SEBASTIAN COE must be thanking his lucky stars for Sir Craig Reedie. In the past week, the Scot has assumed the mantle from Coe as the most pilloried man in sport, a title that Coe had held for more time than he would have cared to. With the reputation of elite sport lower than it has ever been, it is fighting to regain even a modicum of trust in time for the Olympic Games. This week, Reedie, the President of the World Anti-Doping Agency, has done yet more harm to sport’s flailing reputation, and the damage is severe.

Earlier this week, BBC Scotland’s Mark Daly continued his investigations into corruption in sport. He uncovered evidence that suggested Reedie failed to act as swiftly as he could have in relation to allegations that Russia was engaging in state-sponsored doping. Daly made public a hand-written note from Reedie to Sergey Bubka, the vice-president of the IAAF, from August of last year as a German documentary making claims of widespread blood doping was due to be aired. “Hope no more damage will be done”, Reedie signed off his note to Bubka.

This is not the response that would be expected from the man at the helm of the world’s most powerful anti-doping authority. It hardly implies that Reedie is champing at the bit to expose every shred of information yet this is exactly the scenario that WADA should be working towards. The more information gathered, the better the chance of fixing this horrendous mess sport finds itself in. Surely even the most short-sighted of individuals would conclude that. Yet in those few words, Reedie fuelled the widely-held belief that those in power would rather suppress new information with the goal of protecting the reputation of themselves and their organisation than try to find solutions.

On learning of Reedie’s note, Jack Robertson, WADA’s chief investigator from 2011 until 2016, said: “This is extremely disappointing but not surprising. To me, this further illustrates his overall loyalties clearly rest with the national and international federations and not the protection of clean athletes' rights. His mindset should have been an eagerness to learn if any further revelations were unearthed. Instead, this note shows he is more concerned about further embarrassment to an IAAF vice-president than discovering and seeking the truth.”

Daly’s BBC investigation only served to worsen an already bad week for Reedie. The 75 year-old from Bridge-of-Weir commented on Maria Sharapova’s ban from tennis due to her positive drug test: “For me, the only satisfactory element in Madame Sharapova’s case was that in one year she can earn more money than the whole of WADA’s budget put together,” Reedie reportedly said to a Telegraph journalist. This is not merely catty, it is shameful. Sharapova has either cheated, or she has not. Her level of success should have no bearing. For the president of WADA to imply that he is particularly pleased to see a wealthy athlete banned indicates that he is not fit to be in office.

Yet Reedie is not the problem. Nor, indeed, is Coe, despite the damage the former Olympic champion has done to athletics’ reputation. Rather, they are merely symptomatic of a wider and more dangerous problem, namely, the cosy old-boys club that monopolises the upper echelons of sports governance. Prior to becoming president of WADA, Reedie was chairman of the British Olympic Association. Twenty-two years ago, he joined the IOC and is currently a vice-president in concurrence with his WADA role. Similarly, Coe is a long-serving member of sport’s old-boys club; he has held influential posts within the BOA, London 2012’s organising committee and the IOC, as well as the IAAF.

And herein lies the issue: for all of these men, and they are invariably men, to ascend to the upper levels of the sporting hierarchy, they must gain entrance into the inner circle. Without the support of their fellow “old boys”, progress is impossible. But with this acceptance comes an unwillingness to act autonomously or in a manner that may bring the wrath of their the fellow old boys. And so, it becomes far more important for the old boys in blazers to protect their own self-interest than do what is best for their sport, and most importantly, the clean athletes who are the ones suffering the most. To go against the wishes of those at the top of the sporting hierarchy will result in expulsion from the sacred club pretty sharpish, and, make no mistake, the Reedies and the Coes of this world know this.

There is no easy solution; to banish the individuals whose interests are so intertwined with each other’s would result in the IOC, the IAAF, WADA and the other major sporting bodies having no leaders left altogether. Major businesses would not put up with this crap, so why does sport? If individuals continue to prioritise and protect their own career ahead of the health of sport then a solution will be never be found.