Rus­sia get­ting away with mur­der in the waron­drugs

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SPORTS - Ian O’Rior­dan

Not since Keyser Söze broke out of his limp and into a walk has a get­away seemed as skil­fully dis­guised as this.

Drop­ping six places in the lat­est Fifa world rank­ings may be an­other small price to pay, but there’s no deny­ing the sense Martin O’Neill’s Repub­lic of Ire­land team has es­caped rel­a­tively un­scathed by not qual­i­fy­ing for next sum­mer’s World Cup.

In­deed they may well have dodged a bul­let – and that’s not just some throw­away cliché.

Next Fri­day’s group stages draw in the Krem­lin may in­spire wist­ful feel­ings of what-might-have-been as the 32 teams are as­signed their var­i­ous venues and host cities.

Still that 5-1 play­off de­feat to Den­mark ear­lier this month has prob­a­bly done the en­tire coun­try a favour be­cause, even if it’s not yet ap­par­ent, Rus­sia is the last place on earth any­one should want to be next sum­mer.

This is not just about the feared Rus­sian hooli­gan train­ing camps, or the bru­tally hot tem­per­a­tures which come at the height of Rus­sian sum­mer; hardly a week goes by with­out some fresh re­port not only ques­tion­ing Rus­sia’s sport­ing cred­i­bil­ity, but also high­light­ing its in­creas­ingly du­bi­ous at­ti­tude to­wards the last rem­nants of so-called sports­man­ship.

Some­how it still ap­pears to some peo­ple as a fit­ting host for the World Cup. (Ex­cept maybe F ifa’s ethics com­mit­tee, still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Rus­sian bid process.)

The lat­est bla­tant ex­am­ple of all this sur­rounds the other ma­jor global sport­ing event of 2018; the Win­ter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next Fe­bru­ary. As far as Rus­sia is con­cerned it has ev­ery right to be there, and is threat­en­ing to boy­cott the Games if they’re not al­lowed to com­pete en masse (what­ever way that works).

Only last week, how­ever, the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency (Wada) main­tained that Rus­sia should not be let any­where near Pyeongchang.

The Rus­sian Anti-Dop­ing Agency (Ru­sada), they ruled, was still non-com­pli­ant with the Wada code, es­sen­tially say­ing their anti-dop­ing pro­grammes can’t be trusted.

By now that “anti”-dop­ing pro­gramme has been widely ex­posed – and bril­liantly cap­tured in that Net­flix doc­u­men­tary, Icarus. Not that there was much in Icarus we didn’t know al­ready. It’s over two years now since Dick Pound, the for­mer head of Wada, told a band of jour­nal­ists in Geneva that the Rus­sian ath­let­ics fed­er­a­tion had es­sen­tially “sab­o­taged” the 2012 Lon­don Olympics, such was their “wide­spread in­ac­tion” against ath­letes with sus­pi­ciously ob­vi­ous dop­ing pro­files.

“It’s worse than we thought,” said Pound, a man who usu­ally fears for the worst when it comes to dop­ing. He’d chaired the Wada In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion which proved, among other things, “a deeply rooted cul­ture of cheat­ing” in Rus­sian ath­let­ics, and, by likely ex­ten­sion, in other sports too. Se­rial killing In fact if Rus­sia sab­o­taged Lon­don 2012, it per­formed a se­rial killing act on the last win­ter Olympics, which they hosted in Sochi 2014.

The gory de­tails of this were pre­sented in last year’s

McLaren Re­port, which came in two parts, and not only re­vealed some of Rus­sia’s in­sid­i­ous sam­ple tam­per­ing at Sochi, it pre­sented ev­i­dence of wide­spread state-spon­sored drug ap­pli­ca­tions, im­pli­cat­ing some 1,000 Rus­sian ath­letes who com­peted across 30 sports (in­clud­ing foot­ball) from 2011 to 2015.

Rus­sia, re­mem­ber, won a record 33 medals in Sochi, in­clud­ing 13 gold. The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (IOC) has just be­gun retest­ing those sam­ples for ev­i­dence of tam­per­ing and so far banned 14 Rus­sian ath­letes for life, the lat­est of which is dou­ble bob­sleigh cham­pion Alexan­der Zubkov.

He car­ried the Rus­sian flag at the Open­ing Cer­e­mony at Sochi and is now pres­i­dent of the Rus­sian Bob­sleigh and Skele­ton Fed­er­a­tion – and yet, in keep­ing with Rus­sian sport­ing spirit, is now ap­peal­ing that ban.

That’s the spirit be­cause not only has Rus­sia re­fused to ac­cept the McLaren Re­port, or al­low Wada ac­cess to data from its Moscow lab­o­ra­tory, it’s threat­ened to shoot the main mes­sen­ger of it all, Grig­ory Rod­chenkov, who ran that lab­o­ra­tory be­tween 2005 and 2015, and played that ac­ci­den­tally star­ring role in Icarus.

Ac­cord­ing to Leonid Tya­gachev, head of the Rus­sian Olympic com­mit­tee from 2001 to 2010, and still its hon­orary pres­i­dent, “Rod­chenkov should be shot for ly­ing, like Stalin would have done”.

Luck­ily for Rod­chenkow he’s now in wit­ness pro­tec­tion in the US, hav­ing es­caped Rus­sia last year: not as lucky were his two for­mer anti-dop­ing col­leagues in Rus­sia, Nikita Ka­mayev, who died of an ap­par­ent heart at­tack in Fe­bru­ary last year, and Vy­ach­eslav Sinev, who died of un­known causes in the same month.


Mean­while pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has coldly dis­missed any pos­si­ble in­volve­ment or knowl­edge of Rus­sian dop­ing and, with­out a shred of irony, de­scribed the var­i­ous Wada re­ports as a con­spir­acy driven by Amer­i­can in­ter­ests to un­der­mine the Rus­sian pres­i­den­tial elec­tion next March. Putin will of course be the cel­e­bra­tory pres­ence in the Krem­lin next Fri­day, fist-pump­ing away as usual.

Per­haps iron­i­cally track and field re­mains the only sport to stand up to Rus­sia, along with the In­ter­na­tional Par­a­lympics Com­mit­tee. The IAAF are meet­ing in Monaco this week­end and ex­pected to fur­ther ex­tend the ban on Rus­sian ath­letes from com­pet­ing un­til Wada deems Ru­sada as prop­erly com­pli­ant.

Then it’s over to the IOC head­quar­ters in Lau­sanne on De­cem­ber 5th, when the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion will be made on whether or not the Rus­sians get to com­pete in Pyeongchang. Don’t hold your breath: the IOC ig­nored a sim­i­lar Wada recommendation last sum­mer and al­lowed Rus­sia to com­pete in Rio, who even with­out their track and field team, went on to win 56 medals, fourth best over­all.

There is that counter-argument the Olympics are so politi­cised right now that no one cares any­more about the sports­man­ship part. That Rus­sia can get away with mur­der on the anti-dop­ing front per­haps says some­thing sim­i­lar about World Cup.

There is that counter-argument the Olympics are so politi­cised right now that no one cares any­more about the sports­man­ship part. That Rus­sia can get away with mur­der on the anti-dop­ing front per­haps says some­thing sim­i­lar about World Cup

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