Ethics is a fascinating question, especially in amateur sport federations based on volunteer work, where the common values and beliefs are the most important glue holding together the organisation.
The newly formed Ethics Commission is working on the review of the IOF internal documents and on possible amendments from the point of view of ethical and other principles contained in the IOF Code of Ethics. They asked in a Request for Consultation all member federations and other stakeholders to submit thoughts, modification proposals or any other ideas concerning various IOF documents.
Yet, when it come to ethics, practice is what really matters. And practice can be very different from written rules. The very nature of ethics is that it is primarily driven by unwritten ethical standards and not by written rules. Some well known ethical standards that often override written rules include the ethics of old boys network (I scratch your back, you scratch mine), and the ethics of omerta (silence and non interference when somebody from the group steps over the line).
One problem is that it is difficult to describe unethical behaviour in a formal way. It is just like porn: it is difficult to define, but you know it when you see it.
The other problem is whether there is an enforcing mechanism, and leadership may not decide to look away for less than respectable reasons, like convenience or old friendship.
Let me share some of the stories from the past couple of years of the IOF that might raise questions around ethical approaches. As a former chairman of a discipline commission I was involved directly in a relatively limited set of IOF questions, but being around in the organisation I could observe many more.
I selected stories from the period of different Presidents to avoid the implication that these questions linked to certain leadership. The point is not to reopen these cases, but to illustrate real life situations that may occur within an amateur sports federation, situations some may raise ethical questions. Readers may decide whether they “see it or not”.
- The career of the secretary
- A three quarters majority applause
- Cui bono?
- Respect of the rules
- A dream budget
- An open and honest discussion
For readability and to ensure focus on the core question these stories were somewhat condensed, but ample background information is available to expand them.
This is a longer than usual post. It may be too dense to read it through in one go. But I think that keeping these stories in one bouquet may help readers to understand that they appear to be more than random individual cases. I also wanted to give examples from the reign of different presidents to show that these are not personal questions.
One may also recognise patterns, and may even be forgiven to come to the feeling that not written rules, but the ethics of a good old boy network, and the ethics of silence govern conduct in sensitive matters within the IOF.