The Olympic Spirit is dead ... just ask Russia's Paralympic team

RIO DE JANEIRO – The International Paralympic Committee on Sunday banned Russia’s entire Paralympic team from competition in the upcoming Paralympic Games due to a state-sponsored performance enhancing drug ring. The Paralympics take place here in Rio just after the close of the Olympics.

And yes, you read that correctly: the Paralympic team. Not the Olympic team.

“The IPC governing board has resolved to suspend [Russia] with immediate effect,” IPC president Sir Philip Craven announced.

So an entire nation is banned from what should be a showcase for the most resilient, talented and inspirational among us. Athletes, regardless of nationality, deserve immense respect for finding a way to overcome the loss of limb or other physical limitation to compete globally in sport.

The Paralympics are the best, a reminder that around the globe there are people who are mentally, emotionally and physically tough. Yes it is naïve to believe there wasn’t doping in the Paralympics, but could naïve please still exist somewhere?

This is the final nail of proof – if one even were necessary – that the so-called Olympic Spirit and all that blather about humanity and goodwill and fair play is such garbage it should be floating in a Rio river for a kayaker to dodge.

If you can’t simply kick back and watch humans who have beaten immense odds, say losing their legs, to sprint down a track, without suspecting at least one, if not all, are trying to cheat their fellow heroes … then what is the point?

Russia’s Paralympic team will not be allowed to compete in Rio. (Getty)
Russia’s Paralympic team will not be allowed to compete in Rio. (Getty)

The Russians certainly deserved the ban. The country probably should have had all their Olympic athletes banned after the country operated a doping ring in the run-up to and during the Sochi Games of 2014. Politics and pressure caused the International Olympic Committee to retreat to cowardice on that one (the IPC, an entirely different group, is clearly far tougher).

Meanwhile, doping continues to loom over the Rio Games, mostly via an even darker cloud of suspicion anytime someone from Russia is competing.

That isn’t totally fair to the Russians though. It’s reasonable to assume some athletes from every country are cheating. That includes the U.S., where our men and women just do it on their own, not via the government. You could look at it as a tribute to our individualism.

The Russians are different that way. In Sochi they constructed a lab next to the official drug testing facility. In the middle of the night they swapped clean samples for dirty ones through a hole in the wall. The entire saga feels like it came from a Russian spy novel, complete with double crossings, double-crossing whistle blowers and mysterious deaths.

“This is not about athletes cheating the system but the state-run system that is cheating athletes,” Craven, the IPC president, said.

At the Sochi Paralympic Games – surprise, surprise – Russia won a whopping 80 total medals, more than three times any other country (Ukraine, 25). It was near total domination. Russia won 30 golds, well ahead of Germany’s nine. The United States took home just two.

A World Anti-Doping Agency Investigation, detailed in the so-called McLaren Report, found not just Olympic cheats but 35 “disappearing positive” tests for Russian Paralympians from 2012 to 2015. Here’s guessing that was just the tip of a Putin iceberg.

Who the heck would try to fix the Paralympics, essentially handicapping rival handicapped athletes? Even for Vladimir Putin that seems weak.

Did Putin really think Russia would gain self-esteem and global respect by dominating visually impaired slalom?

At least the U.S. won gold in ice sled hockey, 1-0 over the Russians. Apparently there is no drug for a good wrist shot. Of course, hopefully America won without cheating, but you never know. When humans are competing at anything, someone will try to cut a corner. It’s natural, expected even.

Paralympians are ultracompetitive, hardcore athletes. Their sports are brutally difficult. They are marvels to watch. Idealistically, though, you’d hope that respect over what their fellow competitors also are dealing with would cause pause when it came to cheating. Again, idealism is dead.

[Greg Wyshynski: Dutch cyclist in stable condition after horrific crash]

At the Rio Games, doping talk is everywhere, with back and forth accusations that get stranger and stranger. Saturday featured Australian swimmer Mack Horton ripping China’s Sun Yang, who was popped for PEDs in 2014, at a press conference Yang also attended.

“I just have a problem with athletes who have tested positive and are still competing,” Horton said, according to the Washington Post.

That sounds like a reasonable point to make, but these are the Olympics, where cheating is so rampant that Sun actually felt empowered enough to claim Horton was unfairly attempting to rattle him by bringing up Sun’s past failed PED test. Now that is one Olympic-sized victim card – by impolitely reminding me that I once was caught trying to cheat you, it is actually you who are cheating.

“Every athlete deserves to be respected,” Sun said.

Not the ones that fail drug tests.

“There’s no need to use these sort of cheap tricks to affect each other,” Sun said.

So these days it’s the dopers who need a safe space from trigger warnings sent their way by the clean athletes?

Doping controls keep improving but not as fast as doping does. It’s why you are unlikely to find a single athlete here who honestly believes everything is on the up and up. Maybe that’s paranoia. Maybe that’s reality. Maybe that’s because they themselves are cheating.

Is anything legit in Rio? Table tennis, maybe? Simone Biles? Anyone?

When an entire country gets thrown out for fixing what once was believed to be the most uplifting form of human athletic accomplishment in an effort to achieve national glory through wheelchair curling, there really isn’t any hope for the Olympic Movement.

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