Russian Track And Field Athletes Face An Ongoing Ordeal

Russian athletes face selective and collective punishment

Wed, Jul 13, 2016
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After receiving a barrage of protest, the American Red Cross recently withdrew their swimming pool safetyposter with an apology. The depiction in question conjured up the stereotype of unruly African-Americans.

On the other hand, it’s comparatively more acceptable to collectively portray Russians as devious cheats. The liberal defense of this hypocrisy is flawed. (Not that liberals are alone in the faulty Russia bashing.) They’ll reference statistics, showing a greater level of Russian sports drug cheats. These very same folks will take a different line on the matter of crime statistics, relative to the African-American community – noting how unfair it is to have a knee jerking apprehension towards that group.

There’s something fishy in the way the Russian athletics (track and field) team has been covered. Suspect coverage is prone to greater acceptance, when the targeted group lacks clout to offset the permeating biases against them. Along with such establishment journalists as Christine Brennan and Matthew Futterman, past and present WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) officials like Canadian attorney Dick Pound and American attorney Travis Tygart, make blanket statements that essentially constitute a form of ethnic profiling.

On a June 16 RT show, Pound exhibited biases against Russia. IMO, he didn’t give a good basis to collectively punish all of Russia’s top track and field performers. Banning these athletes from the Rio Olympics doesn’t put an end to drug cheats, while serving to caricature one group, as others are given a longer leash.

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On the aforementioned RT show, Pound defends the selective and collective punishment against Russian athletics, by noting how it’s not a legitimate defense to say that a speeding ticket is unjust, because the ticketing officer didn’t ticket other such violators at the time of the infraction. A more appropriate analogy is the “driving while black” occurrences.

Pound is a former world class swimmer. One senses that he would object to a collective ban on every Canadian athlete, for the wrongs of a minority within that group. Given what has been evident in Canada, Pound’s stated (on RT) “state control” image of Russia is ironic. He comes across as taking a moral supremacist position. Awhile back, Pound received flack for a “savages” comment he made regarding Canada’s First Nations (Indian) population. He later expressed regret over that remark after receiving much protest. Some out there view Russia and Russians quite negatively, with limited second guessing of that position, much unlike some other instances, including Pound’s “savages” comment and the recent American Red Cross poster incident.

Concerning Pound’s RT aired “state control” characterization of Russia, his native Canada has knowingly banned law abiding citizens/residents from Western and some other countries for purely political reasons, as some others with suspect views have gotten the nod for entry. (On this very subject, Srdja Trifkovic’s Canadian experience isn’t indicative of a tolerantly fair and balanced situation.) Somewhat related to that observation, Canada was one of only three delegations (along with Ukraine and the US), which voted against a UN resolution that denounces the glorification of Nazism.

Pound was the one who brought into play the issue of state control, thereby making these comparative points worthy. Seeing how he has carried on, Pound’s objectivity is questionable in determining whether Russian track and field athletes can compete in Rio.

On that particular, he’s by no means alone among non-Russian folks with high level WADA and IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) ties. Pound’s state control point provides no conclusive evidence of a direct Russian government supported effort to promote illegal drug taking among Russian athletes – something the Kremlin denies, to go along with its stated anti-doping position.

One has good reason to believe that the WADA appointed Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren might be a politically hired hand, who is being utilized to rubber stamp the WADA and IAAF biases. The well credentialed McLaren has been selected by the WADA to further review the athletics ban against Russia. What’s the relationship between the two fellow Canadian attorneys Pound and McLaren? Why not have a more diverse oversight, for the purpose of offsetting the reasonable belief that a skewed decision might be in the works?

McLaren’s final report is due July 15. He has already suggested a preference to maintain the ban on all Russian track and field athletes. Likewise, the IAAF has denied all but two Russian track and field athletes the right to compete in the upcoming Rio Olympics. The lone exceptions are the US based long jumper Darya Klishina and the documented 800 meter drug cheat Yuliya Stepanova. A final decision on the Olympic status of the other Russian track & field athletes is due no later than July 21.

It’s ethically challenged for the WADA and IAAF to grant competition clearance to Stepanova, unlike the Russian track and field athletes who haven’t been found guilty of doping. Stepanova participated in a German aired TV documentary which collectively caricatured the Russian athletics team. (That feature is discussed in my Strategic Culture Foundation article of this past January 24 “Russian Athletics Punishment to Hopefully End by next Olympics”.)

The hero status that some have accorded to Stepanova is questionable. It’s highly unlikely that her former husband (featured in the German TV aired documentary) and herself know the exact regimens of all of the Olympic caliber Russian track and field athletes. Stepanova hasn’t given the benefit of doubt to these top performers, most of whom (unlike herself) haven’t been found guilty of using banned substances. Her manner has earned the legitimate disdain of many Russians and others, who favor a fair and balanced approach.

The IAAF sanctioned 2016 European athletics championships began this month. That gathering serves as a good preparatory contest before the Rio Olympics. Even if cleared in time for Rio, Russian track and field athletes will be at a disadvantage, care of the ostracism from international competition that they’ve experienced since November 13 of last year. Once again, the guilty of doping Stepanova was granted the right to compete at the 2016 European athletics championships, unlike the Russian athletes who haven’t bee found guilty of cheating.

The blanket claim that Russian track and field athletes haven’t been getting fairly tested is sheer crock, as evidenced by the number of them who’ve been caught doping. In a rare July 1 BBC segment on this subject, hurdler Sergey Shubenkov categorically states his not cheating and being frequently tested by non-Russian sources. In an open letter to IAAF President Sebastian Coe, hammer thrower Sergei Litvinov notes a flawed side to the WADA and IAAF stance. The inappropriately titled June 22 Russia Beyond The Headlines article “Top 4 ‘Clean’ Russian Athletes Who Can’t Compete in the Rio Olympics”, provides additional contradiction to the effort to ban Russian track and field athletes.

For accuracy sake, it’d help to see a fuller disclosure of the claims made by both extremes on the subject of the Russian Olympic athletics team. Whether from either side, the repeated presentation of broad unsubstantiated claims as facts shouldn’t be considered as acceptable proof. It remains to be seen if the Russian Olympic Committee will successfully defend its track and field team. The doubt for a favorable outcome on their behalf is premised on the reasonably deduced impression that kangaroo court antics have been put forward to deny Russian Olympic athletics competition.

The July 10 Tass article “High Time to Dissolve the IAAF – Russian Sports Minister” and July 10 Sputnik article “Isinbayeva’s Coach: IAAF Decision is ‘Epitaph’ of Russian Athletics”, highlight the Russian disagreement with the IAAF.

With confidentiality respected, what follows is a point-counterpoint exchange that I had with a US mass media placed journalist. (This limited discussion has been partially edited, without undercutting either of the two interlocutors.)

Said journalist:

Thank you for your notes, although I respectfully disagree with most of your points.

The evidence of systemic, state-sponsored cheating by Russia is overwhelming. To have the former chief of the lab, and a former Rusada official, and an athlete — among others — step forward is unprecedented. And the details they offer are quite similar.

It’s absolutely the case — as I noted — that American athletes have also cheated, as well as those of Europe and many other nations. There is no evidence however of systemic state sponsored cheating at this point. Kenya and Jamaica are the troubling exceptions. Even there, I’d argue that while the testing regimens and anti drugging agencies are toothless, it’s not clear that the state itself is involved (Kenya seems to tread closest to stepping over this line).

The 1980s and 1990s are a different matter. There seems little doubt that many on the USOC tolerated and even encouraged doping. By the standards of today — which are an improvement — the USA and many other countries should have been disqualified. Carl Lewis we know now was a cheater, as was Flo Joyner.

This was true, as well, of major league baseball at that time.

But all of this begs the question: If there are past problems, should we simply shrug and forget any notion of reform? That to me is absurd. There was a long, 15 year struggle to put in place a tougher testing regimen, and its paid dividends. Where once there was blatant steroid use, now there is micro-dosing. It’s not great, but it’s better than the past. Many athletes, American and otherwise, have gotten swept up and caught, and suspended. Justin Gatlin, to name our most prominent sprinter, did a four year suspension. That’s a stiff and appropriate sentence.

The evidence against Russia is mountainous. The penalty is appropriate, and what’s more it will protect future generations of Russian athletes who will not feel the same pressure to take pills and shots that are manifestly bad for their health.

As to the political exclusions, I don’t see much to disagree with. The US war in Vietnam was a horror, as was the Soviet war in Afghanistan.


My response:

Thanks for the reply.

Do we actually know beyond a reasonable doubt that Carl Lewis and Florence Griffin Joyner cheated? If so, that matter isn’t so well highlighted.

According to Pavel Shipilin’s June 16 Live Journal piece “Doping Scandal Yet Another Example of Anti-Russian Double Standards”,  Russia received a disproportionate degree of testing, when compared to numerous other countries including the US:

I present it without having verified the accuracy of the content. If true, it further underscores a skewed process, which contradicts the notion of an ethically fair monitoring route.

IMO, Lord Coe has behaved dubiously as has Dick Pound, Travis Tygart and some others. They don’t seem to be actually interested in safeguarding the future development of Russian Athletics. If anything, they seek to curtail it.

It’ll be a a further farce if the Russian 800 meter whistle blower (a known cheat) will be allowed to compete, unlike others such as Yelena Isinbayeva, who have a clean record and deny having cheated.

Prior to the International Olympic Committee intervention on the Russian athletics issue, the IAAF’s chief Coe said that the number of Russian athletes allowed to compete will be small, adding that they will be athletes who’ve trained outside Russia. Coe also said that other Russian sports federations should be investigated. Comments like these reveal his bias.

A good portion of the “proof” isn’t so well founded. Anecdotal evidence along with some dubious claims are included. The scrutinizing of such has been lax.

As you know, much of the drug busting on Russia concerns meldonium, which was only recently banned this past January. That drug can remain present for months after taking it. There’re other drugs related to it, which (as I understand) aren’t banned. That point leads to the matter of choosing what is and isn’t legit? Did some Russia unfriendly politico get grasp that a good number of Russian athletes were using meldonium and that it should suddenly get banned, resulting in negative PR against Russia?

There’s a wave of anti-Russian bias out there as has been evident in what much of The NYT chooses to print.

On your last point, I take it that you’ll agree that the banning of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) at the 1992 Summer Olympics was hypocritically unjust – something rarely if ever discussed when it comes to past Olympic injustices. It was absurd to see Croatia win the men’s basketball silver in that Olympiad, knowing that Yugoslavia had a better team and that Croatia was involved in the Bosnian Civil War, while having a bigot as president.

For all their self bravado, many US mass media elites are either not so forthcoming, or unaware about what concerns some other parts of the world.

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