I have to admit I am really into the Winter Olympics. It’s a bit strange in light of growing up in Australia, the driest continent on earth, surrounded by ocean and beautiful beaches, blessed with pretty good weather and lots of sunshine, the Winter Olympics have, in a weird way, always been front of mind every four years.
It’s evidently similar for the likes of US skater, Nathan Chen, with his record-breaking six quad jumps. He’s from sunny California and says he likes to relax by lying on the beach.
Of course, what has captured me these Winter Olympics is the sideshow between the IOC and Russia. Probably not so much a sideshow as the main game, and the spectacle of the extremely toothless sanctions applied by the IOC on Russia due to the doping scandal.
The IOC’s pretend sanctions-when-you’re-not-having-sanctions were hilarious enough and yet another example where the IOC is prepared to bastardise the concept and purity of sport in favour of a powerful nation like Russia. These came despite incontrovertible evidence of a state-sanctioned doping regime affecting the last Winter Olympics in Sochi as well as almost every other sport (are you listening Mr Infantino?).
Even now, with only ‘clean’ Russian athletes – wearing laughable ‘neutral’ gear with the word Russia emblazoned on it – supposedly at these Games, the questions and suspicion do not go away. BTW, there is a precedent for neutral athletes participating under the IOC flag however I am sure this is a first where they get to retain the name of their country in their title – OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia)
As if to oblige our suspicions, up pops a Russian curler, Alexander Krushelnytsky who won a Bronze Medal and tested positive for meldonium. It’s a little prescribed pharmaceutical drug that is used to treat coronary artery disease in Russia, other parts of eastern Europe and the Baltic states.
It’s the same substance for which tennis player Maria Sharapova was banned but she and Krushelnytsky are not the only ones. There are other Russian sports stars – in speed skating, judo, gymnastics, wrestling, handball – who have also been banned. Evidently, many of their sports stars have coronary artery disease.
So against this background – a massive betrayal of sport by Russia, pretend sanctions by the IOC, and then yet another athlete found to be using a banned substance – what is the IOC doing?
They’re actually considering whether they’ll let Russia march in the Closing Ceremony on Sunday as Russia. Under a Russian flag, Wearing proper Russian uniforms.
Why does this need any consideration at all?
It should be a no-brainer to Thomas Bach and the rest of his executive board, but apparently not.
So here’s the thing.
Sport needs an independent worldwide anti-corruption agency, which includes anti-doping functions. Not a WADA-like creature which is 50% owned by the IOC. Not an CAS-type creature that is wholly overseen and run by the IOC.
But truly, totally independent. And with money to make it work.
I and my colleagues have been banging on about it for some time now. It’s such an obvious thing that needs to happen, the issue is how to make it happen.
Mind you, the sports themselves could help fund it – as long as they were prepared not to meddle in its operations.
With the huge money available to the IOC, and other big sporting organisations such as FIFA, a small proportion of their broadcast money could help fund a global anti-corruption body. That would truly be a gift to sportsmen and women who deserve to be competing with the best, knowing that their fellow athletes are totally clean. It would be a great gift from the big sports to the world.
But I’m dreaming – so we keep searching for solutions.
In the meantime, if Bach and his cronies let the Russians march as Russians on Sunday, we’ll get yet another example of how much the IOC couldn’t care less about the integrity of sport. Their sporting values are not worth a crumpet, and diminish us all.