“Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”
– William Penn
“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.”
– Ernesto Che Guevera
I can’t claim the social conscience of a Che Guevera, but it’s absolutely true that I feel more motivated to write when I am furious about something, and few things so infuriate me like smug pig-ignorance. And no smug pig-ignorance is so infuriating as that displayed by one’s own countrymen, as they happily allow themselves to be played like violins by an outside authority and exhibit their naked buttocks before the world. I really thought you were better than that, Canada.
According to the CBC – the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a Crown corporation and the official voice of the nation – Russian athletes are “emerging as the villains of the Rio Olympics“. And maybe it’s just me, but the tone seems approving, self-righteous…judgy. As if the official mouthpiece of Canada is delighted to sign on to the Get Russia program offered by its southern neighbour and business partner to all its toadies and would-be chambermaids.
In a word, this is disappointing. I used that word because I didn’t want to start swearing so early, although I’m sure we’ll get to it.
Just so we’re clear – whose interests does it serve for Canada to enthusiastically sign on to booing and hooting like howler monkeys whenever Russian athletes step up to compete, like we were English football hooligans? Canada’s? How?
In fact, as everyone who is not thick as a BC pine knows, it serves Washington’s interests, because the USA wants Russia isolated and alone and friendless because it is pissed off at it for other things, and the more disrespect and ignorance and rudeness it gets from the former politeness capital of the world, the better Uncle Sam likes it. WADA is going after every medal Russia ever won, and it is not even looking at anyone else. And that entire effort rests on the credibility of two people; one who was convicted of doping herself and barred from competition for two years for it, and her husband who knew and did nothing about it while he worked for the national anti-doping agency.
We’ll get to that.
“It’s something not usually heard at the Olympic Games. Booing. Loud, sustained booing. The rain of fury is directed at a common enemy: Russian athletes. The contingent, clouded and shrouded by drug scandal, has quickly emerged as the villains of these Rio 2016 Games. Like Cold War days of old, the Russians are once again the global bad guys.
After avoiding a full Olympic ban, some wondered how fans and fellow athletes would treat Russian athletes. That answer came quickly. At the opening ceremony, even athletes from pariah nations were given polite applause. But fans interrupted the global Kumbya moment to let the Russians know their presence wasn’t welcome.”
Disappointing. Disappointing to see how easy it is to get people who probably are reasonably nice under ordinary circumstances to get on board with the mob mentality, because it’s kind of fun. Why is the western audience (because that’s who it is, mostly – the North Americans, the Australians and the English) booing the Russians? Because the whole nation is implicated in a doping scandal.
Is that all it takes to make otherwise-sensible people make one-syllable sounds of disapproval simultaneously, in a deliberately-insulting fashion? Good. Let’s hear a long, sustained ‘boooooo…..” for the cheatingest nation on the planet – the United States of America.
Worldly-wise 19-year-old American 100-meter backstroke champion Lilly King unloaded on silver-medalist Russian Yulia Efimova, calling her a drug cheat and sounding off to reporters that the ‘twice-banned’ Russian athlete should not be allowed at the games; Efimova was booed by the crowd every time she appeared on the pool deck. World-class jackass Michael Phelps, American team leader, went further as he applauded King’s rudeness; “It’s kind of sad that today in sports in general, not just in swimming, there are people who are testing positive and are allowed back in the sport, and multiple times. I think it just breaks what sport is meant to be and that pisses me off.”
That so, Michael? All about self-discipline, are you? Did you learn that in rehab? “I honestly didn’t care about my training” leading up to the 2012 London Olympics; wasn’t that you? Is that what sport is meant to be? Isn’t this you, with a bong in your face? What’s up with that, voice of clean sports?
While we’re having this heart-to-heart, Michael, let me tell you what pisses me off. Hypocrisy.
Before the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney even started, Dr. Wade Exum – former director of the US Olympic Committee’s (USCOC) drug-testing program – announced that more than half of all US athletes caught doping prior to the Atlanta games (1996) suffered no penalty whatever and were permitted to compete at those games, where some of them won medals. At the time, ally Australia’s opinion of America’s drug-testing efforts was decidedly negative.
“We in Australia have been less than impressed with the efforts in America, and if you were to do a survey of the athletes, they’ll tell you the country that’s the major problem.”
And let me tell you this – that same country is still the major problem. It has hit upon the novel approach that rather than control the athletes and what they are taking, you control the testing process and develop performance enhancements which are ever harder to detect. Within months of Exum’s joining USOC in 1991, the organization came to him with a proposal to trial a new injection ‘just to see if it enhances performance’.
“They came to me and asked me to participate in a project in which they wanted to give athletes what they called ATP injections – that’s aginicent triphosphate. That’s the fuel that muscle cells actually operate on and I refused on the basis that i thought it was unethical to give people things in a non-medical fashion for non-treatment, but just to see if it would help performance. I also thought that even if that substance wasn’t directly named or on the IOC list, that it was at least aimed in the direction of doping.”
Other Australians were less circumspect in their criticism. Sean Murphy, chair of the Australian Olympic Committee at the time, said, “They’ve got the facilities, they’ve got the research, they’ve got the motivation to be using drugs across the board in many different sports.”
There was no World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) then; it was founded by Dick Pound in 1999 and he served as president until 2007. But WADA and Dick Pound were certainly around in 2003, when Exum released more than 30,000 pages of documents to Sports Illustrated and The Orange County Register, documents which proved beyond doubt that American athletes and champions such as Carl Lewis and Mary Jo Fernandez tested positive for banned substances in American screening but were allowed to compete anyway. USOC called Exum’s accusations ‘baseless’. Were they? Evidently not – here’s Carl Lewis’s reaction: So I was doping, who cares?
That’s the accused, ladies and gentleman. It sounds awfully like a confession to me. What does that mean? That the United States Olympic Committee was comprised of and headed by liars, whose word on anything to do with the clean performance of American athletes was not and is not to be trusted. It also screams “State-sponsored doping program” in chrome letters 18 feet high; USOC is the national authority for Olympic sport, and of the top ten doping scandals of all time in Track and Field, six are Americans.
Can anybody tell me the last time the United States did not send a team to the Olympics because it was awarded a blanket ban for doping? That’s right – never. Nor has any identifiable component of its team, such as Track and Field, been banned from competition, despite ample evidence of doping which was covered up by American sports organizations and its Olympic Commission. But Mr. Clean, Dick Pound, was adamant that Russia be banned completely from competition at Rio, and was vocal in his disappointment that only the Track and Field team was denied the opportunity to compete, including world champion gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva, who has never, ever failed a drug test conducted by any authority. What a disgrace. But Dick Pound was one of the three members of the ‘Independent Commission’ appointed to investigate Russia’s alleged state-sponsored doping program.
Let’s go back to the Sydney Games, 2000. That event was dogged by allegations that American athletes had used performance-enhancing drugs to win medals. Rubbish, said USOC. An investigation was ordered. Enter Professor Richard McLaren, who headed the probe
Boom. The BALCO Scandal hit, three years later. The Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, headed by Victor Conte, whipped up performance cocktails for American athletes. He admitted to it, and implicated dozens of athletes. Perhaps the most well-known was Marion Jones, who won 5 medals at the Sydney Olympics, 3 of them gold. Marion Jones vehemently denied any involvement with drugs, and sued Conte for defamation. Not until 2007 did she finally admit tearfully that it was all true, and was awarded 6 months in jail for lying to federal investigators, as well as being stripped of her medals. Regina Jacobs was also netted, and awarded a 4-year suspension from competition; the same year the BALCO scandal broke, she set a world record in the indoor 1500 meter. Alvin Harrison, who won a gold and a silver for the USA at the Sydney Olympics; he was not stripped of any medals until 2008, when a teammate admitted he had used performance-enhancing drugs. Michelle Collins, the 2003 world-record holder for the 200-meter indoor sprint. She was banned from competition for 8 years, threatened to take the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to court, and they backed down and cut her suspension to 4 years. The current head of USADA is the alliteratively-named Travis T. Tygart, who bayed like a hound for a Russian national ban at Rio. ‘Cause, you know, enough is enough.
Kevin Toth, a US shot-putter who was United States Track and Field (USATF) Athlete of the Week in April that same year; he got a 2-year suspension. John McEwen, 2-year suspension. Dwain Chambers, a British sprinter – think word got around about the USA’s new line of undetectable performance enhancers? He was the top European performer at his Olympic debut at – you guessed it – the Sydney Olympics; 2-year suspension. Calvin Harrison, identical twin brother of the previously-named Alvin Harrison, gold medalist at Sydney in the 4oo-meter relay – 2-year suspension. We could go on with this for quite a while, but I think you get the point.
Here’s what I bet you didn’t get, though. Professor McLaren’s investigation did not catch any of those people. They were all exposed by the BALCO scandal and press releases like those generated by Exum. McLaren’s investigation wrapped up in 2001, and a year after that USATF was still suppressing the case files and refusing to reveal the name of an American athlete who had been cleared to compete at the Sydney Olympics and had won a medal for the USA. USATF defied an order and threats of de-registration from IOC president Dr. Jacques Rogge. What was done about it? Fuck all, as you probably knew.
Professor McLaren was the public voice of the ‘Independent Commission’ that recommended a complete national ban for Russia at Rio. The third member was Gunter Younger, a former head of a Bavarian cybercrime division, who was just appointed as WADA’s new head of Intelligence and Investigations this past June. Younger headed the actual investigation into Russian doping, and was ‘given a free hand’ by Dick Pound to use the covert recordings from the German television ARD documentary which initially broke the story of Russian doping.
Well, sort of. Actually ARD was steered onto the story by WADA, who had acquired the services of the whistle-blowing Stepaonovs, Yulia (nee Rusanova), a doper athlete and her urine-testing husband with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). WADA told Valery Stepanov that it did not have the power to investigate inside Russia. So WADA steered the Stepanovs to ARD with their story, which was released as a documentary and which WADA then pounced on as evidence of ‘a culture of cheating’.
“The World Anti-Doping Agency steered the Stepanovs to a reporter at the German television network ARD. Their tapes became the centerpiece of this documentary which aired in December 2014 and sent shockwaves through the world of sports.”
WADA does not mention this elsewhere, and the rest of the world is led to believe that the ARD documentary was the clarion call which inspired WADA’s investigation.
“The report released Monday was the result of a 10-month investigation by an independent commission of WADA. Its inquiry stemmed from a December 2014 documentary by the German public broadcaster ARD, which drew on accounts from Russian athletes, coaches and antidoping officials, who said that the Russian government had helped procure drugs for athletes and cover up positive test results.”
But WADA considers the Stepanovs 100% credible. It has to – that’s the only evidence it has. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow laboratory, was not always on board, and as recently as November 2015 described the Independent Commission as ‘three fools’.
“Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of the Moscow lab whom Monday’s report accused of having solicited and accepted bribes, dismissed the suggestions. “This is an independent commission which only issues recommendations,” he said. “There are three fools sitting there who don’t understand the laboratory.”
Yet only months later he was in the WADA camp and singing like a canary. Perhaps the revelation that Vitaly Stepanov recorded 15 hours of their conversations without his knowledge inspired a conversion. Oddly enough, that is generally illegal in Canada, and cannot be used as evidence except in exceptional circumstances. There is a blanket exemption, though, for consent, and this is implied if the person making the recording is a party to the conversation. Still, it kind of makes Rodchenkov sound like the kind of guy who will say anything. Just to give you an idea how ridiculous that is, Victor Conte – the executive in charge of BALCO – offered after the scandal broke to act as an expert assistant to WADA (probably as an effort to plea-bargain; he served four months in prison).
“Conte, who spent four months in prison for his role in the affair, said he has offered to provide expert insights to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), only to be turned down. “I’ve made myself available, put forward names, addresses, websites, protocols… but you know what they told me? That we can’t trust someone who’s been sentenced,” he added.”
But they can trust someone who just got through saying the Investigative Commissioners were three fools who don’t have any power to do anything and don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about, when he suddenly says, Yesiree, boss, it was exactly like you said. I’m a crook. And you know who else is a crook? The whole Russian government. Uh huh.
Which brings me to my favourite part – the legal implications. The McLaren Report is careful not to name names for public consumption, because WADA fears getting sued by individuals. As well it might. So McLaren prefers to leave the oomph of his report to a statement that it proves there is a state sponsored doping program in Russia which is known and countenanced by the highest levels of government. And he’s said that, on a number of occasions, and the press has dutifully repeated it. It’s basically the most damaging finding of the McLaren Report.
Which is why it would be odd for him to say that WADA has no evidence of a state-sponsored doping program. Like he did here, after the report came out.
CBCSports.ca: Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin, said Tuesday that “as long as there is no evidence [of state-sponsored doping in Russia], it is difficult to consider the accusations, which appear rather unfounded.” How do you respond to that?
McLaren: That doesn’t surprise me. He and others have said that before. But I would expect that won’t be the same refrain by the end of the week once they have a chance to study the report. When you draw the connections across the board about what’s going on, you can’t just say this is just a few isolated people or some of the old coaches dictating out of the Soviet era and nobody else.
Dmitry’s correct. We don’t have any evidence of a systematic, state-wide doping mechanism. If we did, we would have published it and so we have to go on the inference. But across a vast country [with] all sorts of different training camps, it has to be somehow state supported but we can’t actually describe for you how that operates. We can only draw the inference. We’ve given them a chance to reform, so why don’t you reform and join the rest of the world instead of fighting it.
The ‘Independent Commission’ did not question or interview any Russian athletes or officials except for the Stepanovs and Grigory Rodchenkov. “The IP did not seek to interview persons living in the Russian Federation …. I did not seek to meet with Russian government officials and did not think it necessary…”
And, you see, that’s a problem. Because athletes on the Track and Field team who have never failed a drug test were banned, by association, from competing, on no grounds but their nationality. Others were banned in highly ambiguous circumstances, just because their names appeared in McLaren’s testimony. Like Russian rower Ivan Balandin, whose appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is featured here. The whole case is worth reading, as there are many juicy bits, but the upshot was his appeal was rejected on the grounds that he had made out he was unfairly denied the chance to compete because the McLaren Report fingered him for doping, which was not the case – he was fingered as ‘ineligible’ because one of his samples had allegedly tested positive, except McLaren did not even know when the test was allegedly administered, that information helpfully being provided by the UK, the second-most-Russophobic of the western countries. I’m damned if I can see the difference, but I’m not a lawyer. Anyway, I’d just like to draw your attention to page 7, where we read,
“Additionally, no reliance can be made on the McLaren Report as evidence, as it is not complete, it has secret parts that were not shared with or available to the Athlete and there was no date of the sample taking in the information provided by Mr. McLaren.”
But on the same page, it reports, “FISA applied the criterion and was satisfied that the Athlete was ‘clearly implicated’ by the McLaren Report and was therefore excluded from the Rio Games.” Wha…wha…what??? The reference which did not meet evidentiary standards was relied upon in the decision?
Oh, dear; on Page 11…“Additionally, Mr. McLaren, in his amicus curiae, while not providing the emails on grounds of confidentiality, revealed to the Panel the exact date and times of the message from the Moscow laboratory that the screen of the Athlete’s A sample revealed positive for the prohibited substance GW 1516 and the response from the Deputy Minister to change the positive into a negative, following the DPM. While these additional details were not before FISA (primarily due to the lack of time) they have been considered by the Panel in this de novo procedure”.
FISA and the Panel both made decisions based on evidence furnished by McLaren that they never examined or even saw. There just wasn’t time. McLaren’s report provides the evidence of a state-run doping program, except he doesn’t have any evidence of that and says so, although he does and it’s secret and he hasn’t shown it to anyone.
Bullshit. From start to finish. No western athlete would have to put up with a ban on competition just because he or she was American or Canadian or Dutch, and he or she would damned sure not be told to accept a ban where he or she had not even seen the evidence against him or her because it was secret.
Which brings us back to the hooting and booing like the audience at a taping of the Arsenio Hall Show. On the occasion of Ms. King flipping out on Ms. Efimova, some reports of the incident recount the rest of the conversation – in which the reporter asked Ms. King if she thought American doper athletes like Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay should be allowed to compete. To her credit, she didn’t flinch, and said absolutely not.
“I have to respect (the track authorities’) decision even if it is something I don’t necessarily agree with,” King said. “No, do I think people who have been caught doping should be on the team? They shouldn’t. It is unfortunate we have to see that.
You could almost smell the controlled fury in the response rushed out by USATF:
“In the United States, it is a matter of law. If you are not under a ban, regardless of what you may have served in the past, you are fully eligible to be on the team.”
Which describes Ms. Efimova’s circumstances to a ‘T’. What would be the American response to an Olympics audience which booed loudly every time Gay or Gatlin took the field? Low-class? You bet.
And that brings us back to the beginning, to the article which started the whole post. An associated article on the same page offers, “Analysis: Why a Full Olympic Ban on Russia Never Had a Chance“. Why not? Because it would have been illegal.
“For one, a blanket ban on Russian athletes would likely have been derailed by numerous legal hurdles. The Court of Arbitration for Sport, among others, would likely overturn a universal ban that included athletes who haven’t been implicated in doping.
“We were mindful of the need for justice for clean athletes,” IOC vice-president John Coates told reporters. “We did not want to penalize athletes who are clean with a collective ban and, therefore, keeping them out of the Games.”
Totally oblivious to fairness, apparently, are the Olympic crowds booing like a bunch of fourth-graders, and getting across the message so helpful to Washington that ‘you Russian cheaters are not welcome here’, fattened on non-stop propaganda from the world’s biggest cheater and seasoned by the McLaren Report which proves Russia has a state culture of cheating, except it doesn’t.
WADA argued for a total ban. Travis Tygart of USADA argued for a total ban, because it would likely mean more medals for Americans. Neither of them gives a tin weasel whether it would be legal or not. Because that’s the way things are done now – you just smash ahead by brute force and momentum, and hope that everyone mistakes action for justification.
And that’s what you’re cheering for when you boo the Russians. I’m ashamed of you.
There will be a price exacted for this later. I will be surprised if Russia does not take WADA to court, and even if it does not, the angry split between WADA and the IOC is evident. The McLaren Report does not prove anything it purports to prove, and it will not stand up to a challenge. At a minimum, WADA should be moved out of Canada to the USA, whose policies and interests it serves, depriving that country of an opportunity to internationalize its own initiatives.
God speed the plough.