According to a recently released report from the World Anti-Doping Agency, Russia’s government ran a “systematic scheme” to infuse the Russian team with performance-enhancing drugs and to cover up that cheating, before, during and after the 2014 Winter Olympics, which Russia hosted. This follows a previous report by the same agency documenting rampant doping among Russia’s track and field athletes.
And now, with less than two weeks to go before the 2016 Summer Olympics get underway in Rio de Janeiro, the International Olympic Committee has announced Russia’s punishment: an ever-so-gentle slap on the wrist.
Instead of an outright ban on Russian participation, as the World Anti-Doping Agency had urged, the IOC will impose a convoluted case-by-case review of Russian athletes, carried out by the 28 international federations that govern each Olympic sport. Athletes will have to overcome a presumption of guilt, but given the limited time left before the Games, and the influence Moscow can bring to bear, overtly and otherwise, on the various federations, this is a dragnet through which many Russians will slip. Here’s all you need to know about what a cop-out the IOC has committed: Moscow’s minister of sport reacted positively to the ruling, proclaiming that most Russian athletes will indeed qualify to participate – and march into Rio under the Russian flag.
To be sure, officials have barred the vast majority of applicants from Russia’s tainted track and field team. Yet the banned athletes include Yulia Stepanova, who blew the whistle on her country’s cheating. Stepanova had asked to compete not on Russia’s behalf, but as a neutral, stateless athlete; officials said no because she had a past drug violation. No matter that this resulted from a system that put pressure on her to dope, and that she had the courage to speak out against it later, at tremendous risk to her career – and, in Vladimir Putin’s police state, her life.
This ethically warped performance by the panjandrums of the international Olympic “movement” casts a dark shadow indeed over the Rio proceedings. We say that not so much out of concern for the results of the Games themselves, which are bound to provide the usual portion of thrills, chills – and accusations of various transgressions by participants and officials. Rather, Moscow’s evasion of meaningful accountability makes a mockery of the high ideals for which the Olympics purportedly stand and can only reinforce the sense of impunity with which the Putin regime approaches international norms in areas far more consequential than sports.