Russian Athletics Punishment to Hopefully End by Next Olympics

Russian Athletics Punishment to Hopefully End by Next Olympics

Russia bashing partly relates to the provisional suspension accorded to Russia's athletics (track and field) team by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), for anti-doping oversight, inclusive of several athletes being accused of using illicit performance enhancing substances. Simultaneously, there's Russian acknowledgement of a doping problem, which should face an increased scrutiny.

A couple of Russian whistleblowers openly favor a complete international ban on Russian athletics – never mind the innocents facing penalty, as wrongdoers in other countries essentially have a longer leash. These whistleblowers are described as «hiding» outside Russia. Such a characterization conjures up a certain image among many in the West, who see that nation as a place where going against officialdom is very much subject to punishment.

(In the US, it's commonplace to perceive bravery when attacking official Russia from inside that country, despite numerous examples to the contrary. As one example, on the John Batchelor Show of this past January 5, Stephen Cohen countered this American establishment thought by saying that Russian print media has more dovish criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin's stance towards the West, when compared to US mass media giving space to mainstream Russian views.

The nay saying comeback will bring up the lessor diversity at the leading Russian TV networks on some key issues. This point has a degree of comparative relevance to the print versus national TV news situation in the US. When the subject of Russia comes up, it's rare to see mainstream Russian views on American mass media TV. Such limited instances include sound bites, followed by a last word mop-up rebuttal, lacking a thorough give and take.

These observations aren't intended to belittle the murders of Anna Politkovskaya, Boris Nemtsov and some others. Rather, it's to note the many individuals of like minded politics who've carried on in Russia, without being beaten and/or killed - adding that the Politkovskaya and Nemtsov examples don't appear to have been Kremlin involved actions. Circa the 1960s, there were numerous politically motivated killings in the US, which haven't been conclusively tied to government involvement. The US and Russia each have citizens who independently commit violent actions.)

The Russian whistleblowers in question have made a serious charge, claiming an extremely high level of Russian athletics team doping, that's quite likely subject to a defamation related lawsuit. Over the years, numerous Americans have fled the US to avoid prosecution in that country. For fairness sake, why hold Russia to higher standards, if it's comparatively lacking in civil liberties? The advocacy for greater freedom in Russia is doomed to failure when collapsible biases are present.

(I'm of the belief that in overall comparative terms with the West, Russia lacks in the area of freedom. At the same time, I believe that it's nowhere near as un-free as some claim, in addition to noting some not so politically diverse occurrences in the West. I'm encouraged by knowing a number of mainstream Russians, who seek greater openness in Russia and abroad. These particular individuals are a patriotically proud people, seeking a better world.)

World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound and Hajo Seppelt, the producer of the German documentary, which ignited the IAAF provisional ban on Russian athletics, acknowledge that the scope of their investigation is limited to Russia, while also acknowledging that doping/doping cover-up isn't exclusive to Russia. This selective form of overview creates an unfair advantage, seeing a greatly scrutinized Russia unlike others.

US hurdling great Edwin Moses, is among those supporting a ban on Russia's track and field athletes at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Moses' association for social change in sports as a director with the Laureus Academy, is contradicted by his discriminatory advocacy towards Russian athletics.

With IAAF oversight, the Russian sports authorities involved with revamping the anti-doping regimen for the athletics team have made significant changes, with some understandable bitterness at the provisional suspension and threat of a Summer Olympics ban. In addition to key personnel changes in the management and administration of Russian athletics (including drug testing), none of the athletes under suspicion are on the current roster. One senses that the Russian athletics team will get the nod to compete in the upcoming Olympiad. Its newly elected president puts the odds at 50 %.

Russia has an interest to not get banned by having a more transparent process on the issue at hand. The greater onus will arguably be on the likes of Moses to well substantiate the collective punishment route. As presented in the German documentary, the allegations of vast Russian athletics doping are premised on a considerable degree of unsubstantiated hearsay. Thus, a reasoned compromise could see Russian athletics with the embarrassing provisional suspension and international review on record, followed by the penalty getting lifted before the next Summer Olympics.

In the event of a standing 2016 Summer Olympic ban on Russia's athletics team, there's a precedent for the athletes on that squad (not found guilty of doping) to still participate, in a way that serves to disrespect their nation.

At the 1992 Summer Olympics, Yugoslavia (then consisting of Serbia and Montenegro) was hypocritically banned from participation because of the war in Bosnia. Croatia wasn't banned despite that country's armed involvement in Bosnia. Ditto the armed nationalist transgressions of the Bosnian Muslim nationalist dominated government, which was represented as the internationally recognized Bosnia.

Individual Yugoslav athletes competed at the 1992 Summer Olympics under a designation that didn't specify their national origin. Inconsistent with that route was the banning of Yugoslavia's world class teams, in men's team handball, volleyball, basketball and water polo. Why couldn't they have competed under a non-national designation like the «Unified Team» (comprised mostly of Russians from the former USSR), that won the men's ice hockey gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics? (Due to the sudden dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia and some other former Soviet republics agreed to compete as the «Unified Team» at the 1992 Winter and Summer Olympics.)

All of the aforementioned Yugoslav teams were medal contenders. What not a better way to punish that nation by keeping them out of the Olympics altogether? A matter relating to the biases against Russia and Serbia.

Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic

Tags: IAAF  Russia  US 

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