The magical mystery of IOF Anti-Doping finances

Over the past couple of months there were three apparently contradicting statements made by highly respected bodies of the IOF about the use of Anti-Doping monies in 2018. The audited 2018 Annual Report signed in April 2019 appears to be in contradiction with the Council minutes of January 2019. In return, the statement made by the Ethics Panel in May 2019 appears to be in contradiction with the 2018 Annual Report. The honesty and professionalism of these bodies are unquestionable. The apparent contradictions are part magic, part mystery. The IOF Anti-Doping finances are surrounded by magical mystery.

Apparent contradiction

The following chart shows the essence of the apparent contradictions with the details fleshed out below:

Magical mystery of IOF AD finances

January Council meeting

From Council minutes #193 of 18-19 January 2019

IOF AD fund not used - Council meeting minutes Jan 2019

Looks like clear information from an unquestionable source:
a reserve of €5500 of underspent AD monies.

The only minor point that one might add is that 2018 is not the second year of the “AD fund”. It has existed already in 2016, but one should not expect all distant details remembered by IOF Office.

The 2018 Annual Report

The 2018 Annual Report was signed by the Council on 12 April. It was audited by Ernst and Young who have not found any issues.

IOF Annual Report 2018 - incomeIOF Annual Report 2018 - costsIOF Annual Reprt - reserves

Looks like clear information from an unquestionable source:
In 2018 the IOF spent all the money, exactly to the euro, that was collected for Anti-Doping.

So the “AD Fund” is shown to have €0 surplus in 2018, and an overspend of €1000 in 2017. Nothing to be reserved. Not shown here, but you may check the 2016 annual report in the 2018 Congress Binder to see that in 2016 the AD Fund income was stated as €39,941, and AD costs as €40,659. An overspend in 2016 too, and thus no reserves to talk about.

It is not specified in the Annual Report what would be categorised as “Targeted funds” under Swedish accounting standards. We may assume from all the IOF communication that the “AD Fund” is a targeted fund, even if a true targeted fund is likely to be detailed within the accounts. The AD Fund is not detailed separately within the IOF accounts.

In any case, no signs of any €5500 reserve, neither here, nor in any other place in the Annual Report. It is a mystery.

Interesting to note that according to the Annual Report the AD costs in 2018 matched the AD Fund income to the euro. This coincidence of income and expense looks like magic, especially considering that according to the Council minutes there was “unfortunate cancelling of some testing at the end of 2018” and a reserve of ca €5500 was created.

The Ethics Panel statement

In their letter dated 24 May the Ethics Panel wrote the following under Section 10:

Ethics Panel letter - Point 10 - 24 May 2019

Looks like clear information from an unquestionable source:
there were monies reserved due to underspent funds, and they were taken into following years Anti-Doping finances.

You may read the whole letter in my previous post about the Ethics Panel investigation based on an IOF report against this blog.

Unquestionable sources

Needless to say, but never hurts to repeat, that this blog keeps all IOF officials and activists in the highest respect they deserve. The integrity and the professional standards of the above sources are unquestionable.

The IOF Council would immediately step up if they would see anything less than appropriate. There should be no doubt about that. Long gone the days of 2013 when the IOF Council sat quietly when they were informed that the then President presented alternative facts about a member federation. Now, equipped with the moral compass of the IOF Code of Ethics, there is no question that the Council would step up and correct immediately all misstated information they may come across.

Ernst and Young, the auditors of the IOF, is one of the largest and most respected professional services firms in the world. Its wikipedia article lists only around two dozen recent accounting and auditing scandals to its name; a rather good performance in its class. One may note that EY, as the auditor of Danske Bank, was reported in April 2019 to the Danish police by Danish authorities for its role in the money laundering case labelled as Estonian Laundromat by Bloomberg. But unfortunate events in distant countries should not carry any implication on the professional standards of EY Sweden.

The Ethics Panel is the Ethics Panel IOF. By definition it is the most ethical, and thus the most unquestionable of all IOF bodies.

Possible solutions

Facing this magical mystery of IOF Anti-Doping finances I talked to some accountants familiar with international finances. Without getting into details of their experiences, let’s say that if there is an accounting trick that they did not see, that probably does not exist.

They came up with a couple of ideas detailed below that might explain the magical mystery of IOF AD finances. It has to be declared here and now that this blog does not support any of their ideas. The ideas of season financial professionals do not assume full integrity of everybody involved in IOF activities. This  might be seen as disrespectful to IOF officials, and this blog cannot possibly support that position.

Creative accounting

One idea mentioned was the introduction of a “balancing item” to the 2018 AD costs. The magical coincidence of AD income and costs could suggest that something similar happened. Accounting for reserves is a pain in the neck, better to be avoided. Allocating an appropriate part of the salary of the AD officer, part of office cost, or even part of the salary of the CEO to AD costs is easy, especially when no in-depth details of the “AD fund” are public. The apparent contradiction between the Ethics Panel statement and the Annual Report was explained with lack of communication around such technical details between the accounting department and top management.

This might sound plausible in some less respectable organisations, but this blog should reject this idea in relation to the IOF. It would imply a level of gaming with accounting figures that must be excluded as an option when it comes to the highly respected operations of the IOF.

Double set of books

An interesting, but nevertheless unacceptable idea was the use of double sets of books (at least for some activities) within the IOF. One for budgetary purposes, the other for practical spending. The apparent contradictions above could be explained by the mixup of the two books: management is aware of the reserves, while for accounting purposes no surplus is shown. The apparent contradiction was suggested to be the result of mixing up references to the two sets of books.

Needless to say, this idea something this blog should not entertain in any way. It is just shown to illustrate what some less respectable organisations known to be doing.

A simple mess

An interesting idea mentioned was that the finances of the IOF could be in a bit of a mess. This could explain any level of contradiction observed. This might be also an appealing explanation for some for its simplicity. It is a basic scientific principle that a simple theory that explains an observation is considered to be more credible than a complicated explanation.

It must be self evident that this blog refuses to grant any credibility to this idea. It might be true that the IOF leadership could not replicate its approved budget in 2017, or that it provided inconsistent and contradictory information on IOF Anti-Doping tests. But any suggestion that would imply that things are not in top notch order within the IOF could be seen again as disrespectful to the IOF leadership, and thus it should be rejected by this blog.

 *   *   *

The magical mystery of IOF Anti-Doping finances remains to be explained. The possible solutions mentioned above were ideas of accounting professionals based on published numbers and statements. I have also asked guidance from the CEO of the IOF and the Ethics Panel on how to resolve the apparent contradictions between their statements and the Annual Report. I will keep the readership of this blog updated with their replies. If you have any suggestions, please let me know via the Contact page of this blog.

Ethics Panel found no solid ground to prosecute this blog

After an 8 month long process on 28 May the venerable Ethics Panel has informed me in a letter dated 24 May that they could find no solid ground to start formal action against a post published on this blog.

The IOF has submitted a complaint against this blog on 25 September 2018. The offending post raised questions regarding the IOF’s Anti-Doping activity. The Ethics Panel launched an investigation despite not being able to identify a single specific comment to investigate, and despite they knew that they had no right to investigate a journalistic activity. After 8 months they still could not find a single statement or fact in the post that required correction, or could have been used as a basis for formal action.  You may find the letter of the highly respected Ethics Panel at the end of this post.

The case is closed, forget it.

My legal adviser referred to the overall process as “funny”. He particularly enjoyed that the reputable Ethics Panel demanded “clear factual evidence” to allegations they could not even specify. He also found professionally interesting that the Ethics Panel asked the IOF for factual evidence only 7 months after the initial complaint by the IOF – and then it never revealed the details of those apparently convincing facts.

I think it was more than sad.

The interesting bit that warrants a longer post is the style of the letter of the highly respected Ethics Panel. It is a quintessential example of a witch hunt. With all respect to the authors, it is a masterpiece of condemnation without any factual substance whatsoever.

The letter of the Ethics Panel with all respect contains a number of unsubstantiated comments and underlying innuendo that calls into question my integrity and honesty with implication, but no factual evidence whatsoever. There are also numerous groundless assertions and incorrect statements that I will not address here in detail due to the lack of space, but they give an overall impression of a heavily biased approach by the venerable Ethics Panel.

Yet, because there was never a formal process, there is nothing to complain about. So all I can do is to share their letter for the edification of the general orienteering public. This is the way the highly professional IOF Ethics Panel works.

It was the style of the letter of the respected Ethics Panel that really felt familiar to me. But for a long time I could not put my finger on it. I knew that I saw this style before, but could not remember when and where. Only a month later, while watching the trailer of a very interesting new HBO miniseries, it suddenly dawned on me:

The communication of the Ethics Panel has reminded me of the style of Soviet bloc communication right after the Chernobyl incident, when it was clear that something was seriously wrong, but communist authorities desperately tried to hide it:
– A positive picture projected with no tangible substance, no hard numbers to support it;
– A blatant disregard of facts and information that may contradict the projected picture;
– A call to check facts and avoid spreading rumours, but without providing a single fact or suggesting a reliable source for information.

I am grateful to the Ethics Panel for evoking long forgotten memories of my youthful years. I was a student of Physics in Budapest in 1986. During the spring semester I was attending a nuclear lab where we were doing a series of measurements on various isotopes and in various settings, including a training reactor. On our last lab session in April there was quite a bit of gossipping that a nuclear incident happened in the Soviet Union, but there was no data. The authorities were in denial. On our first lab session early May we could measure high activity in soil samples, especially from the ones gathered from under drain pipes. In fact, the activity of some of the samples brought in from gardens was so high that by lab rules we should have kept them in special containers. Cruel jokes were spreading, like one suggesting that the May 1 demonstrators in Kiev were radiating happiness at levels never seen before. Yet, the official press communicated that everything was fine, that people should not spread negative information, and that one should check the facts, but – of course – no official facts were provided.

So let’s have a closer look why the style of the letter of the highly respected Ethics Panel reminded me of the style of communication by Soviet authorities.

Continue reading “Ethics Panel found no solid ground to prosecute this blog”

Adieu, Paris 2024!

There will be no orienteering in Paris on the Olympics in 2024. No surprise there.

The interesting bit is how the IOF leadership (did not) communicate the non-delivery of a key objective of their Goal 2020, a target recommended by the IOF leadership to the General Assembly. It was a “no event”. After the failed Paris 2024 bid the CEO of the World Squash Federation resigned. Even the World Flying Disc Federation started serious soul searching.

According to my psychologist friend, the deep silence around the failure to deliver on a key objective may suggest that either the IOF leadership so strongly believed in success that now they are in complete denial, or that they did not believe at all that it was deliverable, so failure is no news.

Yet, for whatever reason, the situation made me remember the old Russian joke about Napoleon’s admiration of Pravda, the newspaper of the Soviet Communist Party.

paris-2024-olympics-logo

The Olympic ambition

The Olympic ambition is a core component of the IOF’s strategy as discussed before. This is nothing new. According to the research of Heinz Tschudin, the late President of the IOF, the Olympic dream has been around for 75 years. It has preceded even the foundation of the IOF.

What’s new, is that it has become the Main Goal of the IOF, and not only at a conceptual level. Not only did the Vice President show the door to IOF activists who did not believe in the Olympic Dream before a discussion on IOF strategy in 2017, but very specific targets pop up in IOF documents, like in Goal 2020 – proposed by the IOF leadership to the General Assembly in October 2018 (and duly approved by the GA, as usual).

iof strategic directions 2018-2022

IOF ambition - Paris 2024

 

So what happened?

Continue reading “Adieu, Paris 2024!”

More questions on IOF Anti-Doping activity

I did not plan to write about anti-doping questions for while after my post last September. There are many other interesting topics that I could not find time for. But I had to look into this topic again after my post was reported by the IOF to the Ethics Panel and an IOF ethics investigation started.

The sad news is that after scratching just the surface for information on IOF AD activity, a set of new questions popped up again. In this post I would like to share with you three observations that do not require any understanding of anti-doping activities to raise interesting questions.

  • There are discrepancies between IOF AD numbers in different publications, and numbers for different years were apparently calculated according to different methodology. This is not a problem until you try to make sense of the numbers. If you try, you may get somewhat confused. 
  • No information on the IOF’s 2018 AD activities as of 12 April 2019.
    The 2016 IOF AD report was published in December 2016. The 2017 report was published on 1 January 2018. Normally this delay of the 2018 AD numbers would look strange. After the IOF has reported this blog for writing about an apparent drop in AD tests in 2018, this becomes very interesting.
  • In January 2019 the IOF Council minutes stated the IOF AD Fund “had not been completely used during 2018” due to fewer tests. Yet, the IOF Ethics Panel is investigating this blog for a post that discussed the impression that fewer tests were done and less money was spent on AD than collected for the “AD Fund”.

Did the IOF forget to inform the Ethics Panel that the questions this blog raised, in fact, had some basis? Or does the IOF think that asking questions about IOF AD activities is an ethical offence on its own?

I am sure that there is a good explanation for all the questions that may arise when one looks at these data. Unfortunately, they are far from being obvious. One may be forgiven to think that IOF AD reports are a bit of a mess, and that may even dampen trust in them.

I realise that this post may result in another IOF Ethics Panel investigation for highlighting more discrepancies in AD numbers and asking more questions about the IOF Anti-Doping activity. All I can bring up in my defence is a cruel upbringing when I was regularly punished for not noticing discrepancies between numbers and not asking questions about the reasons of said discrepancies.

But now let’s look into the details.

Discrepancy between IOF AD numbers

The last publication on AD activities was published more than 15 months ago on 1 January 2018 on the IOF website. It was titled “Anti-Doping – increasing number of tests” but at other places it was also referred to as the IOF Anti-Doping Report 2017. It includes a chart and a table with AD sample numbers. IC stands for in-competition, OOC for out-of-competition tests.

IOF AD numbers 2015-17 marked

2016 ADAMS AD numbers - IOF AD report 2017 marked

There was also a presentation given by the IOF in connection with the General Assembly 2018. It also showed numbers of AD samples, but some of them was different than the ones published 9 months earlier in the IOF Anti-Doping Report 2017.

GA 2018 IOF presentation - totals marked

 

Interesting, isn’t it?

Continue reading “More questions on IOF Anti-Doping activity”

IOF Ethics Panel Trumps Law?

I just received yesterday another piece of correspondence from the Ethics Panel. I felt that I had to share it, because it is very interesting that the IOF Ethics Panel knows that they have no right to investigate journalistic activity, yet they intend to do so.

In fact, the letter suggests that in their interpretation almost anybody who ever attended a larger orienteering event may get investigated by the IOF Ethics Panel for anything the Panel wants to investigate them for the rest of their life.

Ethics Panel email - blanked - 9 April 2019

 

The key point above is that the Ethics Panel is fully aware that they have no right, whatsoever, under Swedish law to investigate journalistic activities, including this blog.

The IOF is registered in Sweden, hence it should adhere to the laws of Sweden. Under the Rule of Law, lower level rules of an organisation may not override national laws.

Yet, the IOF Code of Ethics is worded so broadly and so vaguely, that it gives the Ethics Panel the opportunity for a very broad interpretation to claim the power to investigate almost everybody who was ever involved in orienteering for anything they wish for. You may read the full Code here.

Here is Section 1 that was referred to in the letter

THE IOF CODE OF ETHICS

Persons and Organizations Subject to this IOF Code of Ethics

This IOF Code of Ethics (hereinafter referred to as “the Code”) applies to all federations (members or provisional members) and all elected, appointed or contracted IOF employees, functionaries, volunteers and organizing committees for IOF events and their officials and volunteers. The Code also applies to officials and volunteers at IOF- sanctioned member events, athletes, coaches, trainers, doctors, team staff, team officials, all other persons claiming or seeking standing as present or prospective participants in any IOF activity. The Code also applies to and persons without status or title who engage in any activity in relation to the IOF that is covered by this Code.

 

I underlined above the ones who fall under the Code. All athletes, team staff, organisers. No surprise there. The last one is the real fascinating one: “persons without status or title who engage in any activity in relation to the IOF that is covered by this Code”. The Code does not specify what are the activities that are covered, hence there is only one interpretation left: any activity in relation to the IOF.

Apparently, if you were involved in any IOF event you are subject to the Code according to the Ethics Panel interpretation. It does not matter whether you attended as an athlete, coach, organiser, or a just as a spectator. If you consider that not only major events, but also World Ranking Events are IOF events, then it gets really broad. If you attended the 2018 Trail-O WRE in Egypt as a spectator, you are subject to the Code. If you helped out with the parking on the South American Orienteering Championships in Uruguay, you are subject to the Code. If you ran on any event in Sweden where the elite was a WRE race, you are subject to the Code.

The Ethics Panel in their letter made it absolutely clear that in their view the Code gives them power not only above the laws, but they can investigate anybody for the rest of their life if they were ever subject to the Code:

“once you participate in the IOF activities, you consent to being bound by these internal regulations. Therefore, the Ethics Panel has the power given to it by the IOF Code of Ethics to conduct an inquiry.”

I duly informed about this situation the leadership of the IOF who are responsible for the legal compliance of IOF operations, especially compliance with the laws of Sweden where the IOF is registered. I trust they all agree that we shall do our best to keep the IOF a law abiding, transparent and scandal free organisation.

Ethics Panel investigation continues into “IOF Anti-Doping activity questions”

I just wanted to give you an update on this Ethics Panel investigation. Below you may find the most detailed description of the matter received so far. I also share some interesting observations about its lack of specifics, its timing, and the apparent lack of any legal ground for an Ethical Panel investigation into an article (blog post) published in (social) media.

Yet, we shall welcome the interest of the Ethics Panel into the financial and managerial practices of the IOF. A more active involvement of the Panel may help to improve the workings of the IOF to avoid even the possibility of ethical and financial scandals that marred so many international sport organisations from FIFA through IBU to the IOC.

The issues

The following reply was received from the Chair of the Ethics Panel on 8 March 2019 to my email sent on 28 February.

Ethics Panel letter 8 March 2019 - p1

Ethics Panel letter 8 March 2019 - p2

The 2016 version of the IOF Code of Ethics was also attached as the one in force when the post was published. You may read it here: IOF Code-of-Ethics – 2016.

For simplicity I will refer to the plaintiff as “IOF” not to disclose the person who submitted the report to the Ethics Panel.

Before getting into details below, I have to address the question about transparency under Section 7 in the letter of the Chair of the Ethics Panel. In my email on 2 April I asked him if he could provide any rules that would support his position on transparency.

“Finally, I am wondering if you could point to any rule – other than general privacy and protection of personal data – that would prohibit sharing the developments of this procedure with the readers of my blog. I could not find anything in the IOF Code of Ethics or any other IOF document. Based on the nulla poena sine lege principle I will keep posting updates on my blog with your kind understanding, unless you can point to a rule that would explicitly forbid that.”

In his reply on 3 April the Chair made no comment on this request, and I received no further correspondence. This suggests that there is no such rule that would prohibit making this procedure a transparent one.

The very point of this blog is to show everybody interested the way the IOF works, particularly when it comes to culture, strategy and finances. Ethics and transparency are part of this picture, as discussed earlier.

So let’s see the details below.

Continue reading “Ethics Panel investigation continues into “IOF Anti-Doping activity questions””

Ethics Panel investigates “IOF Anti-Doping activity questions”

On 24 February Sunday evening I received an email from Bob Dredge, the Chair of the IOF Ethics Panel informing me about an Ethical Panel procedure related to my blog post on IOF Anti-Doping activity questions published on 25 September 2018.

For the avoidance of misunderstanding, it should be clearly stated that the subject of the Ethics Panel procedure was not the IOF’s Anti-Doping activity. Nor were there any issues raised around the facts and data mentioned in the blog post. The Ethics Panel is considering if any breach of the IOFs Code of Ethics has resulted from certain not specified comments.

Before reading on I would like to encourage you to read the original post as linked above. If you do not have time for the 1350 or so words and 5 charts, you may want to know that essence of the post is as follows: There appeared to be a drop in IOF AD testing in 2018 compared to previous years. This was shown for MTBO, but anecdotal evidence from elite runners suggested a similar trend in Foot-O. Yet, there was more money collected for the IOF AD fund from MTBO organisers in addition to the athletes’ licence fee collected. As a result, the implied cost of the MTBO AD tests skyrocketed over the past 3 years as shown on the chart below. This has raised unavoidable questions whether AD tests got so much more expensive, whether part of the AD fund was spent on other purposes by the IOF than AD testing, and whether there will be member federations who would ask questions about this.

implied cost - IOF AD tests

Nobody should take an IOF Ethics Panel procedure lightly. After all, the Ethics Panel may impose sanctions for violations of the IOF Code of Ethics that include exclusion for life from competitions and/or IOF activities, an appropriate fine, or removal of any previously obtained honours, or any other appropriate sanction that the Hearing Panel decides (with no stated limit to what that could be).

This may sound quite scary for many. After all, nobody enjoys being the subject of a legal procedure. Yet, you may become curious about the whole experience, if you are a bit like Desperaux the brave little mouse, who failed to learn in school that there are so many wonderful things in life to be afraid of, if you just learn how scary they are. Add to this that the flavour of our times is to share our experiences on social media for the edification of others, and my belief that transparency is  critically important to amateur sports organisations like the IOF. All this made me decide to share this experience on this blog.

Below you can read the original letter received from the Chair of the IOF Ethics Panel, some of the key questions related to his email that made me scratch my head, and my reply to the letter of the Chair.

Continue reading “Ethics Panel investigates “IOF Anti-Doping activity questions””