Michael Pavitt

Thomas Bach’s comments on the Alberto Salazar case were unsurprisingly the leading item from his press conference last week after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board meeting in Lausanne.

The German called for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to follow up on investigating athletes associated with the Nike Oregon Project.

This followed Salazar being banned for four-years by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, who ruled the American coach had been "orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct".

Bach himself declared his confidence that WADA were looking into the anyway, which I certainly hope they would.

Perhaps, however, the biggest anti-doping news from the press conference was the IOC seeking to enhance the pre-Games testing programme for the Olympics.

I complained in a blog a couple of months ago about the lax efforts of continental bodies over around storage and retesting of samples, so equally the IOC deserve praise for pursuing a stronger system.

As a reminder, retesting has been responsible for 130 of the 163 reported cases since its introduction at Athens 2004.

Broadening the collection and retesting of samples out further is a widening of the net.

The IOC promised they would discuss with the International Testing Agency, who are responsible for the retesting programme, as well as WADA and International Federations as to how the pre-Games initiative could work.

This will be key.

The expectation will be the programme will be intelligence led, with athletes deemed suspicious taking the focus.

Thomas Bach made two announcements which could have long-term impacts ©Getty Images
Thomas Bach made two announcements which could have long-term impacts ©Getty Images

This could well lead to the number of positive tests rising even further surrounding the Olympics in the future, which in turn could lead to the tag of the "dirtiest Games" to pass down from host to host like a baton.

Rather than being fearful of this label, the efforts to increase retesting should be praised.

Heading into the IOC Executive Board meeting, further details surrounding the future host city election process had provided the biggest intrigue.

Again, this appeared to be side-lined somewhat by the current news surrounding Salazar.

The primary point raised by Bach on the subject was that the 2032 Olympic Games will not be awarded next year, despite rumours a Queensland effort could be a shoo-in after several meetings with the IOC.

Let’s not pretend for a minute that an Australian bid is not the overwhelming favourite to be named as host of the Games, but it makes sense for the IOC not to rush into a decision and give Queensland time.

This was reflected in the brief given to the potentially powerful Future Host Commissions, with the IOC claiming they should encourage potential hosts to elaborate their vision of the Games, with a focus on achieving a legacy for their communities and their youth.

Advice for hosts on sustainable proposals that fit long-term development plans was also listed as a responsibility.

If you take Queensland for an example, a potential bid has been mentioned with the intent to significantly upgrade transport infrastructure.

The Commissions’ role of monitoring public support and possible public consultations will be another interesting aspect.

The obvious takeaway is that the Commission look likely to have to power to recommend cities to have a referendum over a bid.

I wonder whether the flexibility surrounding the process could change the dynamic with public support, with the IOC potentially being able to strike an agreement with a host should support rise quickly, say in the immediate aftermath of an Olympic Games when public interest may be at a high point.

Storage of pre-Games doping samples could be an important step forward ©Getty Images
Storage of pre-Games doping samples could be an important step forward ©Getty Images

Given the powerful role these commissions look likely to have, the appointments as chairs were interesting ones.

Romania’s Octavian Morariu was among the names I had marked down as a potential contender to lead one of the Commissions, having successfully chaired the Evaluation Commission process for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. He evidently is viewed as a safe pair of hands by Bach.

The appointment of Gunilla Lindberg to the Commission seems another obvious one, given her experience guiding Pyeongchang 2018 from start to finish with the Winter Olympics.

You would hope she would be able to advise in where the South Koreans went right, but also where they ended up lacking with regard to their legacy planning.

Lindberg’s presence did also seem slightly strange given her final comment that IOC members had to prove the New Norm reforms were not just talk when urging them to back Stockholm’s bid for the Winter Olympics.

She is one of three members from the panel who could easily see their country express an interest in staging the Winter Olympics, with Austria’s Karl Stoss and Switzerland’s Gian-Franco Kasper.

After all Austria, Switzerland and Sweden had all initially thrown their hat into the ring for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Members of either Commission will be required to withdraw should their nation lodge an interest in hosting, so the make-up of the groups seems open to some flexibility.

Given Bach said the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic and 2030 Winter Olympic process is the priority currently, I wonder whether a member of the Commission could drop out of talks about one but not the other.

This could be tested early on with Brasov reported as a candidate for the 2024 Winter Youth Olympics, which would mean Morariu would have to step aside as the Commission chair. On a more obscure note, would Lindberg have to step down in the event South Korea put Pyeongchang bid for the Winter Youth Olympic Games, given her existing relationship?

Octavian Morariu was handed a key role as one of the chairs of the Future Host Commissions ©Getty Images
Octavian Morariu was handed a key role as one of the chairs of the Future Host Commissions ©Getty Images

I imagine this is an area which will become clearer in the coming weeks, with the IOC saying rules and full terms of reference will soon by published.

The appointment of Norway's Kristin Kloster Aasen as the chair of the Summer Host Commission seems an interesting one, given she only became an IOC member two years ago.

The implication is Kloster Aasen must have impressed Bach to end up with such a plumb position. Canada’s Richard Pound is another interesting pick, with the IOC doyen having been among the most vocal members to have been in support of the changes to the bid process back at the IOC Session in June.

While Bach had stressed how the two panels had been gender neutral and contained representation from the IOC, International Federations, National Olympic Committees, athletes and the International Paralympic Committee, the German offered up little detail as to why the members themselves had been selected.

The likes of Morariu and Lindberg make sense given their previous roles in the bid and delivery phase, but I wonder what some others will add to the process.

The feeling remains that if the IOC hierarchy wants a bid to happen, the Commissions will effectively ensure it does.