Before we get started, a moment of silence, please, for Mitt Romney, who collapsed and died on Tuesday following his fourth consecutive multiple orgasm of vindication, at A.R. Valentin’s restaurant in La Jolla, California. His dinner companions did not notice at first that Mr. Romney had fallen off his chair, all having raised their eyes to the ceiling and chorused “America’s foremost geopolitical enemy!!!” to complete Mr. Romney’s statement, “I told them Russia was…” because they had all heard it at least a hundred times that day.
No, seriously, of course Mitt Romney is not dead. In fact, he must be on top of the world; after all, he is America’s foremost psychic seer – he knew Russia would be America’s acknowledged geopolitical foe before anyone else did except for the very core of the corporate elite who run the country. Back when he said it, though, in 2012, his presidential opponent – Barack Obama – ridiculed him. “A few months ago, when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not al Qaeda; you said Russia,” the president said. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
Funny old world, innit? Then, Obama fancied al Qaeda was America’s greatest geopolitical foe, and now they’re allies, united by the common imperative of overthrowing the President of Syria. Politics makes strange bedfellows; my, yes, ne’er a truer word was spoken. Well, Barack Obama might be slow to catch on, but he’s making up for lost time – demonization of Russia now goes on all day long, day in, day out, on every front, and no sector is too unimportant for The Land Of The Free to denigrate Russia’s efforts in that direction, and to paint its people as liars, cheats and savages. Not even during the sullen night watches of the Cold War was the rhetoric so corrosive and inflammatory, or the call to arms so strident. All, all is now subordinated to politics and the catechism of contempt and exclusion. Russia is the enemy, and whom the Gods would cast down, they first make inhuman.
The latest bear-baiting arena is international sport, as Washington goes all-out on cementing the impression that Russian athletes could not win an apple-bobbing contest unless they were high as kites, doped to the eyeballs. It’s not hard to see where this is going – exclusion of Russian athletes from the next Olympic Games, perhaps a permanent ban, and the degradation of Russian athletic performance in the past by implication. Nothing strategic about it, and it wouldn’t gain Americans anything other than an imaginary moral victory – it’s just more of the small-minded meanness that has grown to characterize American global relations.
Do-gooder America presents Russia with an exquisite choice: admit you are a nation of serial cheaters and take your adjudicated punishment – which might consist of being banned from Olympic competition for a time, as well as the stripping of all medals won under what the western ‘independent’ investigative team finds were ‘suspicious’ circumstances – then go forth and sin no more. Or cling to your pathetic protestations of innocence, and be found guilty in spite of them. Heads I win, tails you lose.
I am led to two observations – one, this is an opinion article. What is the purpose, really, of an opinion page in a newspaper? Don’t readers buy a newspaper for news, which they can reasonably expect to be the truth based on research? Suspend for a moment your certain knowledge that much of what appears in the newspaper under the banner of ‘news’ is often lies and fakery as well – what is the place in a newspaper for the blather of someone whose message is, “This is what I think about it, based on factors other than a true appreciation for contemporary global events”, presented in a format which suggests it is news? Couldn’t there be, like, a magazine or a periodical of some sort that was all-opinion for the non-facts crowd, and newspapers be reserved for actual news? Oh, wait: I just described every book Ed Lucas has ever written.
The alliteratively-named Travis T. Tygart is not a journalist, reporter or researcher. He is Chief Executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. As such, unless he joined the organization last week, he has a comprehensive knowledge of my second observation, which is that a stern dressing-down for cheating in competitive sports might not be so tough to take if it didn’t come from the representative of a nation legendary for cheating in competitive sports. The message is that Russia cannot be allowed to compete with decent, upstanding nations of honest sportsmen until it admits that most or all of its victories were the result of drug-addled cheating, and submits to an American-led review of its medals to see which it might be allowed to keep. So let’s take a look at that.
Right out of the gate, Mr. Tygart labels himself a lover of clean sport, as his readers presumably all are too, unless they are Russians. Tygart was obviously not around in 1904, to see an American become the first recorded instance of doping in the Olympics. Fred Lorz, the American ‘winner’ of the brutal Olympic marathon, rode for 11 miles of the course in an automobile, running the last 5 miles to enter the stadium in triumph well ahead of his competitors. His cheating was quickly exposed (just as President Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice, was about to lower the gold medal over his head), and the medal awarded to the next runner, American Thomas Hicks – who had been fed a concoction of egg whites and strychnine, frequently used in small doses in those unenlightened days as a stimulant. But that was not illegal then, so the win was considered fair.
Obviously, that has little bearing on modern competitive sport except for historical value and to establish the provenance of American cheating; doping was crude then and you certainly didn’t have to have any scientific skill to spot it. But testing had still not evolved to the selective zealotry it is today – the sporting world was still in that middle zone where you might get away with it, if you lied earnestly enough, attacked your accusers vehemently enough, or your country’s Olympic Committee helpfully covered up for you and manipulated the rules to your advantage. Several cases fell into this category, probably the most famous being seven-time Tour de France cycling champion and national icon Lance Armstrong. After years of denying and attacking his accusers, Armstrong admitted that he owed all seven championships and millions of dollars in endorsements to blood doping and use of performance-enhancing drugs. Not only that, in October 2013 the same agency Mr. Tygart heads up exposed the systemic use of performance-enhancing drugs by Armstrong and 11 of his teammates, with the full knowledge and support of coaches and help of team physicians. Is it possible that USADA blew the whistle when it was no longer possible for the deception to go on? It seems hard to believe the cheating included the entire team and their training support, for a decade, and nobody at USADA knew anything. And if it’s true, why the fuck should they be allowed any input to international standards now? You obviously could not send them to test for curry in an Indian take-away with any hope that they would find it.
In the 1988 Olympics at Seoul, Canadian Ben Johnson first set a new record and captured the gold medal for the 100-meter dash, and the next day was stripped of the medal because his sample had tested positive for anabolic steroids. The medal was instead awarded to American Carl Lewis…who had himself tested positive for performance-enhancing stimulants during the 1988 trials, but the U.S. Olympic Committee overturned his suspension. There’s some of that clean sport you love, Travis, you incredible wall-to-wall hypocrite.
How about Marion Jones? In 2000, at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Jones became the first woman in history to win 5 medals at a single Olympiad – 3 gold and 2 bronze. She reaped the adulation of her fellow Americans and the world for seven years, during which she angrily denied using any sort of stimulants, before finally confessing in 2007 to having used steroids prior to the Sydney games, as did her shot-putter husband. I suppose defenders of ‘clean sport’ will point to the fact that she was stripped of her medals and served a six-month sentence for lying to federal investigators, but I don’t see those facts putting the United States in a position to sit in judgment of Russia; do you? More importantly, the holier-than-thou United states Anti-Doping Agency apparently did not have Clue One that whole time – did you see any brusque orders for re-testing from them? Jones – like Armstrong, I suspect – told the truth only when lying wasn’t working any more, and Jones had no choice as her former boyfriend and one-time 100-m record-holder Tom Montgomery, confessed and implicated her as well. As if that were not enough, both were part of the BALCO scandal, which was the biggest drugs scandal in athletic history according to The Telegraph, and netted 20 athletes, many of them household names in America. More clean sport, can you gimme ‘hallelujah’?
I think my favourite, though, was the 1984 Olympic Games, in Los Angeles, California. Not only was a third of the American cycling team – which won 9 medals – later found to have used blood doping (receiving transfusions of blood just prior to the race) to attain their victory. That’s bad enough, but they completely got away with it, because blood doping was not declared against the IOC rules until the following year, so even though American cyclist and medalist Pat McDonough confessed “I’m sitting on a medal I didn’t earn”, he and his teammates got to keep them. But wait – there’s more. Team members confessed that it was their choice to use the method, and they knew it was unethical even though it was not illegal. Dr. Thomas Dickson, who was then the physician for the American cycling team and – incredibly – later the senior crew chief for the U.S. Olympic Committee Drug Control Program, was told by team member Pat McDonough, at a team meeting, “We’ll do it if you get a letter from USOC [the United States Olympic Committee) that says we can do it”. And they received no reply.
Let me say that again. The United States Olympic Committee was apparently aware, because they were asked, that its cycling team intended to use blood transfusions to artificially enhance its performance at the Olympics, where they won a record number of medals. And it said nothing – not only then, but later, after the team won medals in a performance which USOC had every reason to believe was enhanced by artificial means. This is the moral authority which now says, “..the samples saved from Sochi should be guarded like a crime scene.”
Because that wasn’t the end of the chicanery at the 1984 Olympics, managed from start to finish by the U.S. Olympic Committee. No, I’m afraid not. Although the blood doping which won America a record medals tally in cycling was not even on the radar, nine positives were identified from drug testing by the UCLA lab, mostly from the final two days of the Games. Five of the nine tests allegedly were positive for anabolic steroids, and all nine were allegedly positive for substances which were illegal under IOC rules.
Let’s back off the pace a little, and go slow, because this is the real hammer in the story. (1) According to the BBC, a meeting of officials was held at which Juan Antonio Samaranch (IOC President), Peter Uebberoth (LAOOC President, the Los Angeles Olympic Organization Committee) and Prince Alexandre DeMerode (President of the IOC Medical Commission) were present. (2) A witness from the meeting told the BBC the officials present at the meeting discussed covering up the drug-testing results, and (3) DeMerode refused to be any part of it. (4) According to Arnold Beckett, a former member of the IOC Medical Commission, a decision was reached to go ahead with the plan, over DeMerode’s objections.
Oh, and (5); someone broke into DeMerode’s room, stole all the records which were the only blind copy which could match name to urinalysis, and shredded them. Yeah.
How does the world remember the 1984 Los Angeles Games now? Why, “widely ranked as one of the most successful games on record. ” Los Angeles should be coaxed to host the 2024 Games. What the eye doesn’t see, the heart won’t grieve for, Mama always said, and the less you know, the less trouble you’ll make for everybody.
In the Summer Olympic Games – which, clearly, the 2024 Games will be if LA is being touted as a venue – since 1968, Russians have tested positive for performance-enhancing substances or stimulants 15 times. That’s against 19 for the Americans. Obviously, the American cycling team in 1984 is not included in these totals, nor are the 9 athletes who allegedly tested positive in those games but whose records were destroyed, and there is no way now to know who they were. Who is it, again, who can’t win anything without doping? Who is it, again, who claims the right to adjudicate and oversee bans of national teams from international competition?
Let’s take a look at another lover of clean sport cited by Mr. Tygart, Canadian cross-country Olympian Beckie Scott. Beckie Scott won the bronze medal for Canada in 2002, finishing behind two Russians – Olga Danilova and Larissa Lazutina – who tested positive for a banned substance, darbpoetin. They were stripped of their medals, and they deserved to be. But you can sort of see why Beckie Scott might kind of have it in for Russia, since she reasons that Russians cheated her out of a gold medal, and why she is demanding that the WADA board expand its investigation to all sports in Russia; something which is completely unprecedented.
How does darbpoetin work, anyway? It boosts red blood cell production.
How does blood doping work? It increases red blood cell count. What’s the difference? Well, one is ‘an abomination’, and the other is a “Shhh!! You saw nothing!!”
“This is an abomination”, Beckie thundered, to a tumultuous ovation from the western crowd, speaking of the accusations by Russian ‘whistle-blowers’ of endemic doping in Russia. I don’t remember her even bringing up the use of blood doping, which has exactly the same effect as darbpoetin, to unethically win medals. But the American athletes who confessed to blood doping were not stripped of their medals, and it is unlikely they ever will be. Because blood doping was not illegal until the following year. By way of her selective outrage and pandering to the Washington line, of which Mr. Tygart obviously approves unreservedly, Ms. Scott makes her entire country – my country – look ignorant, not to mention completely onboard with Washington’s agenda, all in the name of ‘clean sport’. Rule One; when Washington wishes to mask its hand in a politicized smear job, it always attempts to internationalize it if that is possible, to make it appear the outrage is broadly shared and may even have originated elsewhere.
Let’s talk about those Russian ‘whistle blowers’ for a second; the Stepanovs, and Doctor Grigory Rodchenkov.According to the article, Doctor Rodchenkov’s “evidence of state-run doping at the Sochi lab led to this new investigation”.
For one thing, it is curious to see these people referred to as ‘whistle-blowers’ when Edward Snowden is a traitor whom the USA would arrest in a second if he ever dared travel anywhere it could get access to him – does everyone remember how the Bolivian Presidential aircraft was forced to land just on the rumor that Snowden was aboard?
For another, I would be curious to see what actual evidence has been offered thus far; I am tempted to believe it is in fact not evidence, but exclusively testimony. Otherwise, why would Mr. Tygart suggest that the Sochi samples – which the ‘independent investigative team’, ha, ha, does not yet have access to – should be guarded like a crime scene? Oh, look at that – the ‘esteemed Richard McLaren’, who was appointed to lead the ‘independent investigation’ says right up front that they do not have any evidence, and that all they have is the inference.
An inference I recommend they examine very carefully, given that Grigory Rodchenkov, upstanding witness to state-run doping on a massive scale, is a former mental patient. Agent Curveball, anyone? Dr. Rodchenkov was arrested and questioned in 2011 in connection with an illegal drug ring, for the purpose of distribution to athletes, which was run by his sister Marina and for which she was jailed in 2012. Imagine that. Under ordinary circumstances – say, if Russia were defending a theory that the United States was trying to overthrow the Russian government, and relying on a witness who was a former mental patient and brother to a convicted drug-trafficker – I suspect the United States would be tempted to poke a little fun at such an allegation.
Let me spell it out. International sport has become just another pawn in the political game, and this monster drug scandal is just another gambit by the United States to demoralize and attack its rival, Russia, from the position of an even-more-guilty offender itself. The aim is for Russians to feel that they are isolated, cut off from allies as they face a blizzard of attacks from every direction, and retroactive shaming which will besmirch past glories. It is attempting to internationalize the effort by using Canadian and European spokespersons as a collective bullhorn to serve its ends. Perhaps it is time to end the Olympic Games once and for all, as they have become just another platform for grandstanding politicians and subversive national interests, not to mention a major money-loser owing to enormous security requirements and the attraction large crowds have for terrorism, while the original ideals of multinational athletes measuring themselves against one another in international competition have been subordinated to political brinksmanship.
I’m not suggesting Russian sport is lily-white, and that doping is unheard-of in Russian sport; there is plenty of real evidence to suggest cheating is no more or no less prevalent there than in any other large country, and Russians are not genetically honest any more than Americans are. There are, as usual, two sides to the story. But only one of them is being described as propaganda.