Athletics Australia
sure can pick its coaches. Take last week’s allegations by Australian
steeplechaser Melissa Rollison that former national distance coach Said
Aouita urged her to take performance enhancing drugs.

This followed earlier allegations against Aouita by
middle distance runner Mark Fountain arising out of a training camp
in the US in 2003. An inquiry at the time exonerated Aouita, but
Rollison, who also attended the camp but kept mum at the time, has now
corroborated Fountain’s version of events.

Whether or not these allegations are true, Aouita’s two
year reign was an unmitigated disaster. Not only did he fail to deliver
anything resembling results, he also managed to alienate virtually all of
Australia’s best middle distance runners, driving a number out of the sport
altogether. And if you think the Aouita appointment was on the nose,
don’t forget AA hired former East German Ekkart Arbeit as its head coach in
1997.

This was the same guy who, as East Germany’s throwing coach from 1982-88 and head track and field coach in
1989-90, presided over that country’s systematic drug doping program. Oh, and
he also managed to moonlight as a spy for the East German secret police in his
spare time!

Not to worry, though. Arbeit assured AA’s head honchos at
the time that he had never been directly
involved in any drug use by his athletes. Fortunately, the public was not so easily sucked in and the
inevitable outcry ensured Arbeit never took up his four year contract.

Now we have the Australian Sports Commission and AA
promising a thorough investigation into Rollison’s allegations, but it seems a
classic case of too little, too late, with Aouita long since gone.

Fortunately though, so too are the former AA administrators
responsible for appointing him. There’s hope that AA’s current Danny
Corcoran-led administration have learned from their predecessors’ mistakes.

Peter Fray

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