Thursday, December 7, 2017

IOC bans Russia: Cold War 2.0 politics ruins the Olympics

Neil Clark
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
IOC bans Russia: Cold War 2.0 politics ruins the Olympics
The announcement by the International Olympic Committee that Russia would be banned from the PyeongChang Winter Olympics - but that Russian athletes, if proven ‘clean’ from doping would be able to compete under a neutral banner- has to be seen in its wider geopolitical context.
The decision comes amid a backdrop of unrelenting Russophobia fueled by Western elites who are furious Russia has thwarted their plans for regime change in Syria and is generally getting in the way of US hegemonic aspirations and the neocon/globalist agenda.
Revealingly, straight after the IOC decision was announced leading Russophobes, like US Senator John McCain, were renewing their calls for the 2018 football World Cup to be taken away from Russia, showing that this is about the reviving of Cold War politics and not drugs. It’s clear ‘The Endless War’ lobby in the West wants Russia isolated, humiliated and banned from everything. Sport is only one front in their obsessive campaign, attacks on the Russian media is another. In the current climate, it is virtually impossible Russia would get a fair hearing.
Question One: How would you feel if you were an athlete who had trained hard for four years for the Olympics only to be beaten by someone who it later transpired had cheated by using drugs?
Question Two: How would you feel if you were an athlete who had trained hard for four years for the Olympics only to be barred from competing for your country because someone else from your country had been held to have taken drugs?
I’m sure you’d agree that both cases you would feel very aggrieved. It’s right and proper that drug cheats should be punished - from whatever country they come from - so long as the evidence is there. It’s also right and proper that the innocent don’t pay for the sins of the guilty.
The job of sporting authorities is to make sure that justice is done. That means banning athletes who are proved to have broken the rules, but not imposing blanket bans when evidence of a state-sponsored drug program is missing or inconclusive. And not allowing geopolitics to play any part in their deliberations.
Russia should be treated like any other country; we can surely all agree on that. Alas, that isn’t what appears to have happened.
Last year, there was a blanket ban on Russian Paralympians competing in Rio- imposed by the IPC, which has representatives from six NATO countries on its 14 member board - punishing athletes who had never done anything wrong.
Russian athletes have been banned (and stripped of their medals) without proof of their guilt being published by the IOC’s Oswald Commission - which was set up in July 2016 to investigate the second part of the McLaren report (more of which later). The IOC says it will publish the evidence of ‘violations’ in ‘due course’ - but if they have it - why not now.
How can it be right to ban people without publishing the evidence?
This witch-hunt against Russian athletes goes back to the McLaren report. How authoritative was that? Answer: not very. If you think that’s just ‘Russian propaganda,' ITV Sports editor Steve Scott acknowledged in November that we are not in “beyond reasonable doubt territory” – in his article “Did the McLaren report into Russian doping overstep the mark.” 
For the first part of the report - McLaren, a law professor from a country (Canada) which is a geopolitical adversary of Russia and whose anti-doping agency head, had along with his US counterpart, tried to lobby the IOC to ban ALL Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics last year admitted he “did not seek to interview persons living within the Russian Federation.”
This is a breach of a fundamental principle of natural justice – namely “audi alteram partem” (“listen to the other side”). That wasn’t all that was unsatisfactory about McLaren’s report. There was the lack of supporting evidence for its claims. The line was “we don’t know how they tampered with the urine samples, but we know the Russians did it.” And of course, the report was heavily based –as ITV news conceded last night- on the testimony of just one man- Grigory Rodchenkov- former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory who defected to the US. But just how trustworthy a witness was he?
For the second part of his report McLaren did meet “some” Russian officials, but not all who have been accused.
Furthermore, as recently as November 27, WADA chief Craig Reedie said that while there were “hints” and “claims” of evidence of a systematic state-sponsored Russian doping scheme, 95 of the 96 cases of Russian athletes WADA is investigating have been suspended because “there was not sufficient evidence to pursue an anti-doping violation.”
Yet despite this, before the announcement in Lausanne yesterday, there were exhortations from Western media commentators for the IOC to “do the right thing, ” i.e., ban Russia - based on a report which had more holes in it than a giant slab of Swiss cheese.
Imagine if Thomas Bach, IOC President, had announced Russia would not be banned as conclusive evidence of a state-sponsored doping program had not been presented - which was indeed the case. Then much of the Russia-bashing Western media would have turned their guns on Bach and his committee accusing him, and them, of being “corrupt” and “in cahoots with Putin.”
Remember the attacks on the IOC when they didn’t impose a blanket ban on Russia at last year’s Rio Olympics? How much did that influence the IPC to make their decision?
As I noted here, all roads in the campaign to ban Russia, lead back to the US and Canada.

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