The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided not to issue a blanket ban on Russian athletes. Individual sporting committees will be allowed to determined whether to ban all Russian athletes in that sport or not. This is very welcome news in Russia bearing in mind that the summer Olympics commence on 5 June. The track and field team of Russia has already been prohibited from participating en bloc by the governing body for that sport.
The IOC reasoned that it would be unfair to ban clean athletes on the grounds of their nationality. I have some sympathy with this argument. Justice should be individual. No one should be penalised for their nationality even if some of their compatriots have done wrong. However, we are not talking about criminal justice. Judicial sanctions are not being applied. This is about a sporting measure.
South Africa was banned as a national because of apartheid. The individual opinions of athletes were not taken into account. The Soviet Union – Russia’s successor state – was one of the most vociferous advocates of a ban on South Africa. Therefore the principle has long since been established that nations can be banned for grave breaches of sporting ethics even though this is unfair to some honourable athletes.
People do not compete in the Olympics solely as individuals. The athletes are there to represent their nation. Many Russian athletes engaged in doping. This happened on a very wide scale. It must have had the acquiescence of the state at the very least. The FSB knows everything that is going on in Russia and it is alleged that they assisted the administration of performance enhancing drugs to athletes. A Russian athlete who courageous exposed the cheating fled for his life. Two others who blew the whistle have been killed. The IOC concluded that there was a large programme of sample swapping to forfend the detection of prohibited substances in the urine of Russian athletes.
The Russian Government has long viewed Olympic glory as vital for national prestige. That is why the FSB facilitated this programme.
This is not about Russophobia. Doping has been banned for decades. Doping is wrong whoever does it.
An Irish athlete was found to have cheated on a urine test in 1998. Her name is Michelle Smith- de Bruin. Her nationality does not make her innocent. I am Irish and I approve of her being banned. It is harder for people to take when a huge number of athletes of their nationality have engaged in nefarious practices.
The only other doping scheme on such a scale was that of East Germany. In that communist state the secret police also helped the programme. The Olympic Games were seen as extremely important for national self-esteem.
It is worth reminding ourselves why there are these rules. These substances can be very dangerous such as anabolic steroids. Moreover, the abuse of such drugs means that people compete on the basis of their supplements and not on their skill, stamina and training regime. There is also the issue of integrity. All sportsmen and sportswomen have vowed not to take such substances. To break such a pledge then calls into question their good faith. The whole principle of sportsmanship is breached. Results can never be trusted. We need clean games.
The IOC has been too feeble. Why should the track and field team be banned but not the weight lifting one? The IOC has not punished the taking of performance enhancing drugs with sufficient severity. How can we prevent people doping in future? We can do this by convincing individuals and governments that it is not worth the risk of missing an entire Olympics.