On so many evenings in Moscow, when the working day is done and it’s Miller Time, and Vladimir Putin goes home to his disgustingly decadent Italianate palace, he must run up to his bedroom, throw himself upon his giant four-poster (caparisoned in black silk embroidered with the double-headed imperial eagle, £376.00 from Bespoke Bedlinens of London), and laugh until tears come to his eyes at the modern comedy which is human nature.
Oh, I was just kidding about the palace and the fancy bed; I made up the latter, and the former is a perennial fable from circus-clown fatboy and ‘Kremlin insider’ Stas Belkovsky. I personally doubt Mr. Putin needs the trappings of opulence to any significant degree – he rides a high every day of running the world’s biggest country, and diddling the west until it weeps angry tears of frustration.
Consider the classic example of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) recent fall from grace. It went from thumping its chest and promising the McLaren Report would go through Russia like shit through buckwheat, harvesting government ministers as it went, to making excuses for the debacle whereby it had to admit there was not enough evidence contained in the report for individual prosecutions.
What a bitter pill that must have been to swallow. Note, please, the new appearance of terms like ‘alleged’ and ‘implicated’. Because it wasn’t always that way, was it? No, indeed; it wasn’t. Let’s recall WADA Director Sir Craig Reedie’s gloating tone in the agency’s statement which accompanied the release of the McLaren Report:
The Moscow laboratory operated, for the protection of doped Russian athletes, within a State-dictated failsafe system, described in the Report as the Disappearing Positive Methodology…The Sochi laboratory operated a unique sample swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the Games…The Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes’ analytical results and sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the Federal Security Service (FSB); the Center of Sports Preparation of National Teams of Russia (CSP); and, both Moscow and Sochi laboratories…Shamefully, the McLaren Report corroborates the allegations…
In fact, the McLaren Report does no such thing. It does make a lot of allegations, but it – embarrassingly – relied almost exclusively on ‘disclosures’ from nutball-for-hire Grigory Rodchenkov. Rodchenkov previously spent time in a mental institution, although that was quite possibly a dodge employed to avoid prosecution for involvement in a doping ring, and an investigation which netted his sister Marina.
McLaren claimed to have seen a demonstration of how the tamper-proof sample bottles could be opened, cleaned, refilled and resealed without breaking the cap or leaving any obvious sign of tampering. If he did, it was not to the very best of my knowledge ever repeated for experts in the field. FSB involvement was never substantiated by evidence, and Berlinger (manufacturer of the sample bottles) stood by their product in a statement issued following the release of the McLaren Report. It provided, in part;
In neither its own tests nor any tests conducted by the independent institute in Switzerland has any sealed Berlinger Special AG urine sample bottle proved possible to open.
The people who made the bottles and know them best say their experts and an independent testing entity could not get the sealed bottles open without either breaking the cap – which is designed to happen, verifying the bottle has been opened either by the testing agency, legitimately, or for potentially nefarious tampering with the contents – or showing obvious signs of damage. McLaren has not demonstrated his mystery method which he says convinced him it could be – and was – done, and I’m betting he never will. As so often occurs in sanctimonious western sermonizing on the subject of Russia and its myriad evils, it’s “I just know. Never mind how; just trust me”.
Never mind Richard McLaren being so full of shit he squeaks on the high side of a tight turn. Never mind Richard ‘Dick’ Pound simultaneously holding the chairmanship of the Independent Investigation Commission and a board position at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), to which Russian athletes had to appeal their prohibition from participation in the Rio Olympics. Predictably, none were successful, and I leave it to your imagination what the western reaction would be in similar circumstances, in which a Russian independent investigation team found western sports figures guilty of widespread doping covered up by their governments (an entirely believable scenario, by the way; Sir Bradley Wiggins, Commander of the British Empire, was permitted to ‘retire’ with his knighthood intact although he received a ‘pre-emptive’ intramuscular injection of a powerful steroid on the eve of a major race, ‘just in case’, when he was not even showing any symptoms of the asthma he said plagued him throughout his career although he did not mention it anywhere in his autobiography, My Time), and recommended blanket sanctions against western athletes while the same Russian sports administrator sat on the investigations commission and the court of appeals. You already know all this.
No, what I want to talk about today is the astounding lifeline, thrown to a floundering WADA, by…Vladimir Putin.
According to WADA, Mr. Putin “urged his country to heed the demands of the McLaren Report”. It’s not surprising they would pitch it that way, since Sir Craig Reedie only a week or so ago dangled the possibility of rapid reinstatement for RUSADA – provided there was broad acceptance in Russia of the findings of the McLaren Report. For obvious reasons, WADA wants Russia to admit to systemic cheating in a way that it cannot easily recant, and for equally obvious reasons it is not going to do that.
WADA is resolutely focused on supporting the Russian Anti-Doping Agency in its efforts to return to compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code, but it is first important that there is acceptance of the findings of the McLaren Report in Russia.
Sidebar, please, for just a tick: do you really believe for a second that if a western agency had conclusive, ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ proof of Russian state-sponsored drug cheating, taking into account the number of medals won by Russian athletes in a competitive environment that only becomes more politically-charged every Olympics, that it would abandon the chance to show its evidence to the world in favour of offering a water-under-the-bridge redemption? Really???
Having bungled the investigation, exaggerated the potential for damage, punished the mostly innocent and lied about the evidence contained in the report, what Gods smiled on WADA that caused Vladimir Putin to cave in to their demands just in time to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
Well, he didn’t exactly do that. What he did say, rather than that Russia should accept the demands of the McLaren Report, was that the Russian sports world “should listen to WADA”. Predictably, you have to go to RT for what he actually said, rather than what WADA would like you to think he said. If you do that, you will note right away that he specifically repudiates the conclusions of the McLaren Report, and while he stipulates that the Russian anti-doping system failed in that it did not catch dopers before they went on to compete internationally – and sometimes win medals – which is no more than the truth, there is nothing astounding or revelatory about that. Every major country has had such cases. Similarly, he specifically reiterates that there was no state-sponsored support for doping, the exposure of which was the entire mandate of the McLaren Report.
The main thing is that despite the shortcomings in the work of [Mclaren’s] independent commission, we should pay attention to what it did, to the results of its work. We must listen to WADA’s demands. Because we have to admit that we have proven cases of doping use…This is absolutely unacceptable and it means that the Russian anti-doping system failed, and it’s our fault – we should spell it out and admit it…In Russia, there has never been and, I hope, will never be a state doping support system; on the contrary, there will only be anti-doping action. I’m counting on the Investigative Committee to see the probe [into the doping cases] through to the end, and to expose everyone guilty.
To expose everyone guilty. Well, that’s a laudable objective, surely? Did the western proceedings surrounding the McLaren Report – to call it ‘flawed’ is like saying “Citizen Kane” might have had a message to it – expose everyone guilty? It certainly did not. What it did in its place was use trumped up potential evidence which never materialized to substantiate imposing collective punishment – anathema in a progressive democracy – on those who had in the great majority of cases done nothing wrong at all.
I’m getting kind of worked up about this all over again, and I don’t want to sidetrack you with it, because none of that is the point, either, although its all important background.
Consider. WADA, the agency that could not say enough bad things, could imagine no insult vile enough to accurately describe Vladimir Putin and his loser nation only a couple of months ago, when it was still confident that momentum would translate to victory…now regards him as wise and credible. Recognition of Russia’s doping problem ‘at the highest political levels’ is now an encouraging sign of serious leadership, from a government that only months ago was a recalcitrant part of the problem, bursting at the seams with liars who were only interested in covering up for cheaters and protecting their doper athletes. Remarkable. And Mr. Putin admitted to nothing in exchange for this collective outpouring of recognition. Russia has doper athletes. Obviously – and regrettably – that is true, although it should be noted that in the case of ‘whistleblower’ Yulya Stepanova, Russia’s approach was to bar her from competition for two years, while WADA’s approach was to pull whatever strings it could to get her to compete at Rio under the Olympic flag.
Wada president Sir Craig Reedie said investigators had “exposed, beyond a reasonable doubt, a state-run doping program in Russia that seriously undermines the principles of clean sport embodied within the World Anti-Doping Code”.
There was also concern expressed for Yuliya Stepanova, the Russian runner whose evidence helped expose her nation’s doping scandal, but will now not be allowed to compete in Rio under a neutral flag.
“Wada has been very vocal in supporting Yuliya’s desire to compete as an independent athlete,” added Niggli.
Never interfere with the enemy while he is in the process of making a mistake. A whole series of them, in fact. Game, set and match.