Tag: Russian doping

A NEW YEAR BUT THE SAME OLD US

These days accusations fly across the political spectrum faster than shuttlecocks in an ambidextrous badminton tournament. But what’s a lie, and who’s to say?  There’s your question for the new year, kiddies. 

News that Russia missed the New Year’s Eve deadline to hand over data to the World Anti-Doping Agency from the laboratory in Moscow where its state-sponsored doping program was centered somehow caught WADA President Craig Reedie by surprise. “Bitterly disappointed”, I believe that was his quote. 

And you would be disappointed, too, if you had stepped out in November to recommend Russia be readmitted to international competition, despite not yet having met WADA’s conditions for that reinstatement.  “I find it very hard to believe that the guarantees, made to us by the Russian authorities, that they won’t deliver.”

Really?  When murdering journalists and political opponents are normative behavior, where do you think doping in athletics falls on the New Year’s resolution To Do list?

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RIO, OH MIO!

It’s still early, but the world is beginning to descend into Rio for these much maligned 2016 Olympic Games.  Soon the athletes and competition will come to the fore, but there is so much more than sport making news leading in.  In fact, people aren’t talking about sport as much as they are about court.

Now we see that an ad hoc division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has already set up in Rio to deal with any potential drug violations and appeals as the Games go on, and even impose temporary sanctions if needed. Talk about your fast-track! Get ‘em up, get ‘em out, just like a good starter. Then there’s the whole Russian athlete banishment issue after the IOC punted responsibility for determining who can compete and who can’t back to the individual sports’ federations just two weeks before the opening ceremonies.

I’m telling you, these Rio Olympics are already about as messy as Guanabara Bay, which some water-based eventers will have to compete in or on – and those ain’t Baby Ruth candy bars floating around in there, either.  But still, they ought to try to make some lemonade out of all these lemons, don’t you think – though, best check where the water comes from first.

Judge Judy
Judge Judy

Point is, if this CAS court thing is going to be that big a deal, why not capitalize? The IOC ought to go out and get Judge Judy and make a show out of it. She’d generate good ratings, we know that.  Sure, she’d be costly, but the IOC would make money, too. And isn’t that their modern Olympic ideal?

I don’t know, maybe we’re looking at this whole Rio Olympic drug kerfuffle all wrong.  Forget about banning athletes. Those two and four-year bans have proven useless, anyway.  They just give people a little break for training.  But since we already have a hot mess in Rio, why not use it to its best advantage?

Here’s a plan.  Rather than keeping folks out, make sure that all past offenders and suspected drug cheats of the world – plus all the corrupt officials who voted to put the games into that petri dish in the first place – are ushered into Rio with wide smiles and open arms.  But then once they get down there, no mosquito netting, no deet protection, no condoms, no ground transportation, no air-conditioning. And make sure they bathe in that rancid bay and generally let them enjoy the hospitality of their choice for 17 whole days.   (more…)

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.   (more…)

TO BAN OR NOT TO BAN

The International Olympic Committee is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place as it comes to its decision on the potential Russian Olympic ban for Rio 2016.  It’s one thing for the U.S. to lead a multi-nation boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980, and for the Soviet Union to reciprocate four years later in L.A. But it is quite another for the IOC itself to say, you’re out, because who knows what may come from that?

Yet the likelihood of just such a decision was given impetus today when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the IAAF banishment of 68 Russian track and field athletes not implicated in a state-supported doping program uncovered in a series of independent investigations. The International Olympic Committee said earlier this week that it would use Thursday’s CAS ruling as a guideline on a total Russian Olympic banishment from Rio.

There is no easy solution here, and the IOC is trying to thread the needle between who it is and who it was, between just desserts and just money (cynical me). In a last ditch move Russian President Vladimir Putin entered the scrum yesterday.

‘Now we’re observing a dangerous relapse into the interference of politics in sport,” he said in a statement.  “Yes, the form of that interference has changed but the essence is the same, to make sport an instrument of geopolitical pressure and the formation of a negative image of countries and peoples.  The Olympic movement, which plays a colossal unifying role for humanity, could again wind up on the edge of schism.”

Really?  The old KGB operative is interested in a unifying movement?  Who knows. His recent annexation of Crimea sure unified some folks. But there is certainly no self-reflection about the mind-numbing corruption in his Sports Ministry, just indignity once they’ve been caught.

There are so many competing interests at play here. From a purely moral standpoint banning the entire Russian Olympic team for their uber-cynical doping program in Sochi 2014 and beyond seems like a no-brainer. Come on, let the punishment fit the crime.

But who amongst nations is innocent?  One would have thought, too, that some executives involved in the financial collapse of 2008 might have been brought before the bar and their institutions appropriately down-sized to avoid another such meltdown in the future. Yet as we soon found out too-big-to-fail meant just that. So how much weight does Russia still have left to push back with?  (more…)

TIME FOR OLYMPIC PARENTS TO LAY DOWN THE LAW

Devon Allen takes Trials title in 110m hurdles
Oregon’s own Devon Allen takes Trials title in 110m hurdles

All that is good and pure about athletics (track & field) was on display in Eugene, Oregon at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.  The ultimate make-or-break meet showcased the glory of sport’s purest forms before a hard-core fan base in the sports’ one true competitive shrine in America. Yet all that purity and goodness was being presented against a political backdrop of muck and mud which has left the sport mired in a purgatory of its own construction.  (more…)