Athletics’ woes multiplied yesterday with the news that German sportswear giant Adidas is terminating its sponsorship deal with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) because of a slew of doping and corruption scandals that has rocked the sport over the past year or so.
The BBC said Adidas, whose 11-year deal made it the biggest sponsor of athletics’ governing body, decided against continuing with the contract after allegations of more corruption by officials emerged in December even as the IAAF was already trying to tackle the doping crisis that enveloped Russia and some other nations.
Corporate sponsorship is the very foundation on which high-profile sports thrives. Money that comes in from such deals helps federations organise competitions, offer lucrative cash prizes and takes sports beyond their traditional bases into new frontiers. Superstars also benefit from individual sponsorships, with many earning millions of dollars every year from endorsements alone.
The past few years have been, however, damaging for sport in general. FIFA’s various scandals have seen major sponsors making threats about pulling the plug on football if urgent reforms were not initiated.
Several instances of corruption have also tarnished cricket’s image with teams like South Africa, Pakistan and India most affected.  Former Indian captain Mohamed Azharuddin was banned for life and Pakistan, too, took several initiatives to curb the practice, especially after Salman Butt, Mohamed Asif and Mohamed Amir were caught spot-fixing and convicted. Former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje was also banned for life in 2001 but died in an air crash a year later.
In cycling, another high-profile sport, there have been multiple instances of riders getting caught using banned substances. After the Lance Armstrong affair unravelled, fans almost gave up on the sport because the American was considered infallible, especially after his heroic fight against cancer.  
But if sports buffs thought they had seen it all, they were left stunned when athletics became the latest victim of corrupt practices, with former IAAF president Lamine Diack and his associates accused of taking bribes from dopers in exchange for silence and secrecy.
Late last year an independent commission for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) revealed widespread, state-sponsored doping in Russia. Last week the commission released a second report on its investigations that accused the IAAF of having “embedded corruption” at the very top of the organisation under former president Lamine Diack.
Diack and his son, Papa Massata, are both under investigation by French police over corruption allegations. Both men have denied wrongdoing. Adidas’ move will add to the pressure on Coe, who succeeded Diack in August, having been one of his vice-presidents for seven years.
The IAAF yesterday acknowledged it has a battle on its hands to convince sponsors that it is confronting doping and corruption scandals. But if more sponsors take Adidas’ lead, then it would be an uphill battle for Coe and Co.

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