The Voice of Athletes vs Keeping Up Appearances

In the previous post it was discussed that after the continuing quality issues on major IOF events in China the FootO Athletes Commission had enough. They wrote a statement to the IOF leadership, signed by 100 or so international elite athletes, requesting changes to ensure more fairness for athletes on major events. They received an apology from the IOF President for the problems on the Middle Distance competition on the World Cup in China. He thanked them for raising the issue, and promised a reply after discussion in the Council. So far so good. We shall eagerly await the outcome, though finding a solution to the problems discussed in the previous post would require a major rethink of the IOF’s approach to major FootO events.

Unfortunately, the track record of the IOF Council is not particularly good when it comes to listening to athletes in strategic questions. Probably the most memorable moment was when the IOF Council rejected the unprecedented joint plea of the four Athletes Commissions of all four disciplines in the Autumn of 2013. The Council decided to introduce “Olympic style” prize givings in 2013 with only the 3 medalists on the podium. The athletes wanted to keep top 6 on the podium. The Council rejected the athletes because

“orienteering strives to become an Olympic sport and Council would like the award ceremony to mirror that of the Olympic Games.”

No money was involved, and no external demand. Just a choice between “Keeping Up Appearances” and the request of the athletes. It was a pure ego trip. Eventually the pressure from other corners became too big and the Council had to budge three months later keeping top 6 podiums on award ceremonies.

One may call this an old story. After all, this happened 6 years ago. Yet, 8 of the 11 Council members today, including the President and the three Vice Presidents, were amongst the ones who voted against the unprecedented joint plea of all athletes commissions in 2013. Did those 8 Council members change their attitude towards the athletes since 2013?

This story is interesting not only for placing a show element above the request of the athletes. It also serves as an example how much weight the words of the Athlete Commissions carry when it comes to questions close to the heart of some members of the Council. Recently the Council announced an initiative to modify the IOF Statutes to include one or two (gender balanced) athletes as voting members of the Council. This was apparently triggered by the governance audit that showed that the IOF does not one trend amongst international federations.

Does the new initiative to include athletes in the Council represents a new approach to athletes, or is it just another manifestation of the keeping up appearances approach? Is it done for genuine interest to work with the athletes, or just to make the IOF look better to the outside world?

Continue reading “The Voice of Athletes vs Keeping Up Appearances”

IOF Event Quality

Serious quality problems are the striking symptoms that something is not right around the IOF major events. Large part of the problems that popped up in China were related to quality issues. But this was just the latest manifestation of a long series of quality problems in major IOF events. In fact, there are few IOF events across all disciplines that did not have quality problems (or luckily avoided “near misses”) that should never occur on our top competitions. Despite all the effort, the problems in FootO, the IOF flagship discipline,  appear to be the biggest ones, even resulting in competitions that were voided or should have been voided like the men’s Middle distance in China.

Quality issues keep popping up not for the lack of want to avoid them. Most organisers put in a heroic effort to stage high quality events, but in practice there are many avoidable banana peels that they slip on more often than not. These are typically different banana peels that should have been easily spotted in hindsight, but the abundance of them suggests that the problem is systemic rather than a long series of bad luck or individual errors.

The IOF leadership recognized the problem a while ago. In 2017 the IOF President specifically voiced his expectations that organisers should care more about quality and spend more on it. In practice, the selection of organisers of major FootO events is still driven by the “show elements”, because the fundamentals of these events are very different according to the Leibnitz convention.

The client of major IOF FootO events is the TV viewer, not the athlete. This is in stark contrast with all other events, small or large, across all four orienteering disciplines.

The latest manifestation of this was seen in China just the day before the disastrous Middle distance competition. The IOF Council did not approve the only candidate to organise EOC 2022 because it did not commit to live TV broadcast, an extra €80,000 or so expense.

Analogue situations in business are quite common. Persistent service quality issues are typical symptoms of an organisation where strategic directions (if you prefer, management ambitions) got detached from the capabilities of the organisation and the realities of the external environment. The management trap lies in the fact that individual quality issues always look fixable with a little more attention. Hence, the underlying root cause of overstretched ambitions is far from being obvious. To make things more complicated, even if the root cause is identified as the gap between management ambitions and capabilities, politically it may not be admissible to point it out. Yet, the very fact that quality issues keep popping up left and right despite never ending attempts to fix them, shows that the real issue lies in the fundamentals.

There is an interesting development though that we have to watch out for. The new Finnish Council member, who is responsible for Foot-O, has shown a particular interest in major event quality. Even before China he told the Foot-O Commission that one of his area of attention is to identify possible root causes for the fatal mistakes in High Level Events and learn from analysis of failures. Analysing root causes of problems and learning from failures is a revolutionary new approach to be introduced to the IOF Council. We shall eagerly wait for the outcome of his work.

Continue reading “IOF Event Quality”

Reflections after the events in China

I wanted to write a post reflecting on the events in China two months ago. I guess everybody remotely interested in orienteering have heard about the events, both the serious violation of fair play rules on the CISM World Military Games, as well as the major quality issues and their consequences on the Middle, and the unbelievable results of the Sprint during last round of the FootO World Cup.

While working on my post I had to realize that the questions facing international orienteering related to the events in China are so complex and multifaceted that they cannot be jammed into a single post. So here I just touch on each and every aspect, but intend to devote separate posts to each of them over the next couple of weeks. The topics are ranging from IOF event quality to the IOF controlling system; from the respect of the athletes’ view to athletes’ trust in the system, and the role of the Ethics Panel that was left holding the baby; and from strategic relationship with China to the limits to growth of international orienteering.

The overall situation is similar to poorly managed companies that face a breakdown after embarking on ambitious expansion plans. I worked with some of these in my professional career, and believe me, it is not fun to see them breaking down soon after they start to feel happy about their prospects. The issues swept under the carpet by management for years stay under the carpet until the strain of increased demand on the organisation exposes them. Such management is often baffled by the apparently sudden breakdown of the organisation. They had no problems exposed for years, and suddenly everything blows up in their face. Yet, they seldom admit that all those problems were there under the carpet all the time, just nobody cared to address them.

On a positive note, the IOF strategy to raise the profile of orienteering through large multi-sport events (CISM, Universiade, World Games etc) is working.  Orienteering was mentioned even on Fox News, currently the most influential US news channel, and featured in a large number of publications worldwide from the Guardian in the UK to the Bangkok Post. I guess this is how PR success looks like.

Continue reading “Reflections after the events in China”

Money to spend

There was an interesting point in the April 2019 Council Meeting Minutes that may be subject to some interesting discussion this week in Norway during the Foot-O World Championships and the Presidents’ Conference held in conjunction. Pity, that in contrast with previous years, no information is available in advance from the IOF’s relevant web page.

In April the Council has committed a very substantial €50,000 guarantee, or 27%, towards the CHF 200,000 cost of inclusion of Ski-O in the 2021 Winter Universiade in Switzerland. “Council agreed to offer to Swiss Orienteering a guarantee to reserve a maximum amount of 25 000 EUR from the budget in 2020 and 2021 respectively towards the inclusion of Ski Orienteering in WU 2021.” You may find all details the Council Minutes #194 on the IOF web page.

It was refreshing to see a highly unusual deviation from the unanimous voting norm within the Council. The Finnish member “raised concern about funding partner events before improving the IOF’s own event programme and asked that this be noted”. The Norwegian member “felt the amount being committed to this project was too large in relation to meeting the goal in the Strategic Directions and asked that this be noted”.

I believe that there are three questions the Presidents of Member Federations may want to discuss next week:

  1. Is there really extra money available for the IOF to spend?
  2. Does the Council have the right to introduce a new item to the approved Budget?
  3. Is this the most useful way to spend any extra money that may be available?

The short answers detailed below are:

  1. It is far from being obvious if the IOF can afford this €50,000 commitment.
  2. The Council has no statutory right to modify the 2020 Budget approved by the GA.
  3. It would take only €18,000 a year to double the Athletes Prize Money and reduce by a third the IOF tax levied on MTBO organisers, actions that would definitely benefit our sport.

The bonus question remains open: what’s the reason that FISU, the International University Sports Federation, is so close to the heart of the IOF Leadership?

Is there money to spend?

It is far from being obvious that there is money available for the IOF to make these type of commitments.

First, the 2020 Budget approved by the General Assembly does not contain any item remotely similar to this. Even the extra “Budget scenarios” that assume higher sponsor income did not include any discretionary spend for the Council.

IOF Budget 2019-20

IOF Budget Scenarios - 2019-20

Second, in 2016, in a much better financial situation and outlook, the CEO of the IOF clearly stated that “IOF’s capital and reserves should be strengthened and that the surplus was primarily intended for this purpose” [and not for development funding]. You may read details in the 2016 GA minutes. Based on that statement of the IOF CEO, and considering the weaker financial position of the IOF after the major loss in 2016, the profit of 2018 and subsequent years should be used to stabilise the financial position.

It should be also considered that the current IOF leadership in the Financial Year of 2016 only 4 months before year end misjudged the result of the IOF by more €130,000 (the result was €65k loss instead of €67k surplus presented to the GA at the end of August). With this level of uncertainty a large financial cushion looks mandatory in the interest of the sport.

Third, not all the money shown as profit in the IOF statements may be available for spending. Although the 2018 Annual Report shows an impressive surplus of €106,054 for the year, the amount of Trade debtors has also jumped to €70,472. For the ones not familiar with accounting terminology, Trade debtors in essence shows the part of the financial results that was recorded, but cash not yet received. There are no details on the composition of this rather substantial sum, but not all of that money might be recoverable. The IOF has a track record of not being transparent when it comes to dubious debt. The best documented case is the €16,000 Brazilian debt of 2014 that was converted into a “regional development funding” in 2016 – without any transparency by the IOF. The only reason we know of this that the Brazilian Federation was more transparent than the IOF – Acordo IOF CBO – Debt Agreement Original em inglês.

Can the Council modify the Budget?

A financial guarantee is a budget item. According to the Council Minutes #194, as quoted above, the Council offered the financial guarantee of €25,000 from the 2020 Budget. The problem is that there is no expenditure item that could be used for this purposes in the 2020 Budget as approved by the General Assembly, as shown above.

According to the Statutes of the IOF, the approval of the Budget is a task for the General Assembly (Section 7.4). The Council Remit is rather broad, but does not contain any right to modify the approved Budget (Section 8.2).

It is true, that the lack of right did not bother before the IOF leadership in modifying the approved budget. The nicest example was the modification of the 2017 Budget, when a revision of approved 2017 Budget started already in October 2016, two months after its approval.

Yet, this could result in a rather funny situation. Who will pay, if it comes to 2021 and the IOF is not capable – for whatever reason – to stand good for the €50,000 guarantee towards the Swiss organisers?

Will the guarantee be enforceable, if it was made over the budget by ones who had no right to modify the budget?

Is this the best way to spend it?

Every time one makes a financial commitment, it should be asked whether alternative spend of the monies would be more beneficial. In the months before the April Council meeting there were two causes that arguably could be more beneficial to Orienteering as a global sport than supporting the Swiss organisers of the 2021 Winter Universiade.

First, the prize money of athletes. As discussed before in my post on the Value of Athletes, the IOF Leadership shares nothing, or close to nothing, with the athletes of the hundreds of thousands of euros received from selling their performance to sponsors and through various media channels. In 2019, according to the budget above, €0 IOF contribution was planned (€9000 prize money all collected from organisers of World Cup events). According to the Special Rules for World Cup 2019 (already in deviation from the approved budget of 2019) the IOF contributes €1500 to the €12,000 prize money (the rest being collected from the organisers). So €12,000 contribution from the IOF could double the prize money.

Second, the IOF tax levied on MTBO major event organisers. The MTBO Commission asked the Council “that event sanction fees should be variable based upon IOF membership categories, citing that this would help in finding organisers of IOF events, improve quality and global development.” But “Council was not in favour of the proposal. […] The Council discussed other options for finding event organisers in MTBO such as reducing the number of events and/or reducing the program and complexity of current events.”  In short, the Council would rather see a reduction in the number of 3 major competitions for MTBO athletes, than foregoing any part of the €18,000 total sanction fee collected from major MTBO events (€10k from WMTBOC and 2x€4k from World Cup organisers). Even a €6000 lower tax burden would make little change in the IOF budget, but would make substantial difference for MTBO organisers.

As shown below, the combined financial impact of the above two actions supporting many, many athletes would be much lower than the 2x €25,000 the IOF leadership is ready to hand over to the Swiss organisers of the Winter Universiade.

IOF Budget impact - athletes vs FISU

 

Why support the FISU?

The bonus question that remains hanging is about the reason why FISU is closer to the heart of the IOF Leadership than the prize money and meaningful international program for top athletes when it comes to financial support. After all, it could be considered rather surprising that the IOF is more ready to support a partner event than its own athletes and organisers.

For a long time I could not find a reasonable answer until I remembered that in 2017 the President of the IOF had to fly all the way to Taipei to collect a special prize from FISU for the “Best International Sports Federation”.

Leho - FISU - 2017

 

Have the Athletes Commissions or the MTBO Commission ever invited over the President of the IOF to present an Award for the ‘Best International Sport Federation’? I am afraid not.

So they should not be surprised.

Update on the mystery of IOF AD finances

I just wanted to provide an update on the mystery of the IOF AD finances based on the information received from the CEO of the IOF that I very much appreciate. This brings us closer to understanding the numbers around the special AD tax levied on athletes and organisers, but it raises quite a few additional questions about the transparency of IOF financials.

According to our correspondence,

“The amount collected is 584 736 SEK and that is exactly what is shown in the Annual Report. 517 433 SEK was used for testing during the year and, as stated below, 67 303 SEK is reserved as pre-paid income to be used in 2019.”

“At year end (2018-12-31) the amount of SEK 67 302,81 was reserved on the balance sheet in account 2900 Accrued costs/pre-paid income, and in doing so the corresponding transaction was made in the anti-doping fund account thereby making income and cost for the year equal.

On 2019-05-01 this pre-paid income was released back to the anti-doping fund account for use in testing to be conducted during 2019.

The above was agreed and approved with the IOF Auditors as the correct way of reserving the money for future use.”

This is illustrated below in euros to correspond with the numbers shown from the 2018 Annual Report in the previous post. This explains why the 2018 AD revenue and cost was set equal at the level of €56,907, although only €50,357 was spent in 2018. There should be also a €6,550 item buried within the €109,213 liabilities to compensate for it. Sadly, no details on this €109,213 liability item is available within the IOF Annual Report.

IOF AD spend 2018

This is an unusual approach. Without getting deep into accounting, stating a €6,550 cost item in the 2018 accounts that had nothing to do with 2018 (as cost) would be a big no-no in the dozen or so financial regulatory systems my accounting friends and me are familiar with. Accounting for the AD Fund separately as a targeted fund, or declaring a lower income by €6,550 for 2018 (and reserving the rest as pre-paid for 2019) would have been a more standard approach. Sadly, I could not get info from Swedish friends just now, but this is less relevant, as this blog is not about discussing accounting nuances.

There are two interesting points that may be of interest to the readers of this blog:

First, the IOF Annual Reports seem to be very relaxed when it comes to the timing of some line items. Financial professionals with investigative minds would immediately ask if there are any other items on the profit and loss statement of the IOF that contain elements related to other years.

Second, the above confirms that based on the IOF Annual Report orienteering folks cannot understand how the IOF spends this special €60,000 or so Anti-Doping tax collected from athletes and organisers. As a reminder, not only the €30 collected for each “Athletes Licence” goes into this fund, but organisers of major events should also “donate” €500 to €1150 per day. Details of that were shown in my earlier post that raised questions about the IOF’s AD activity (and was  immediately reported to the Ethics Panel by the IOF leadership).

In addition, there is no 2018 Anti Doping report published (as of 6 August 2019), no details published on the use of the special “AD Fund”, and apparently no questions were asked by member Federations sticking to the good old “just pay without questions” attitude.

Athletes and organisers may have to remain satisfied for the time being by just paying whatever the IOF leadership decides in the name of a good cause.

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”