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As part of hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia created a massive, elaborate, nationwide, institutionalized doping operation to aid its athletes in victory.
It included years spent figuring out how to tamper – without detection – with bottles believed to be tamper proof, creating optimal schedules for athletes to receive performance-enhancing drugs and even constructing a shadow laboratory in Sochi next to actual Olympic doping controls. Then each night, replacing dirty samples with clean ones – “lit by a single lamp, passing bottles of urine through a hand-size hole in the wall, to be ready for testing the next day,” the man who ran the scam told The New York Times.
Not surprisingly, Russia won the most gold and total medals.
The International Olympic Committee was so troubled that it spent a couple weeks pretending that it might ban Russia from the upcoming Rio Games for this and so, so much more (seriously, the details are extraordinary, right out of a Russian spy novel and even includes multiple mysterious deaths).
Then after the IOC was done with the charade, it was nothing but a lapdog to money and corruption, announcing Sunday that it wouldn’t ban the entire Russian team from next month’s Summer Olympics. Instead, all sorts of doping controls would be placed on Russian athletes, sort of a double secret probation of the Games.
“The IOC [Executive Board] reaffirms its serious concerns about the obvious deficiencies in the fight against doping,” a statement read. “The IOC thus emphasizes again its call to WADA to fully review their anti-doping system. The IOC will make its contribution to this review by proposing measures for clearer responsibilities, more transparency, better supervision procedures and more independence.”
Blah, blah, blah.
Look, there isn’t anyway anyone is close to eradicating doping from the Olympics, or any other sports competition, just as the human race will never snuff out cheating in every other pursuit or profession. Even if no Russians went to Rio, there’d be plenty of performance-enhancing drugs.
History tells us that this almost assuredly includes some Americans. The United States, or pretty much any other country, has little to no high ground on PEDs – as Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated pointed out, while we don’t operate an official system, our “athletes [tend] to choose performance-enhancing drugs on their own.” Maybe it’s our spirit of individual liberty or something.
The Olympics are – and have been for many, many years – a questionable operation where cheating, rampant profiteering, fraud, corruption, human rights abuses and at times dangerous nationalism is glossed up in the spirit of sport, friendship, lovable individuals and breathtaking performances. Add in the fact that there isn’t much on TV in August and people all over the world like watching the young and healthy move in minimal amounts of clothing. (True story).
Whatever propaganda about the world coming together for good that gets fed via the IOC, Coca Cola and the “Today” show is at least partially bunk. The Olympics aren’t the worst thing by any means, or even something not worth attempting (although the problems can at times outweigh the benefits).
It just sure isn’t that wholesome picture of international unity, though.
The non-ban is good news, and even fair news, for whatever Russian athletes are clean – that’s an assumption, sure, but there have to be some. Many aren’t medal contenders and, like everyone else, worked hard and dreamed of one day getting to the Olympics. At least a broad brush won’t paint them as cheats just because Vladimir Putin’s ego is so absurd he believes bobsled results will restore Russian prestige.
Still, even by those standards, if what Russia has been doing the last few years can’t get you banned from the Olympics, what exactly can?
It literally tried to cheat everything and everyone on the planet.
It did one thing smart though: Putin took playing ball the IOC way to gold-plated levels. The $51 billion in obscene construction and operational costs for the Sochi Games caused IOC hearts to flutter, a government that placed even greater value on the Games than even the fattest cat Olympic executive.
No one knows if those billions include outrageous gifts, under-the-table business contracts or straight out bribe money for IOC officials, who somehow voted Sochi over Salzburg, Austria. (Everyone suspects it did if only because there could be no other explanation why anyone would ever look at both cities and their respective preparation levels and vote for Sochi.)
If the rumored deals were true, well, you can pretty much assure the IOC wasn’t doing anything and risk crossing Putin, who, if bodies and pots of gold are buried, would know where they are. He could turn rat and blow the entire operation up. What, you want to try him?
IOC president Thomas Bach has been Putin’s lapdog for years. It was Bach who repeatedly praised Russia and its leader during even the most absurd moments of the Sochi Games. It was Bach who participated in photo ops with Putin, clinking champagne to soften his image around the globe (even as he was plotting the imminent invasion of Crimea).
It was Bach who went out of his way to rip the United States government for not having President Obama or some other suitable dignitary come to Sochi and kiss Putin’s ring at the opening ceremonies.
“An ostentatious gesture,” Bach dubbed Obama’s snub.
How about a proper one?
The Sochi Games were absurd. The Russian official doping program was diabolical, a full-on assault to whatever the heck credo Bach claims to follow to shine up this show.
Not that it matters. Not that it was enough. No one in power cares, not really.
“This is about doing justice to our clean athletes all over the world,” Bach declared Sunday.
Sure, sure. And with that Vlad Putin laughs again.