Doping in Russia | reactions

Reactions

International

Some athletes from other countries have criticised WADA, alleging that the agency has been reluctant to investigate Russia despite multiple tips over several years.[10] WADA officials stated that the agency lacked the authority to carry out its own investigations until 2015.[15][154] Arne Ljungqvist, WADA's former vice chairman, commented that "WADA always had an excuse as to why they wouldn't move forward. They expected Russia to clean up themselves."[10] In June 2016, The Guardian reported that a letter approved by over twenty athletes' groups from multiple sports and countries as well as the chairs of the IOC's and WADA's athletes committees, Claudia Bokel and Beckie Scott, had been sent to IOC president Thomas Bach and WADA head Craig Reedie; the letter criticised the organisations for inaction and silence until the media became involved and said that athlete confidence in the anti-doping system had been "shattered".[155]

On 18 July 2016, WADA's Athlete Committee stated, "Although we have known of the allegations, to read the report today, to see the weight of the evidence, and to see the scale of doping and deception is astounding."[156] The athlete committee,[156] the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organizations,[157] and the leaders of anti-doping agencies in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States called for Russia to be banned from the 2016 Olympics in Rio.[158] After Bach delayed a decision on whether to ban the entire Russian team, IOC member Dick Pound said, "the IOC is for some reason very reluctant to think about a total exclusion of the Russian team. But we've got institutionalized, government-organised cheating on a wide scale across a whole range of sports in a country. You've got to keep from turning [zero tolerance] into: ‘We have zero tolerance except for Russia.'"[159] Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star said, "If the threshold Russia established is not high enough to merit a total ban from an Olympic Games, it's a remarkable precedent to set."[160] Former IOC vice president, Kevan Gosper of Australia, said, "we have to be very careful [about making] the wrong move with an important country like Russia", to which Richard Hind of The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) responded, "And there is the IOC in a nut shell. There are nations, and there are 'important nations'. Not everyone pees in the same specimen jar."[161]

The IOC's decision on 24 July 2016 was criticised by athletes[162][163][164][165][166] and writers.[167][168][169][170][171][172] It received support from the European Olympic Committees, which said that Russia is "a valued member".[162] Cam Cole of Canada's National Post said that the IOC had "caved, as it always does, defaulting to whatever compromise it could safely adopt without offending a superpower."[171] Expressing disappointment, a member of the IOC Athletes' Commission, Hayley Wickenheiser, wrote, "I ask myself if we were not dealing with Russia would this decision to ban a nation [have] been an easier one? I fear the answer is yes."[164] Writing for Deutsche Welle in Germany, Olivia Gerstenberger said that Bach had "flunked" his first serious test, adding, "With this decision, the credibility of the organization is shattered once more, while that of state-sponsored doping actually receives a minor boost."[173] Bild (Germany) described Bach as "Putin's poodle".[169] Paul Hayward, chief sports writer of The Daily Telegraph (UK), remarked, "The white flag of capitulation flies over the International Olympic Committee. Russia's deep political reach should have told us this would happen."[167]

Leaders of thirteen national anti-doping organisations wrote that the IOC had "violated the athletes' fundamental rights to participate in Games that meet the stringent requirements of the World Anti-Doping Code" and "[demonstrated that] it lacks the independence required to keep commercial and political interests from influencing the tough decisions necessary to protect clean sport."[174] WADA's former chief investigation, Jack Robertson, said "The anti-doping code is now just suggestions to follow or not" and that "WADA handed the IOC that excuse [not enough time before the Olympics] by sitting on the allegations for close to a year."[18] McLaren was dissatisfied with the IOC's handling of his report, saying "It was about state-sponsored doping and the mis-recording of doping results and they turned the focus into individual athletes and whether they should compete. [...] it was a complete turning upside down of what was in the report and passing over responsibility to all the different international federations."[175][176]

2018 Olympics

The IOC's decision was criticized by Jack Robertson, primary investigator of the Russian doping programme on behalf of WADA, who said that the IOC had issued "a non-punitive punishment meant to save face while protecting the [IOC’s] and Russia’s commercial and political interests." He also emphasized that Russian whistleblowers provided empirical evidence that "99 percent of [their] national-level teammates were doping." According to Robertson, "[WADA] has discovered that when a Russian athlete [reaches] the national level, he or she [has] no choice in the matter: [it is] either dope, or you’re done"; he added "There is currently no intelligence I have seen or heard about that indicates the state-sponsored doping program has ceased."[177] It was also reported that Russian officials intensively lobbied U.S. politicians in an apparent attempt to achieve the extradition to Russia of the main whistleblower, Grigory Rodchenkov.[120]

In Russia

Vladimir Putin awards Alexandr Zubkov at the ceremonies for Russian athletes, 24 February 2014. Zubkov would be stripped of his gold medals 3.5 years later.

Some Russians described the allegations as an anti-Russian plot while others stated that Russia was "just doing what the rest of the world does".[178][179][180] Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had "never supported any violations in sport, we have never supported it at the state level, and we will never support this"[181] and that the allegations were part of an "anti-Russia policy" by the West.[182] Aleksei Pushkov, chairman of Russia's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said that the IAAF's decision to uphold its ban was "an act of political revenge against Russia for its independent foreign policy."[182] A member of Russia's parliament, Vadim Dengin, stated, "The entire doping scandal is a pure falsification, invented to discredit and humiliate Russia."[183] After the Court of Arbitration for Sport turned down an appeal by Russian athletes, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva wrote, "Let all those pseudo clean foreign athletes breathe a sigh of relief and win their pseudo gold medals in our absence. They always did fear strength."[184] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the ruling a "crime against sport".[185] A poll by the Levada Center found that 14% of Russians believed that the country's athletes had doped in Sochi, 71% did not believe WADA's reports, and 15% decided not to answer.[186]

A spokesman for Putin called Stepanova a "Judas".[187] The Russian media have also criticised the Stepanovs. Yuliya Stepanova said, "All the news stories call me a traitor and not just traitor but a traitor to the Motherland."[13] Vitaly Stepanov said, "I wasn't trying to expose Russia, I was trying to expose corrupt sports officials that are completely messing up competitions not just inside the country but globally."[14] Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that the Russian media portrayed the German documentaries as "part of a Western conspiracy with the aim of weakening the great nation that Vladimir Putin lifted from its knees."[188] Hajo Seppelt had the "impression that he and the Stepanovs were being styled as enemies of the state".[188]

Dick Pound described Russia's response as "a bit like when you get stopped for speeding on the freeway by the police and you say 'why me? everyone else was doing it'."[189] He stated that if Russia's authorities had "responded to their issues they could easily have enough time to sort everything out in time for Rio. But instead they played the role of victims, claiming there was a plot against them for too long."[189] Leonid Bershidsky, a Russian writer for Bloomberg View, wrote that Russia's "officials need to understand that "whataboutism" doesn't avert investigations".[179] The Moscow correspondent of Deutsche Welle, Juri Rescheto, wrote that the response he saw in Russia "shows that the country is living in a parallel universe" and seeks to blame others.[190] Writing for The New York Times, Andrew E. Kramer said that Russia responded to the IAAF's decision against reinstatement with "victimhood" reflecting a "culture of grievances that revolves around perceived slights and anti-Russian conspiracies taking place in the outside world, particularly in Western countries".[182] The newspaper's editorial board also saw a "narrative of victimization" in Russia, and wrote that it resembled how the Soviet Union would respond to a punishment – by saying that it was "politically motivated, always a provocation, never justified. [Even] though the Cold War is long over, President Vladimir Putin remains stuck in the same, snarling defensive crouch in his responses to any accusations of Russian foul play".[191] Andrew Osborn of Reuters wrote that the Russian government had "deftly deflected the blame by passing it off as a Western Cold War-style plot to sabotage Russia's international comeback."[192] In response to Russia's opinion that the allegations were "politically motivated", WADA's former chief investigator, Jack Robertson, said that he saw politics "when Craig Reedie tried to intervene by writing emails to the Russian ministry to console them."[18]

Match TV said that Americans had orchestrated the doping scandal, and modern pentathlon champion Aleksander Lesun called it an unfair "attack", because "Doping is in all countries and there are violators everywhere."[193] Following the IOC's announcement on 24 July 2016, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said it was "a just and fair decision and we hope every federation will take the same kind of decision. Doping is a worldwide evil, not only of Russia."[194] The Russian media's reaction was "nearly euphoric at points."[193]

A reporter from Russian state-owned television told IOC President Thomas Bach that "It looked like you personally were helping us," and asked whether the doping investigation was a "political attack" on Russian athletes.[195] After Russian athletes said that McLaren was about "politics" rather than sport, the British biathlon association stated that their comments were "brain-washed, deluded and dishonest" and decided to boycott an event in Russia.[196] Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said that athletes should be "punished" for calls to boycott.[139]

2017 Sochi bans

The fallout from the IOC bans of Russian athletes caught doping at the Sochi Olympics, which left previous Russian whistleblowers in fear of their own personal safety, has been likened to a "witch-hunt" within the Russian winter sports community.[197] On 9 November 2017, Vladimir Putin called the decisions to ban Russian athletes for doping violations an attempt by the U.S. to undermine his nation and affect the Russian presidential election in March.[198]

According to Russian news agency TASS, the Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov said that the investigative committee had found no evidence that the state was operating a doping system; that same committee was seeking whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov's extradition from the United States, where he is in witness protection. Despite reassurances from Russian officials that no doping system existed, IOC official Dick Pound said "empirical evidence is totally to the contrary, so I think what we're seeing in the Russian press is for domestic consumption."[92]

On 17 November 2017, top Russian Olympic official Leonid Tyagachev said that Grigory Rodchenkov, who had alleged that Russia was running a systematic doping programme, "should be shot for lying, like Stalin would have done".[199]

2018 Olympic ban

On 6 December 2017 Vladimir Putin announced his decision "not to prevent individual Russian athletes" from participating at the 2018 Winter Games. He also stated that he is pleased the IOC Inquiry Commission chaired by Samuel Schmid "didn't find any proof that Russian government was involved in a doping conspiracy".[200] However, the Inquiry Commission only said that there's not enough evidence to claim that highest Russian state authorities were involved. The fact that Russian Ministry of Sport and Federal Security Service were part of the scheme was never in doubt.[201]

Deputy (member) of the Russian State Duma and former professional boxer Nikolai Valuev has said that Russia should go to the Olympics and "tear everyone apart to spite these bastards who want to kill our sport".[202]

Despite the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" (OAR) designation, many Russian fans still attended the 2018 Games, wearing the Russian colours and chanting "Russia!" in unison, in an act of defiance against the ban.[203] Justin Peters of Slate magazine wrote during the Games that the IOC "ended up with a situation that seemed to negate the entire point of the sanctions against Russia. The IOC did not want there to be a Russian Olympic team at the Pyeongchang Games. And yet the hockey, curling (with a Russian athlete caught from doping), and figure-skating arenas are full of teams of Russian Olympians ... [this is] a half-hearted wrist slap issued by an entity that appears more interested in saving face than in protecting athletes".[204]

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