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A 'remarkable' autobiography: Lord Triesman reviews 'Delivering London’s Olympic Dream'

2018: Then WADA president, Craig Reedie | Alamy

Lord Triesman

3 min read

From delivering the 2012 Olympics to tackling the state-sponsored doping of athletes, Craig Reedie has produced a fascinating account of his life and career

Craig Reedie is a remarkable man, and if anyone harboured doubts, these would be dispelled by this autobiography. It is realistically subtitled A Long Life in Sport, and the reader gets exactly what it says on the tin. Starting with his own sporting career in badminton in small halls on the edges of Stirling, he takes us up a long ladder of administrative roles to the governing heights of sport and especially his role in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The detail he can offer on every step of the way is formidable and his bookshelves must be bent under the weight of massive diaries. 

The delivery of the London Olympics is, in its way, one of the final peaks in Reedie’s sporting Monroes and obviously fascinating to those who enjoyed winning the right to host and then the tournament itself. Reedie sets out his role and acknowledges to some extent the role of others. Everyone wants to be the godparent of a successful bid, not least those who write the history. The London Olympics are no different. Perhaps more credit is due especially to the late Tessa Jowell who, with Tony Blair, fiercely drove the government effort, and Sir Keith Mills whose engine room operation provided relentless energy. I am less convinced by the “roles” of some key International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, not least because the IOC so often comes down on the wrong side of judgments. Reedie, however, can properly claim to have been on the right side.

This is a strong statement. But the book is constructed in a way that illustrates and demonstrates many kinds of weaknesses in global sports institutions. Reedie has organised his autobiography into a timeline rather than thematically. Over the long history and across many sports, as key figures come to the surface in ever more senior roles, the same names are recycled over the decades. Reedie, who has a relaxed, even enigmatic style, is obviously aware of the fact. A small elite finally controls almost everything. They have known each other almost forever. It can be hard to challenge within tightknit groups of long-term friends. I have seen this paralysis facing sports administrators in football. It appears comfortable to do nothing rather than court antagonism.

All WADA attempts to create an independent anti-doping agency in Russia have failed

So: to the concrete theme where Reedie has been most outspoken actor. Based on the 2016-17 McLaren Reports on systemic doping (ie cheating) at the 2012 London Olympics, the Universiade and 2013 IAAF World Championships, we know more than 1,000 athletes across many sports cheated. The most significant cover-up was organised by the Moscow and Sochi laboratories, and all WADA attempts to create an urgently needed independent anti-doping agency in Russia have failed. Indeed, Reedie sets out the barriers erected by the Russian state and its intelligence agencies to prevent the development. Candidly, progress vanished in a bureaucratic web of global sports administrators. Reedie is sharply aware of it. You can sense his polite irritation at derisory, soon overturned, penalties on Russian and other athletes. Meaningless sanctions are a huge discouragement to clean athletes, as had been the case with East German swimmers at the Moscow Olympics and elsewhere. Reedie calling for the system to be dismantled and built anew would have been a truly powerful legacy.

Lord Triesman is a Labour peer

Delivering London’s Olympic Dream: A Long Life in Sport-Highlights and Crises
By: Craig Reedie
Publisher: Fonthill Media

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