RUS­SIA GETS A MES­SAGE

Calgary Herald - - EDITORIAL -

Now that Rus­sia’s Olympic team has been banned from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 2018 Win­ter Olympics in South Korea, Cana­di­ans may be tempted to tune out. Af­ter all, these Olympics will lack the pow­er­house Rus­sians, who cus­tom­ar­ily give our ath­letes among the tough­est runs for Olympic glory.

The ab­sence of such vaunted ri­vals may ap­pear to de­value the worth of these Games. But far from di­min­ish­ing the Olympics, the un­prece­dented pun­ish­ment meted out to Rus­sia this week will en­hance and strengthen the world’s most pres­ti­gious sport­ing event.

The slag of cor­rup­tion and de­ceit long taint­ing Olympic gold, sil­ver and bronze has fi­nally been held to a pu­ri­fy­ing flame.

On Tues­day, the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee barred the Rus­sian Olympic Com­mit­tee from at­tend­ing the Win­ter Games. The Rus­sian flag will not be dis­played, nor its an­them played. In­di­vid­ual Rus­sian ath­letes found to be clean may com­pete un­der a neu­tral flag.

The sus­pen­sion is a just penalty for a na­tion that en­gi­neered a sys­temic, state-spon­sored and pub­licly funded dop­ing pro­gram for hun­dreds of its ath­letes over at least a decade. It’s also an un­ex­pected one; the same Olympic bu­reau­crats played it safe at the Rio de Janeiro Sum­mer Games by leav­ing it up to in­di­vid­ual sports fed­er­a­tions to de­cide which Rus­sian ath­letes could com­pete on a case-by-case ba­sis. It was pass­ing the buck on an Olympic scale.

Mak­ing these Games even more spe­cial: a cer­e­mony will award medals retroac­tively to le­git­i­mate win­ners from Sochi af­ter 25 Rus­sians were dis­qual­i­fied.

As a re­sult of the IOC’s new-found spine, sports fans may be treated to the purest and most hon­est Olympics in decades.

Of course, all sport­ing events, in­clud­ing these Games, will still be af­flicted with in­ci­dents of foul play, but Rus­sia had taken cheat­ing to an in­dus­trial scale with Krem­lin-ap­proved and gov­ern­ment-ex­e­cuted dop­ing and coverups.

As Cana­di­ans, we felt a col­lec­tive sense of shame and dis­grace when our own sprinter Ben John­son tum­bled from grace when re­vealed as a cheat.

Fans of U.S. cy­cling leg­end Lance Arm­strong felt the same way when his dop­ing was dis­cov­ered. It’s dis­ap­point­ing that a proud and de­fi­ant Rus­sia ap­pears to lack that same sense of abash­ment, with Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin al­leg­ing the IOC’s pun­ish­ment is merely a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated west­ern plot. Cana­dian ath­letes can live with sour grapes. They shouldn’t have to live with los­ing to state-spon­sored cheaters.

In PyeongChang, they won’t have to.

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