Are The Olympics Dead Yet?
(Unraveling the doping scandal)
By Marcel Woland
Followers of mass media in the West may be forgiven for not noticing that the Olympic movement has been severely damaged by the recent weaponization of the Olympics. What the average Western viewer was expected to take away from the much-reported ‘Russian doping scandal’ was that Russia is indeed a lawless, sinister entity and that the Fu Manchu-like Putin has his finger in every pie. Many believed it.
Luckily, the propaganda coup against the Olympic movement failed, and saner, more ethical heads prevailed. More importantly, the presumption of innocence and condemnation of collective punishment was upheld. For those were the principles under attack. So were the Russians of course, but they are used to it by now, being blamed for everything from the corruption of the US Democratic Party, to the selection of the candidate for the Republicans, to Brexit.
I need to backtrack. The plotters’ timing was such that the main attack on Russia, through the International Olympic Committee (IOC), occurred in the last two weeks before the start of the Rio Olympics, even though the information used in the attack had been available for almost two years. Publishing deadlines made it hard to report, let alone analyze the unfolding events, in real time. Conspiracies use three elements to succeed: chronology, complexity and concealment. All those were working full-time as the final coats of paint and last pours of concrete were going on in Rio.
Two weeks before the Olympics were to begin, I received a petition to reinstate ex-Russian athlete, confessed doper and now, the petition alleged, ‘whistle-blower’ – Juliya Stepanova. I already knew Stepanova to be a second-rate athlete, and a convicted doper, so I was skeptical, to say the least. This meant re-examining the demand for a total ban against the Russian Federation in which Stepanova had played a key role. The call for a ban was rejected less than two weeks before the Olympics by the IOC (International Olympic Committee), just days before the petition to reinstate her began to circulate.
As a Canadian, who remembers the Pearson to Chretien years of relatively independent foreign policy, I was appalled to uncover the conspiratorial atmosphere enveloping the Montreal head-quartered WADA (World Anti Doping agency) and the CCES (Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport) where the plot was concocted, using Stepanova’s former drug-supplier, Grigory Rodzhenkov’s, unsubstantiated claims. These led directly to the quick-and-dirty McLaren report.
Within hours of the release of that report, Paul Melia, head of CCES, gleefully assuming that the collective punishment of Russians demanded by his organization and WADA was assured, wrote: “His [fellow-Canadian McLaren’s] report lays out a narrative befitting a Hollywood thriller, implicating the highest levels of government, the secret Russian police and virtually every sport on the Olympic roster.”
The real ‘Hollywood Thriller’ it turns out, is not anything that may or may not have happened in Russia, but the the report itself, with its fantastic claims, and the hidden motives for them. All the claims it made and the witnesses it cited, including Stepanova, were rejected by the IOC as being without merit. The problem is, that the McLaren report, likely ‘leaked’ to WADA and CCES in advance, is devoid of evidence. At the first press conference, McLaren said that he had evidence of individual athletes doping, but was not going to publish it. At a more recent press conference, when probed more broadly, he said: “We don’t have any evidence of a systematic, state-wide doping mechanism. If we did, we would have published it and so we have to go on the inference. […] it has to be somehow state supported but we can’t actually describe for you how that operates.” Yet, with no evidence of individual doping, the call for collective punishment rested entirely on systematic state doping.
With zero evidence, the report had to rely on Cold War memes: FSB agents emptying urine samples by moonlight and substituting them with clean urine, “through a mouse-hole”. But, most importantly, he had a Russian, who had defected to the USA and who was willing to turn on his state and tell ‘the whole truth’ about it.
The ‘Russian’, Grigory Rodchenkov, is the chief and only witness in McLaren’s Report, a report which owes a ‘tip of the hat’ to the late Colbert Report for its sophisticated use of ‘truthiness’. (Truthiness is a quality characterizing a “truth” that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. -Wikipedia)
Rodchenkov is the disgraced former head of RUSADA (Russian Anti-Doping Agency). This agency, located in Moscow, was the only WADA-accredited agency in Russia. In other words, WADA explicitly endorsed the methods, standards and authenticity of the results of that lab.
The plot of the real thriller thickens: Rodchenkov was kept on at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, with the tacit approval of WADA, even after he was charged in 2011 by Russia with selling banned, performance-enhancing substances to his sister, for resale to athletes. She was charged, convicted and jailed in Russia in 2013. Her brother got off the charge by claiming a ‘personality disorder’. Yet, in spite of all the above, WADA kept him on.
And last but not least is Juliya Stepanova herself, who has confessed to using banned substances and to paying Rodchenkov thirty thousand rubles ($1,000US) in 2010 to conceal her positive test results. Stepanova’s husband, Vitaly Stepanov, an anti-doping agent at RUSADA 2008-2011, knew of his wife’s and Rodchenkov’s practices, but told no one until 2015. In June 2016, the Stepanovs admitted receiving help to move to the USA and $30,000US in cash from WADA. Conspiracy at work: chronology, complexity and concealment!
In other words, Rodchenkov supplied banned substances to his sister, who sold them to athletes, from whom he then took bribes, in order to conceal the evidence of their drug use. But now Rodchenkov has a new role: he is the sole supplier of uncorroborated evidence to documentary film makers in Germany and the USA, whose so-called ‘investigations’ first stoked the fires of the conspiracy and, finally, to McLaren himself. Rodchenkov, is now wanted for questioning in Russia for the crimes he has confessed to. In fact, the highest official to be implicated in the alleged systemic doping in the Russian Federation, is Rodchenkov. Yet, McLaren states repeatedly in his report that Rodchenkov is “a credible and truthful source“.
McLaren’s fifty-seven day rush to judgment excluded interviews with The Russian Federation, its Olympic officials, and its athletes. His claim that he “had no time” to speak to the accused, while blithely using the information provided by a confessed criminal (Rodchenkov), is a violation not only of elementary jurisprudence, but of common sense and decency.
WADA too, who selected McLaren to investigate the most serious and pervasive problem in modern Olympics as an ‘Independent Person’, not only felt that fifty-seven days was ample, but that none of the accused deserved a hearing. In any event, McLaren clearly agreed to these terms. Two weeks before the Rio Olympics were to begin WADA handed the McLaren report to the IOC for a decision, and waited. The judgment came within days. WADA’s and McLaren’s claims had been rejected.
The character of the witnesses and absence of evidence had eviscerated the case against Russia. The chief ‘witness’ and his confederate, Stepanova, were more likely seen as opportunists and perjurers than ‘whistle- blowers’. The Olympic Ethics Committee judgment against Stepanova, following the submission of McLaren’s report, confirms this. Western mass media howled with impotent rage. (Blowback for WADA and their confederates and instigators is that the IOC has characterized their practices as a mess of ineptness and contradictions. The IOC has demanded the reform and restructuring of WADA itself!) Alexander Mercouris, international lawyer and journalist, says the following about the the banning of Stepanova, due to her admission to doping:
“…there is fury at the supposedly unfair treatment of Stepanova… It is being said this decision is bizarre given that she was supposedly instrumental in exposing the doping in the first place, and that by preventing her from competing the IOC is punishing a “whistle-blower”, which will deter other potential whistle- blowers from coming forward. All these claims and arguments are false and/or mendacious.”Why All Criticisms of the IOC’s Refusal to Ban Russian Athletes are Wrong – The Duran
A confessed doper, seeking exemption from the law, is not a ‘whistle-blower’. Whistle-blowers in the US are Snowden, Manning, Kiriakou, Assange (honorary) and many others. You can tell who they are by the way the state treats them. Prison. Torture. Exile. Persecution.
The judgment of the Olympic Ethics Committee on Stepanova is clear: “… the circumstances in which she denounced the doping practices which she had used herself, do not satisfy the ethical requirements for an athlete to enter the Olympic Games.” The passion of young Olympic athletes must not become the plaything of old, has-been Cold Warriors. They are all old and, almost all, male – an aspect of the state-funded Olympics which needs serious investigation. The opportunities for sexual and psychological abuse abound. These WADA and CCES over-the-hill males, have already partially succeeded in damaging the Olympic Charter’s 6th Principle: non-discrimination of any kind, including nationality and political opinion. Since justice and doping practices were clearly not their real aims, what was? They have shown themselves capable of crossing all boundaries to achieve it. A scheduled press conference, no doubt prepared to celebrate their anticipated victory, was canceled. Clearly, as with any incompetent and compromised organization, they had no Plan B.
The IOC withstood a barrage of well-coordinated attacks from the uniformly on-message Western mass media, and the hatchet-job that is the McLaren Report. That report had reduced the huge problem of Olympic doping to a unsubstantiated harangue against Russia. The report and its sponsors have inadvertently swept the very real problem of doping under the rug once more. This weaponization of sports by the West has hurt Russia and its athletes, but it has also hurt all athletes and the Olympic movement itself. Proposing figures like Stepanova and Rodchenkov as ‘whistle-blowers’ rather than the self-serving, disgraced and compromised characters they are, has demeaned real whistle-blowers, who have little enough protection as it is.
In protecting its own integrity, the IOC has delegated the power to ban Russians without evidence or the possibility of self-defense to the separate athletic associations. Thus, although not banned by the IOC, only athletes of the Russian Federation can still be banned – without cause. Elena Isinbayeva, two-time Olympic Gold Medal Track-and-Field winner and undisputed world champion of the pole vault, who has never doped, was banned by the IAAF; while several multiple-doping convicted members of the US and UK were not. On August 7, the entire Russian Paralympic team was banned.
For their partial victory, the IOC has been maligned in the Western media. But, by at least remaining above the fray, it has potentially positioned itself to reform the excesses and incompetence of WADA. The Olympics may not be dead yet, but they are on life-support.
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