This is Pat Butcher’s piece on the potential reinstatement of Russia by the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA). The reinstatement of Russia has many sides, and Mr. Butcher’s column puts the doping issue in its proper perspective. The doping issue is not just a former Eastern bloc apparition. Pat Butcher has been writing on our sport for nearly six decades. Is he opinionated? Of course, does he have a historical perspective? Yes! And as I have said before, if you have more than a passing interest in athletics, please sign up for his blog at www.globerunner.org!
Russian flag, by www.globerunner.org
The potential Olympic reinstatement of Russia by the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) from a suspension occasioned by the revelation of wholesale doping at the Sochi Olympics coincides uncomfortably with the 30th anniversary of the busting of Ben Johnson following the Olympic men’s 100 metres in Seoul. State sponsored doping meets free market enterprise doping, you might say.
For those who might quibble with the suggestion of an immoral equivalence, they are deluding themselves. The only difference is in scale and, in the case of Russia, as in East Germany of yesteryear, official collusion. Doping in western countries has an equally long and disgraceful history. The only difference is that in the west it has been freelance, that is, left to coaches, managers, sponsors, and the athletes themselves; not forgetting the occasional blind-eye turned by local/national federations.
The old East-West axis (the Olympic Games as surrogate Cold War battlefield) which disappeared temporarily with the fall of the Berlin Wall has returned with a vengeance. And with it, the concept of realpolitik, which basically means compromise based on practicalities rather than moral or ideological considerations. We may not like it any more than we like Brexit or the election of Donald Trump. At least, they were democratic processes. But compromise is how politics works. It’s also a reminder that the belief that politics should have no part in sport has always been a fantasy.
WADA has been widely criticised for compromising, but as the former (often outspoken) first president of the international anti-doping body, Dick Pound pointed out yesterday, “The issue of access to the (Moscow anti-doping) lab is the key and it had been dragging on for years while the Russians conducted this criminal investigation – well, that was their excuse… WADA said ‘that’s got to stop, we need to put a stake in the ground’ and that is what we have now with this 31 December deadline (for handing over data from the lab). I think we are in a much better position to follow through with these cases now. We have a timeline, backed up by an automatic sanction.”
Whether that timeline will be respected and/or another sanction applied is another matter; we can only wait and see. But, rather like international banks getting away with stricter sanctions (and arrests), following the crash which they precipitated in 2008, because ‘they were too big to fail,’ the over-riding impression is that Russia is too big to exclude from the Olympic movement for any longer. That doesn’t give much succour to the vast majority in Olympic sport who play by the rules. And credit to the IAAF, whose immediate reaction to the WADA decision to let the Bear off the chain was that its own strict conditions still apply, and will have to be discussed at the next council meeting in December, before anything else happens in athletics.
To see the entire article on Pat Butcher’s amazing site, click at: https://www.globerunner.org/09/too-big-to-exclude/
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