NO BAN, NO JUSTICE

Leaking pipes, electrical problems and stopped up toilets found at the Rio Olympic athletes village by early arriving Aussies seem a perfect metaphor for the state of the Olympic movement in the summer of 2016. Today, just two weeks before the Games are scheduled to begin, the International Olympic Committee took the cowards way out in dealing with the Russian state-supported doping scandal by deciding not to issue a blanket ban on the entire Russian Olympic team.

“We had to balance the collective responsibility and the individual justice to which every human being and athlete is entitled to,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.

The IOC pronouncement was made despite a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling last week upholding the IAAF ban on the Russian track and field team, which the IOC said they would use as a guideline in their larger decision. 

Thus, rather than proof of a state-supported doping program across a wide spectrum of both winter and summer Olympic sports leading to serious consequences, the IOC went all wobbly in their moment of crisis management. Instead of issuing a ban themselves, the IOC said it will leave the decision up to the individual sports federations, while at the same time placing a thumb on the scales by declaring the “presumption of innocence” cannot be applied to Russian athletes in any of the 28 Summer Olympics sports.

This muddled, middle-ground decision seems intended specifically to assuage Russian President Vladimir Putin who had intimated repercussions if a total ban was handed down.  It also calms the IOC’s international sponsors for whom scandal is the ultimate deal breaker. By pushing the responsibility down to the individual sports’ federations, the IOC is using Pilate’s sink to wash its hands of any political responsibility and potential retribution.  

Nobody should be surprised by this weak-kneed declaration. As was expected – and as was seen after the global economic meltdown of 2008 when financial institutions who caused the collapse were bailed out by taxpayer dollars – too-big-to-fail trumps honesty and integrity. The Russians have poured tens of millions into the Olympic movement, leaving the IOC compromised as an adjudicator in cases involving them. 

What the IOC fears is a potential ripple effect to a total Russian ban. Not only would Putin look to stage a Goodwill-type Games to replace the Olympics for his athletes, just like Ted Turner did after the American boycott of Moscow in 1980, but he might also have looked to organize other nations in a last-minute boycott. What’s more, with scandal comes the chance that international corporate sponsors find other less threatening venues to spend their advertising dollars. 

Taken together, there is too much to lose for as ephemeral a goal as integrity and ethical behavior. Chalk up another gold medal win for cynicism, moral relativism and institutional blight.  Let the Games begin.  Wonder who is going to read the Olympic oath at the opening ceremonies, maybe the plumber?

END

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10 thoughts on “NO BAN, NO JUSTICE

  1. Toni:

    I totally concur and am very disappointed by the IOC’s decision… announced early today. If anyone knows what the negative impact on individual athletes are.. regarding a boycott or a “suspension” of the entire delegation… I do. I was hoping that we would never face the specter of a “partial participation” Olympic Games again… after the debacles of various boycotts back in 1976, 1980, and 1984. But, then I never envisioned not only a state sponsoring PED/Doping program like what has been uncovered… but never imagined that there would be government operatives involved in covertly switching samples in the testing lab at the 2012 Sochi Winter Games….almost like the old KGB!

    Well, this has just gone too far and the whole country needs to be punished for this horrendous of an Olympic Cheating Transgression…. even if it means that some innocent athletes will suffer… right along with the guilty ones. We have to almost make this a “death penalty” case….like the NCAA did with some of their member institutions who got caught in chronic “cheating” transgressions. To have the whole delegation “sit out” just this one Summer Olympics… does not seem too onerous to me… especially when there is so little time before the Rio Games to effectively and honestly determine the guilt of every single athlete in their delegation. Easier at this late date… to just ban them all!

    What we see here is the “power of Putin.” We all know what he said publicly this past week…. but we don’t know what he said through “back channel communications” with the IOC…that could be regarded as a “viable threat” to the IOC from one of their largest, richest, and most powerful members…. if Russia was penalized the way they deserved. But, you have touched on some of the possibilities. If the IOC thought they were gonna take the path of less controversy…. and less resistance…then they have another thought coming! But, remember that they are the ones who “own the bat and ball” and so they will be fairly free to be as gutless as they want to be… unless there are negative commercial ramifications that take place afterwards. That remains to be seen…. but history tells us that they will probably get away with this rather meek and gutless oversight action today.

  2. Toni: Much like the Republican presidential nominee, the IOC behaves like an enabler: by essentially doing nothing (Trump saying that he’ll protect countries from Russian aggression only if they don’t owe us more money than he thinks they should) Russia stays in control. We’ve always known that the Olympics were about power, politics and money (the ’36 Berlin show of strength, the boycott in ’84, even the attacks in Munich) but this time around the blatant show of total disrespect for the athletes and the supposed meaning of the games is beyond the pale. As I write this I’m looking at the certificate of participation hanging on my wall that I received from the USOC when I ran in the 1988 Olympic marathon trials, and wondering if in my lifetime I’ll be looking at an anachronism. Personally, I plan my own boycott of the games this year.

    • The only hope for track and field is for this bloated anachronism to fail as publicly as it can so the World Champs might grow in stature. Time to let the old boys run their own freak show and just let it go. No need to rant and rage. Just let loose and it will drift away.

      TR

    • Right, like Hillary enabling her husband for decades with his sexual proclivities in and out of the White House. BTW, did he smoke that cigar after removal?

      Otherwise, agree with rest of post.

  3. This decision came as no surprise to virtually everyone intimately involved in the sport.

    On the other hand, I’m confident that the Rio Olympics will be the cleanest Games ever….

  4. Article seems overly bias. Calling IOC cowards simply because they made decision that refused to condemn an entire nation of people for their government’s mistakes. Yes, Russia has a doping, but the reality is… several countries have a doping problem, including some of the ones waving their finger the hardest. All I’m saying is government sponsored doping is just as bad and probably not as prevalent, as CORPORATE SPONSORED doping. So if all the critics REALLY want to go after the REAL issue of doping, treat people as individuals and go after the HEART of the problem because bashing Russia is not going to fix anything.

    • Coach Ed,

      Thanks for adding to the dialogue. No heroes most anywhere these days. That much I agree with. But to say corporate doping is similar to or worse than government doping in magnitude is to compare apples to oranges.

      Corporations have a fiduciary responsibility only to their shareholders. Governments are organized on behalf of society at large. They owe allegiance to a greater cause, and when they cross the ethical line real damage is done to society.

      I don’t mean to single out Russia. They’ve done that for themselves. It’s not just the gross misconduct, it is and the unabashed lying, falsehoods and cover ups that signal a complete and utter lack of morality that is on display. When the IOC just passed the buck, they are admitting they know what should be done – especially when they say none of the athletes in the 28 summer Olympic sports should be given the benefit of the doubt. They just didn’t have the spine to stand up and take the steps themselves. I don’t know what you might call such a move lacking in fortitude.

      Thanks for reading and writing in

      Toni

  5. Have to say don’t agree …what about the amount of athletes competeing for the US …Jamaica …Kenya who have served bans ,,,should not be competeing ….or those who have avoided or missed tests or those who have been linked to peds …….if Russian athletes are to be banned then by right shouldn’t those who speak English ? …be banned ….too much politics and not enough logic ……examples of athletes who should be banned include …Gatlin , Merritt , Powell ..VCB ….gay …etc etc …..conveniently forgetting English speaking dopers doesn’t cut it …..the circus In rio is about to begin and many a doped clown ,,,male / female ..black / white ..tall / small will be ” performing ” ..if we like it or not ……the usatf or the Jaaa….or the Kenyan fed…or Russian fed ……have no stomach or interest in catching dopers where corporate stalwarts like coke , Nike ,,etc sponsor so much and so many ……..but no journalist should leave out facts about English speaking athletes regardless about the Russian situation ….

    • Hugh,

      I appreciate your contribution to the conversation. That said, we must distinguish between individual doping (which I certainly don’t condone, and think is not punished enough, no matter what country they doper comes from) and a government doping program. Government is oversees individuals and corporations. It is the unbiased referee (or is designed to be). Once doping reaches a governmental level, there is no standard left with which to regulate the common man.

      That is the great issue that confronts the sport, whether via Russian state doping, IAAF corruption that allowed it, or IOC oversight which fails to act on it.

      We just saw how Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned as head of the Democratic National Committee after Wikileaks released 20,000 emails showing how Schultz and her DNC favored the candidacy of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. The DNC is supposed to be neutral. So when the evidence came showing that it wasn’t acting properly, Schultz was forced out.

      No one believes enough is being done to eliminate individual and corporate doping. But it is a different order of offense when a national government conspires to corrupt the system meant to protect us all. Thanks again for reading and responding.

      Cheers,

      Toni

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