Holy Cow, they did it! The IAAF voted unanimously today to bar the Russian track and field team from the Rio Olympics. It’s an extraordinary move, for sure, but one the Russian federation almost dared the governing body to make after it was caught in a cycle of state-supported doping, the most cynical violation of the letter and spirit of fair play imaginable.
Afterwards, the Russian federation said they would appeal the ruling to members of the IOC, the final arbiters of all things Olympic. Their argument, such as it is, says that keeping them out of the Games wouldn’t just have a negative effect on Russian athletes, but would do damage to the Olympics itself. That’s the spirit we’re looking for. No contrition, mind you, just “we’ll take you down with us”.
This has been coming for quite some time. The Russians were suspended from international competition last November after a damning WADA report uncovered an elaborate state-run doping program. And now this, a real dagger to the heart, perhaps (unfortunately) even to some innocents. But maybe a necessary message, nonetheless.
The Russian federation made a last ditch attempt to persuade the IAAF to allow their athletes who hadn’t been sanctioned for drug use to compete. But the level of doping skullduggery was so deeply imbedded, that failing to be caught was no guarantee of innocence at all. Sorry kids, a little too little too late. Besides, we’ve had Olympics without the Russians before (LA ’84), and without the USA for that matter (Moscow ’80). And no harm done — or, at least no changes made. So now we’ll just have more medals to go around.
Listen, this is how it works in the military. For centuries there has been a tried-and-true method of turning civilians into soldiers. I’ve been through it. It’s a very simple, but effective mechanism.
They take a bunch of strangers in civilian clothes and strip them bare. Then they cut off all their hair so they all look the same. Then they reduce them all to quivering idiots before rebuilding them into a unit.
One important element in that transformation is to make everyone responsible for everybody else. So when Nebraska over there (because everyone gets called by where they come from) doesn’t make his bunk up tight enough, or has a messy foot locker, or doesn’t take a shower every day, everyone has to do push-ups or hit the low-crawl pit. Everyone suffers for the sins of the individual.
Next thing you know, the unit handles the troublemaker themselves, and Nebraska gets dragged into the latrine for a cold, bristle-brush shower one night when the sergeant has left the barracks. And that’s how it gets settled. The next day Nebraska has himself all squared away, and you got yourself a platoon, then a company and off to war you go all tight and shiny.
This IAAF ruling is just like a drill sergeant saying, “Get on it! Fix this yourself or everyone will suffer”.
It works in the military. Let’s see if the Russians figure it out. But, hey, with all the crap, disease and crime floating around Rio these days, maybe you picked yourselves the perfect Olympics to skip. We’ll send you a postcard, and let you know.