Most trou­bling is Rus­sia re­ac­tion to scan­dal

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Trou­bling as the de­tails of the McLaren Re­port were, a news item out of Rus­sia ear­lier this week was equally so. The new chair of the coun­try’s “re­vamped” an­tidop­ing agency will be Ye­lena Is­in­bayeva, the pole vault great who has spent the past year thumb­ing her nose at all the ev­i­dence and at those who’ve dared to mete out pun­ish­ment for the malfea­sance. Is­in­bayeva’s ap­point­ment to the RUSADA board, made a mere two days be­fore Part 2 of the McLaren re­port ar­rived, was all you needed to con­clude that ei­ther Rus­sia does not fully grasp the depths of de­prav­ity that Richard McLaren painstak­ingly de­tailed in his 144-page re­port or, maybe worse, that it just doesn’t care.

The de­tails in McLaren’s re­port, re­leased Fri­day, are as pre­dictable as they are ter­ri­ble. The 1,000 ath­letes and who-knows-how-many gov­ern­ment and quasi-gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in­volved in Rus­sia’s dop­ing scan­dal are sym­bols not of a sys­tem that failed to catch its cheats, but of one that was un­der­cut by the very peo­ple we’d pre­sume were hired to pro­tect it.

Is­in­bayeva her­self was never im­pli­cated in the dop­ing scan­dal, and when all but one mem­ber of the Rus­sian track team was barred from the Rio Olympics, she paid a heavy price. The two-time gold medal­ist and world-record holder stayed back be­cause track’s international fed­er­a­tion had the courage to de­clare that any­one in­volved in the Rus­sian sports ma­chine sim­ply could not com­pete, given the ev­i­dence that had been un­earthed to that point.

Is­in­bayeva called the sus­pen­sion “a bla­tant po­lit­i­cal order”, claim­ing, as many in her gov­ern­ment did, that Rus­sia was be­ing un­fairly tar­geted as part of an East vs. West power play. She called it “a vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights,” and vowed to “prove to the IAAF and World An­tiDop­ing Agency that they made the wrong de­ci­sion.” Af­ter Fri­day’s re­port came out, she said “of course it’s in my in­ter­ests not to al­low the sit­u­a­tion which I ended up in, so that our ath­letes from our coun­try are treated the same as ev­ery­one else.”

Though she was ap­plauded - and is now be­ing re­warded - in her own coun­try and else­where for tak­ing this stance, her words are not those of some­one who ei­ther grasps the se­ri­ous­ness of the prob­lem, or is de­voted to bring­ing mean­ing­ful change. Is any­one in Rus­sia de­voted to that? Hours af­ter the re­port went pub­lic, Rus­sian deputy prime min­is­ter Vi­taly Mutko, im­pli­cated in the re­port as an ar­chi­tect of the dop­ing pro­gram, said the coun­try would “move into the le­gal arena”, and that “it was sim­ply not re­al­is­tic ... to do what they are ac­cus­ing us of”.

In­deed, were it not for the ex­cru­ci­at­ing de­tail McLaren took to con­duct his re­search, it would be hard to be­lieve in­tel­li­gence agents could open sealed dop­ing bot­tles and re­place tainted urine with clean to beat the drug-test­ing sys­tem at the Sochi Games. McLaren found Rus­sians who won 15 medals in Sochi had their sam­ples tam­pered with. He said Rus­sia’s dop­ing pro­gram also cor­rupted the 2012 Lon­don Olympics on an “un­prece­dented scale.”

Those were Is­in­bayeva’s last games. Since be­ing barred from Rio, she has re­tired from the sport, won a spot on the IOC and, now, be­come the chair of RUSADA. WADA protested, say­ing it was sup­posed to have been con­sulted about im­por­tant moves, such as the naming of RUSADA’s new board. For WADA to hope that any­one - say, the IOC - will have its back on this is only that: hop­ing. The IOC is the same body that re­jected WADA’s call to ban the en­tire Rus­sian team from the Rio Games. It ar­gued that it had to walk a care­ful line be­tween anti-dop­ing and pol­i­tics, and that it needed to care­fully weigh the con­se­quences of “col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity ver­sus in­di­vid­ual jus­tice,” while ba­si­cally ig­nor­ing the “in­di­vid­ual jus­tice” owed to the dozens of ath­letes who have been and might still be beaten by cheat­ing Rus­sians.

How many of those Rus­sians were in Rio de Janeiro? Time will tell. Though the track team was banned, Rus­sia still sent 271 ath­letes to the Sum­mer Games, and they com­bined for 55 medals. McLaren is for­ward­ing the ev­i­dence from his re­port to the IOC and to the in­di­vid­ual sports, and those bod­ies will de­cide what pun­ish­ments to levy. Mean­while, the Win­ter Olympics are only 14 months away, and al­ready, questions about whether Rus­sia should be el­i­gi­ble for those games are be­ing asked. — AP

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