Cam Cole: From Aubut to Blatter, sports’ princes let power go to their heads

 

 
 
 
 
Then-Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut (right) works his charm on Russian President Vladimir Putin when the latter visited Canada House during the Sochi Winter Olympics in February 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
 

Then-Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut (right) works his charm on Russian President Vladimir Putin when the latter visited Canada House during the Sochi Winter Olympics in February 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Photograph by: Mikhail Klimentyev, AP

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VANCOUVER — The least surprising shaming event in sports is no longer the athlete on steroids, or recreational drugs, or facing discipline for this or that on/off-field offence.

True, all these are commonplace to the point of ending up as news-in-brief items, but topping them all on the predictability scale is the shaggy-dog story of corruption at the top of the world sports food chain.

It’s not quite inevitable — there’s probably one honest man out there somewhere, running a global sporting organization — but it’s close.

Money, prestige, endless perks, royal treatment. No wonder those who have all that begin to feel that the ordinary rules don’t apply to them.

So Canadian Olympic Committee head Marcel Aubut is forced to resign after three women come forward with complaints of sexual harassment on the job by the man who would be king, if such a position were available.

Join the crowd, Marcel.

You let it go to your head. Don’t they all?

Your fellow princes of sport, who expect to be fawned over and have their little foibles overlooked by their inferiors, make for a long and, in the end, pretty unimaginative list of bullies.

From former IOC ruler Juan Antonio Samaranch to FIFA’s longtime czar Joao Havelange, from track and field’s former uber-arrogant kingpin Primo Nebiolo to his successor, Lamine Diack, and other too numberous to mention, no one makes it to the finish line without a lot of unsavoury baggage, usually involving finances, but most survive to live long lives aboard the gravy train.

The ability to operate in the political backrooms and enrich the mothership is the ticket to power so intimidating, it can bluster and bulldoze its way past almost any objection.

And now — we are shocked (shocked!) to learn — FIFA’s ethics committee, which must be the busiest agency on the planet, has recommended that president Joseph (Sepp) Blatter, be suspended for 90 days amid a Swiss criminal investigation into his conduct as the soon-to-be-outgoing head of soccer’s world governing body.

Those in line to succeed him, once his term officially is over, include:

UEFA chief Michel Platini, the former French international, and one of those to whom Blatter is accused of directing a suspicious 2 million Euro payment;

Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, the highest-ranking FIFA official left standing once Blatter takes the fall, because general secretary Jerome Valcke was turfed indefinitely for his connection to a plan to profit from tickets at the 2014 World Cup. Hayatou was previously reprimanded by the ethics committee for payment received from a marketing company.

South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon, who also faces suspension connected to the bent bidding campaigns for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

It’s a veritable rogues’ gallery.

Aubut fit the profile, though he was no one’s idea of a blueblood. A hockey guy, with all that game’s attendant coarseness never far from the surface, he maneuvered his way to the top of the COC on the strength of Quebec athletes’ outsized contributions to Canadian medal totals, and turned it into his own personal kingdom, surrounded by political operatives and appointees.

When he came to town, it was a royal visit. When he held a news conference at the Olympics as the head of the Canadian delegation, his entrance wasn’t quite greeted by Hail To The Chief, but that was very much the tenor: it was Marcel’s team, and he was the head of state, and he revelled in his status.

He would have learned well from being around the aristocrats of the International Olympic Committee in Vancouver and London and Sochi, but the arrogance came naturally.

Eventually, though, what goes around does seem to come around.

It has taken 17 years, in Blatter’s case. It has taken some of the most flagrantly corrupt transactions — notably the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia, and the 2022 edition to (where else?) Qatar — to raise the red flag and begin to follow the money trail.

Not incidentally, top sponsors Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, McDonald’s and VISA have said it’s time for Blatter to go. That ought to do it.

There is no amusing postscript to the exit of Marcel Aubut, whose behaviour around the women over whom he had power evidently was not merely inappropriate, to use the term du jour, but crude and embarrassing. The fact that he went quietly was, in itself, an admission.

Blatter’s departure, if this 90-day suspension actually happens, will never be as meek. He has brazened it out this long and intends to stay on until the election in February.

But you have to hand it to Chung, son of the Hyundai founder who, despite a checkered past of his own, has gone on the offensive to ridicule Blatter’s attempt to hang on and oversee the FIFA reforms, calling him “a hypocrite and a liar.”

He said he would characterize Blatter’s rule as Mafia-like, but “my only hesitation in using that term is that it is almost insulting to the Mafia.”

And so it goes at the top, where absolute power really does, it seems, corrupt absolutely.

ccole@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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Then-Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut (right) works his charm on Russian President Vladimir Putin when the latter visited Canada House during the Sochi Winter Olympics in February 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
 

Then-Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut (right) works his charm on Russian President Vladimir Putin when the latter visited Canada House during the Sochi Winter Olympics in February 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Photograph by: Mikhail Klimentyev, AP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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