This decision has set the gold standard for all bodies
Paralympians bring extra heroism but are not above cheating,
From Paralympians to pariahs. You would a think a disabled athlete has enough obstacles in life without being pressed into a state doping programme and then thrown out of the Paralympics when the whole sordid conspiracy comes to light.
For a minute or two in Rio, it was tempting to dwell on the cruelty of Paralympians being expelled from a festival they have spent four years working towards. But then a deeper urge took hold to applaud the International Paralympic Committee for having the courage to take a step the International Olympic Committee was too weak and compromised to consider.
Of the 389 Russian athletes entered for the Rio Games now filling our screens, 278 have been waved through to compete. On Saturday, Russia won their first gold medal – Beslan Mudranov, who took gold in the men’s 60-kilogram judo. With the white flag fluttering over the IOC, it must have been tempting for Paralympic sport to join the surrender.
Instead, it took a decision that sets the gold standard for all governing bodies, expelling Russia en bloc for the crime of orchestrating pharmaceutical cheating from the top down.
The IOC tried to cast this as an easy choice. Its spokesman Mark Adams said: “There are some very
‘It challenges our habit of seeing every Paralympic story as a triumph over adversity’
different issues. There’s only one National Paralympic Committee in Russia, there are not many national federations. They [the IPC] only have one national federation to deal with so they have to take a blanket decision.” Nice try. In reality, the Paralympic authorities took the tougher step.
Sir Philip Craven’s scorching language expresses a series of burning truths that the Kremlindazzled IOC tried to obscure. He talked about “a state-run system cheating the athletes”, of a “doping culture polluting Russian sport”, and said that “the Russian government has catastrophically failed its Para-athletes. Their medals over morals mentality disgusts me.”
Craven, the IPC president, says it has information on 45 samples relating to 14 athletes. Twentyseven samples relate to eight of the sports on the Paralympic programme. They have interpreted these figures as clear proof that Paralympic sport has descended into the same morass as Olympic disciplines.
To think Paralympians are ‘above’ cheating because it would violate the extra heroism they bring to sport was always unrealistic. The temptation to dope is just as strong. This verdict challenges our habit of seeing every Paralympic story as a pure triumph over adversity. But most still are. We owe it to the clean ones to remember that.
Equally, the people who run world sport owed it to honest athletes to expel Russia, a rogue state in this respect. The Olympics lacked the guts to do it. The Paralympics are made of sterner stuff.