lot of Swedish reporters are writing critically about the budget and the secrecy of the bid. The Norwegians have the most robust media when it come to the Olympics. They loved their national successes at the Lillehammer games - but simultaneously exposed every corrupt facet of the IOC that they could discover. VG, Norway's largest selling newspaper even published an opinion poll on the eve of the Lillehammer games revealing that virtually all Norwegians loathed President Samaranch and his IOC.
I'm pleased to tell you that in South Switzerland the regional state TV station screened the one-hour film I made in 1992 about corruption in the IOC. That film could be seen in Lausanne, the IOC's home town. Unfortunately the powerful interests controlling many of the regional newspapers only publish what pleases Samaranch.
In Zurich, German-language TV has been very critical of the IOC's lies about doping. They even fly me there to appear on their programmes!
The Australian media are divided: In private most reporters covering Sydney 2000 tell me how morally corrupt the event is becoming. In public most of them stick to the party line - because their editors and bosses believe it is against Australia's national interest to tell the truth. But several TV stations - and the best selling magazine "Inside Sport" have done an excellent job exposing some of the lies.
Here in Denmark I'm pleased to say that Olav Skaaning Andersen and his colleagues at Danish TV-1 have done an excellent job on modern Olympic scandals - particularly the bribes paid for medals in the 1988 Seoul Games.
The last bunch of good people are the University teachers. All over the world are sports sociologists and historians who do excellent work digging out information about the IOC. But most of their work is historical and with the exception of Professor Hoberman at the University of Texas, Professor Kidd at the University of Toronto and Professor Tomlinson at the University of Brighton, few are studying Samaranch's IOC.
I must admit there is another kind of professor. Every country has at least one. They accept free travel and hospitality from the IOC and then publish embarrassing nonsense, based on what Samaranch tells them and press releases from his media twisters. These people are fools and nobody takes them seriously.
The wire services provide a disgracefully bad service. Most of the time they solemnly write down any rubbish that Samaranch spouts. If he announces a "war against doping" they report this as truth - never reminding their readers of the long history of IOC doping coverups. It's time some subscribers demanded proper news and inquiry - not a newsletter from an elite social club where reporters are admitted to membership.
AP is particularly bad and so are most of Reuters' reporters. But when ordinary news reporters are sent to Lausanne you get better reporting. They are not in the club.
In Britain the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian - papers with strong news values at the front of the paper - go soft at the back end.
But at the Times of London their chief sports reporter has recently departed following allegations that he took money from IOC sponsors and suppressed stories unfavourable to Samaranch.
I'd like to finish off with a short story that shows all that's wrong with sports reporting today. A year ago I published my second book about Olympic corruption: In it was the story, discovered in the Stasi archives in East Berlin, about the bribes paid to win Gold medals in the boxing tournament in Seoul in 1988. The IOC was forced to hold what the claim was an "investigation". In private they did nothing much for a year and then recently announced that it was all untrue.
I have a video of the press conference last month when IOC general secretary Francois Carrard announced that reports in the Stasi files could not be believed because the informants were often repeating rumours and had no certain knowledge of what really happened. Not one of the "expert" Olympic reporters present knew that the secret Stasi reports on the bribery had been written by the general secretary of international amateur boxing. He had been in the secret meetings when boxing officials not only admitted paying and receiving bribes - but also agreed to cover it up.
This man had organised the coverup and the world would never have known if I had not discovered his reports. So Carrard and the IOC - with the assistance of the media - have managed to cover up yet another scandal. Now it's your turn. I'd like to hear how you answer the question: Can we trust our sports reporters?
From the book "Society's Watchdog - or Showbiz' Pet?" Inspiration to Better Sports Journalism, Danish Gymnastics and Sports Associations 1998