Has WADA sold its soul? Some thoughts on the politics of modern sport

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Updated 11 PM, September 22, 2018

Updated 11:45 PM, September 25, 2018

I have become addicted to Amazon TV series The Man in the High Castle, a masterful adaptation of the Philip K. Dick's novel by the same name. It is about a parallel world where Japan and Germany won the second World War. The Amazon series may be the finest television of my generation. The accuracy, and the sets make one think if something is possible.

I recall getting up midway through the night, when the McLaren reports were announced, and I read page after page, not so surprised. If you have not read this synopsis of the depravity in modern sports, then, download this: wada_independent_commission_report_1_en.pdf

One can go back to Joseph Goebbels, the architect of Adolf Hitler's propaganda machine to see the power of the Olympics. In 1936, Goebbels knew that, hosting an Olympics could put the Nazi party in a positive light in the global media. Goebbels put the Nazis in the best light and kept the absurd racial views of National Socialism from being seen around the world. Goebbels had to convince Hitler to participate in the Olympics. Leni Reifensthal captured the 1936 Olympics in the film, Olympia, (and to see the Nazi propaganda in all its contempory power, see Triumph of the Will). Reifensthal's Olympia would change how we view sports and the Olympics. The Olympics was coming of age in 1936 and Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, knew that Olympic sports, with all of its pagentry and emotion, was a perfect propaganda platform.

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The Olympics, with modern communications, became the globe's biggest social focus every 4 years, much to the delight of the Olympic fathers. Once they figured out how to cash in on the Olympic flame, they were on the way to taking the Olympics to new heights. With new heights, also come new lows. The IOC believed, and to this day, believe, that the Olympic movement is a platform to influence the world. They see it as a platform for good, and it can be. But, the money, the nationalsim, and the greed can dirty the Olympic message.

When the Soviet Union came into the Olympics in 1952, Josef Stalin knew that a victory meant positive views of Marxism by the world. For Stalin, sport was a great way to reach the common people. In this modern era, sport is the true opiate of the people.

The Olympics became one of the vehicles of the Cold War. How does one make Democracy or Communism look good?

Where did doping come from?

The Soviet Union, as did the U.S., knew of the Nazi use of steroids and various pharmacological pick me ups of the Waffen SS and German military. Weight lifters in California in the late 1940s were using steroids.

When did sports cross the line? Whispers began in the mid 1950s. In 1991, the late Emil Zatopek, one of the greatest Olympic champions, on a day spent as our assistant coach at Foothill College, told my head coach Joe Mangan and myself a story about his friend Vladimir Kuts, who told Emil as early as 1956 that Soviets were using doping of some sort.

Doping is a business decision. As long as the punishments feel light, and the chance of being caught is light, doping made business sense.

The Sport Federations lost control of doping in the 1970s. In swimming, in athletics, Soviet bloc athletes were always thought to be using. The Federations underestimated the lure of money and the power of doping. But, some Western athletes, seeing the coming money in the sport and wanting to compete 'evenly' with the competition, rationalized their use of doping. In 1988, it is said that the Olympic fathers were shocked with the furor that Ben Johnson doping scandal recieved so much attention.

I am asked by athletes on a near constant basis if I think there is an even playing field. I am always cautious with my response. I believe that anti-doping measures are better than any time in the past. I also believe that the Doping big 7 countries to watch, (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Jamaica, Kenya, Ethiopia, India) are being forced to upgrade their standards, but we are far from there as of yet. If you are a US athlete, for the most part, and a British athlete, you are under close scrutiny. The Scandavian countries have led the way in doping testing.

Alas sports is war. And, I prefer the throwing of javelins to the use of missles.

The fiasco at the 2014 Sochi Olympics showed that in Russia, under Mr. Putin, sport continues to be an instrument of foreign policy. This is not to say that sport in the US, especially Olympic sport is about the good old USA kicking another countries butt, but the national doping system goes to Russia. The doping in use in London 2012, Moscow 2013 and Sochi 2014 was out of the Josef Stalin planbook. Hell, Joseph Goebbels would have been impressed. WADA came down very hard on RUSADA, the testing agency of Russia.

Why is this so? Mr. Putin is a product of his age and his experiences. He has a country with militant sepretists that he must control. He has an economy based on oil selling at $150 a barrel and actually going for $69.82 a barrel. Putin is said to be haunted by his experiences in East Germany as a then KGB agent, and being unable to save all of his Stasi (East German secret police) contacts after the government fell. Putin feels that he has been treated arrogantly by the West (he has), and supporting sport, the true modern opiate of the people.

The banning of Russia from the Olympic sports world created much furor in Russia. With near complete media control in his country, Mr. Putin has shown that his country is being maltreated by big bad WADA, the IAAF and the IOC.

WADA was making huge progress, and WADA has huge enemies.

Wait! Thomas Bach, the big daddy of the IOC is in debt to Mr. Putin, thanks to the reported $54 billion spent by Putin on the Sochi Olympics. And the IOC puts money into WADA, which has been a thorn in its side for some time. Sir Craig Reedie is now facing retirement, and what a great way to use WADA to bring Russia back into the Olympic family. WADA's decision to reinstate RUSADA, before RUSADA has given WADA needed information, is more than curious to many observers.

As Sir Craig Reedie, with the WADA 9-2 vote to reinstate RUSADA , has given Thomas Bach a lovely way out of the Russian imbroglio, or so he thought. The response from the WADA vote has not been, well, positive. Christine Berman of USA Today had a superb column, https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/FMfcgxvzKknjQSkPbJtRmPNRZvRhjnfr.

The IAAF had a few comments of note:https://www.iaaf.org/news/press-release/iaaf-statement-wada-reinstatement-rusada

The best explanation of the whole mess is at Ozy.com: https://www.ozy.com/need-to-know/special-briefing-what-will-ending-russias-doping-ban-mean-for-sports/89519

My beef is this! WADA was saving the sport, now they are emasculated in one fell swoop. Bach, using the imminent departure of Mr. Reedie, looks like he has appeased Mr. Putin and neutralised WADA, all in one move.

How huge a deal is this? Putin has used Russian sport to his ends, keeping his party in power. The World Cup was a huge success for Russia and showed, once again, how much Russia wants and Mr. Putin needs global sports. WADA was making progress, but, the ban was costing the IOC viewers, and the consistent pressure of Mr. Putin must be quite effective on Mr. Bach.

How will this play out? WADA has lost, in days, much of its mojo. Now, the IAAF seems to be standing by itself. I will leave the last comment from IAAF President Sebastian Coe :

"These two pre-conditions and any other outstanding conditions which are required for RusAF's reinstatement will need to be discussed by the taskforce before any recommendation is put to the council. The setting of our own criteria and the process of evaluating progress against these criteria has served the sport of athletics well over the last three years so we will continue to rely on the taskforce and our clear roadmap for RusAF reinstatement until we are satisfied that the conditions have been met."

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