Scottish Daily Mail
Slap on wrist an insult to clean athletes
RIGHT here last week, it was suggested that pragmatism would override the purists when it comes to ridding athletics of doping. And so the half-hearted ‘provisional suspension’ of Russia from international competition, a ban that could conveniently be lifted in time for the Olympic Games now a matter of months away, came as no great shock. The IAAF and, by extension, the IOC are terrified of a boycott undermining the global appeal of the summer Games, as well as just a little scared of being sued by the clean Russian athletes who would be unfairly struck down as part of this collective punishment. In their nightmare scenario, the Russians — plus a couple of biddable former satellite states reliant on oil, gas and not being invaded — would spend the summer sitting at home howling with outrage every time some athlete from China, the USA or, heaven forbid, the UK failed a drugs test. Offering Russian athletics a lifting of the ban providing they comply with certain new criteria, however, feels like letting the cheats get away with a slap on the wrist. Provided you promise to be good this time, we’ll let you back in. But you’ve got to promise, now ... In conversation with several athletes and coaches last week, there was widespread support for a lasting and inflexible ban on an entire nation. If that meant Russian track and field competitors missing the Olympics, well, tough. The clean athletes, the men and women rising before dawn to put in the hard miles because they love their sport, do not want to be governed by a ruling body that treats institutionalised doping as a regrettable oversight, something to provoke plenty of bluster — but quickly overlooked in the name of expediency, provided the wrong ’uns make a good public show of doing the right thing.