IOC presidential candidate and pole vault great Sergei Bubka believes the spate of recent high-profile doping cases in track and field shows that global drug-testing efforts are working and cheaters "will pay the price."
The former Olympic gold medalist and six-time world champion said Wednesday he was disappointed by the positive tests involving sprinters Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson but took heart that the anti-doping system is catching offenders.
"Of course some positive cases are unpleasant," Bubka said. "But there is a positive trend. The system starts to work. Even some big stars will pay the price. Our duty is to protect the honest athletes."
The Ukrainian, who is also a vice president of the IAAF, said athletes should know by now that they should avoid taking supplements because they might contain banned substances.
"In the end, you are responsible," Bubka said. "Athletes have enough information about supplements for them not to go that way."
Germany’s Thomas Bach is running for the job as well. With about a week to go until the world championships in Moscow, Bach warned against blindly suspecting all athletes of doping.
"That wouldn’t be fair," the German said at a news conference. "It is poison for a positive test to lead into the trap of doping suspicion. … That’s why we should always be aware of whom we are in this fight against doping for — for the clean athletes."
If elected, Bach would be the first German and the first former Olympic champion to be IOC president. Bach helped Germany to the team gold in fencing in 1976.
"I want to give something back to sport. I grew up with sport," said Bach, who works as a lawyer and has been president of German Olympic Sports Confederation since 2006.
Gay, the American record-holder in the 100 meters and the fastest man at the distance this year, has failed more than one drug test this year and has withdrawn from next month’s world championships in Moscow.
Powell, the former world-record holder in the 100, tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrine at Jamaica’s national championships. Jamaican teammate Simpson, a three-time Olympic medalist, tested positive for the same stimulant.
In total, five Jamaican athletes tested positive for a banned substance at the national championships. A slew of Russian and Turkish athletes have also been caught doping this year.
"When I heard about these cases I was not happy, but the system works," Bubka said. "Whether in Jamaica, Russia or the States, you will pay the price if you go the wrong way. It’s a global issue. It’s not only a problem in one country."
Bubka said he supports moves to double the standard doping suspension from two to four years.
He is also chairman of the IOC’s entourage commission, which will make recommendations next month on ways to crack down on the coaches, trainers, physios and other members of an athlete’s inner circle who are complicit in doping.
Bubka, who came to London for last weekend’s IAAF Diamond League meet marking the anniversary of the 2012 Olympics, is one of six candidates for the IOC presidency. The others are Bach, Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, Denis Oswald of Switzerland, Ng Ser Miang of Singapore and C.K. Wu of Taiwan.
Jacques Rogge is stepping down as IOC president after 12 years in office. His successor will be elected on Sept. 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The 49-year-old Bubka is by far the youngest candidate in the race.
"It’s not about age, it’s about experience," he said. "I have experience in sports and business. There are leaders of countries and big institutions of the same age. I think it’s a good age."
Bach, a 59-year-old German lawyer and IOC vice president, has long been viewed as the favorite.
"We have six good candidates," Bubka said. "Everyone is capable of winning. IOC members will make the right choice."
Bubka served as the athletes’ representative on the policymaking IOC executive board from 2000-08. He was elected a full-time IOC member in 2008 and has been back on the executive board since last year.
Bubka won the pole vault gold medal for the former Soviet Union at the 1988 Games in Seoul. He still holds the outdoor and indoor world records in the event.
"This is my life," he said. "Sport is in my blood and in my genes. My experience, my passion, my drive, my energy will be very important for the Olympic movement."