Victorians are justly proud of the Olympic athletes who train here and represent our country with honour. It’s a slap in the face to those athletes to see Russia get away with cheating.
But that’s what is happening, as the powers of the Olympic movement drew a line in the sand and then did nothing when the Russians crossed it.
We are confident that the rowers, triathletes, cyclists and others we see training hard around the south Island are giving their best and competing clean. When they step up to the starting line in the world’s most prestigious sporting event, we expect their competitors to be just as honourable and just as clean.
The International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency, however, don’t seem committed to making sure that happens.
Over the objections of athletes and sports organizations around the world, WADA agreed in September to reinstate the corrupt Russian Anti-Doping Agency, even though the Russians had not fulfilled two key requirements: admitting state involvement in doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and giving WADA access to evidence held at the Moscow anti-doping lab.
The Russians agreed to provide access to a WADA team by Dec. 31, so it could gather data on which athletes had been doping. But when the team arrived, it was turned away with the bogus excuse that its equipment had not been cleared by local authorities, making a joke of WADA president Craig Reedie’s “guarantee” that Russia would meet its obligations.
Did WADA and the IOC reinstate the sanctions when the deadline passed? No.
Reinstating the Russians before the conditions were met was a gamble that should never have been taken. Allowing the deadline to slide shows that the agencies don’t have the stomach to hold the cheaters to account.
The Russians are obviously hoping they can stonewall until the Olympic brass eventually give up.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia refuses to take responsibility for its misdeeds, hence its refusal to acknowledge state involvement in a doping scheme that was explored in depth by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren.
Russia might be unwilling to confess, but the mighty IOC has no business letting that slide.
Unfortunately, the Olympic committee has become a marketing machine more concerned with its own brand than the integrity of the Games. Russia has money and an army of top athletes, both of which the IOC desperately wants to keep in the fold.
That’s why it let most of Russia’s athletes compete in Rio in 2016 and allowed 170 of them to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” at the 2018 Winter Games.
Concerns about its business are eating away at the movement’s moral core.
WADA should have brought the hammer down as soon as the Dec. 31 deadline passed. Instead, it has accepted Russia’s promise to open the lab before WADA’s meeting on Jan. 14.
If that promise isn’t kept and WADA fails to sanction Russia on Jan. 14, the agency will have forfeited any claim to moral leadership in the crusade against doping.
In Victoria and thousands of other cities and towns around the world, elite athletes train with courage and determination. The people who control the Olympic movement have to show just as much courage and determination.