Sport, that vocation meant to bring people together different people and nations in a harmonious and healthy competition, is constantly under severe pressure from external forces such as politics to bend its own rules.
It has never been easy to carry out an effective sport administration anywhere in the world. The reason is not hard to find – sport officials are as human as the rest of us.
The saga of the Russian doping scandal is living proof that when powerful forces outside of sport such as politics and economics interfere with the games, administrative authority of any sporting code is eroded at once.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) together with the World Anti-Doping Organisation (WADA) have correctly been hard on Russia since allegations were first made by the head of former Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov.
A string of top Russian athletes, if not dozens, have since been stripped of medals they had won in the past in a very humiliating act of public punishment.
The damaging claim by Rodchenkov, who now lives in the USA, is that the doping scandal was an approved programme by the State. Russian authorities have consistently poured scorn on the claims, but nonetheless took extra-ordinary measures aimed to curbing the practice as well as ensuring no future repeat of doping by their athletes.
In fact, in line with the demands of the IOC and WADA for remedial action by the Russian authorities, President Vladimir Putin has even implemented a law harshly prohibiting doping and guaranteeing stern repercussions for transgressors.
Moscow has opened itself up to a thorough probe by the athletics’ world bodies, and has left the doors of their laboratories completely opened for random and regular tests by WADA in conjunction with the IOC.
In other words, the Russian authorities have voluntarily subjected themselves to a full investigation by the relevant authorities yet there seem to be a no-solution point reached amicably by all parties.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says his government is convinced that both WADA and the IOC are not on a mission to address the situation to its final fruition that will be satisfactory to all parties but rather to punish Russia for reasons that has nothing to do with sport.
In the latest installment of punishment, the IOC last week handed life bans for any Winter games to four Russian winter-sports athletes. One of them, Alexander Kasyanov, summed it up on behalf of all affected athletes when he reacted to the bans: “This may be an emotional outburst and the wording may not be accurate, but we are shocked at what is being done to us. We don’t really know what else we can do.”
So far at least nineteen Russian athletes have been disqualified from competing in the winter Olympics. The atmosphere is clouded in uncertainty and relative hostility amid tangible friction between the IOC and WADA and on the one hand and Russian sporting authorities on the other. Take, for instance, the public posture of Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, the author of two damning reports on Russian doping. He was authorized by WADA to investigate doping claims. Speaking at an event in the Netherlands, McLaren basically threatened more sanctions against Moscow if the country continues to deny allegations of state-sanctioned doping.
McLaren’s report placed a significant amount of importance on the allegations made by fugitive Rodchenkov from his comfort in America.
He is a wanted man in his country and faces charges of abuse of authority whilst the laboratory head. My suggestion is that the US authorities must agree to extradite Rodchenkov to face charges and either spill more beans or be proven a liar about claiming the Russian government knew and masterminded a doping practice and culture over a particular period of time. In that way, all sides would in all probabilities find each other and put behind a chapter that is simply undesirable and severely adverse to the hundreds, if not thousands of innocent Russian athletes.