In Summary

  • The exit of South African pay TV broadcaster SuperSport from the Kenyan football market, for instance, begs many questions.
  • It shouldn’t take Seppelt flying in to Kenya yet again to unearth the rot in Kenyan sports management.
  • And like him, our sports journalists should stop getting too cosy with officials, get their hands dirty and expose the rot that is running our sport aground.

Last week, South Korea hosted the 80th annual congress of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) with several interesting conversations highlighting the sessions in Seoul and Pyeongchang.

In the course of the congress, Sports Journalists Association of Kenya treasurer Evelyn Watta was elected to the lofty office of vice president of the AIPS, garnering an impressive 90.8 per cent of the vote to sit in the executive as one of AIPS’s five vice presidents.

Italian Gianni Merlo, a veteran of the pink sheet Gazetta dello Sport, one of the world’s oldest and most vibrant daily sports newspapers, regained his presidency of the organisation unopposed for another four-year term with Turkey’s Esat Yilmaer and Croatia’s Jura Olmec also unopposed as first vice president and treasurer, respectively.

COMMITTEE MEMBERS

The other journalists elected as vice presidents besides Watta were Hiji Ali Mohammed (Qatar), Nickolai Dolgopolov (Russia) and Daras Ioannis (Greece).

There were 13 officials voted in as members of the executive committee namely Ahmadi Seyed Abdolhamid (Iran), Csisztu Zsusza (Hungary), Dattoli Vicente (Brazil), Emmanuel Fantaneanu (Romania), Jung Hee-Don (South Korea) and Isa Ahmad Khawari (Malaysia).

The rest were Josef Langer (Austria), Jean Paul Savart (France), Morad Moutaouakkil (Morocco), Ernesto Ortiz Gomez (Uruguay), Antonio Prieto Juan (Spain), Hiroshi Takeuchi (Japan) and Jose Zidar (Slovenia).

However, elections aside, the most interesting segment of the discussions in the Seoul leg of the congress centred around a heated presentation by German investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt, famous for his expose on state-sanctioned doping in Russia.

Seppelt had been invited by congress organisers to talk around investigative journalism, but his no-holds-barred approach rubbed organisers and Russian journalists at the gathering the wrong way, at one point degenerating into an ugly exchange between Seppelt and AIPS’s Russian vice president Nickolai Dolgopolov.

DOPING COVER-UPS

Dolgopolov, the deputy editor-in-chief at Russian government-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta, had taken exception of Seppelt’s use of “foul” language to describe his tribulations after his expose of the Moscow doping cover-ups that led to the banning of Russian athletes from international competitions.

The ban was in force at last year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and will also hold for this summer’s IAAF World Championships in London.

Dolgopolov’s strong and passionate reaction perhaps served to confirm Seppelt’s assertion that sports journalists have gone to bed with federations and sports institutions, side-stepping their important watchdog role.

Seppelt, who started his journalism as a radio intern in 1985, works as an investigative journalist with German TV station ARD and was also behind an investigative piece last year that saw the ejection of Kenya’s athletics team manager Michael Rotich from the Rio Games, the former military man accused on soliciting a bribe to alert athletes of impending random anti-doping tests.

Seppelt also claimed to have exposed unscrupulous medics in the North Rift notorious for administering banned performance-enhancing substances to elite Kenyan and foreign athletes.

The German’s interest in sports journalism was not so much for the action, but to uncover the rot behind the demands of high performance sport.

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