Armour: Only one way to restore integrity to Olympics after Russia doping – USA TODAY
An investigation found that Russian athletes were involved in a state-run doping system.
USA TODAY Sports
The indignation of the International Olympic Committee and its president, Thomas Bach, was rich.
Russiaâs state-sponsored doping program was a âfundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and on sport in general,â the IOC said. Anyone involved should be âexcluded for life from participation in the Olympic Games in whatever capacity,â Bach added.
The kind of brazen cheating laid out in the second McLaren report Friday was made possible by Bach and his Olympic croniesâ steadfast refusal to do the right thing. It is impossible to promote the Olympic movement around the globe and keep competing countries honest at the same time, and, in trying to do so, the IOC failed its athletes yet again.
The current anti-doping system is irreparably broken, obviously. Without a testing body that is completely independent and requires compliance from nations and sports federations as the price of competition, it is only a matter of time before another system failure occurs.
And there are only so many more existential crises the IOC can withstand before the rest of the world washes its hands of the whole sordid mess.
âThere has to be some way to reform or improve, or the risks are just huge to the Olympic movement,â said Roger Pielke Jr., director of the Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado and author of The Edge: The War Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports.
â(IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency leaders) have a role to play,â Pielke said. âBut what real leadership would be would be to give up some power and invite some scrutiny from outside.â
There is no faith in the current system and, really, why should there be? The events of the last year have proven that the people in power donât have the will, or the resources, to protect the athletes. The details McLaren laid out Friday were so appalling they were mind-numbing:
- More than 1,000 athletes, from 30 different sports, were involved in a conspiracy that dates at least to 2011.
- Male DNA found in the samples of female athletes.
- Samples diluted with coffee grounds and salt.
- Manipulation of supposedly foolproof testing procedures by the Russian equivalent of FBI agents.
And all of it happened underneath the noses of both WADA and the IOC, who have seemed more interested in throwing each other under the bus than finding solutions.
âIn the past few months, weâve seen infighting,â said Richard McLaren, the Canadian lawyer who led the investigation of Russiaâs doping program. âI find it difficult to understand why weâre not on the same team. We should all be working together to end doping in sports.â
Imagine pollution-belching companies policing themselves on environmental regulations and you get the picture on the shortcomings of the current anti-doping system.
WADA leaders sat on damning information about Russia until they were shamed into investigating by media accounts of whistleblowers. Bachâs refusal to ban the Russians from the Rio Olympics made it clear he values the $51 billion they spent on the Sochi Games more than the spirit of competition.
And, save for track and field and weightlifting, the summer sports federations gave the initial McLaren report a passing glance before welcoming Russian athletes to Rio with open arms.
If integrity is to be restored to the Olympic movement, there has to be a testing agency that is not beholden to the IOC, its member nations or the individual sports federations. Require the respective Olympic committees to sign on, agreeing to uninhibited and unannounced out-of-competition testing. Insist that the sports federations cede responsibility for sanctions.
If anyone balks, theyâre banned from competition, simple as that. No World Cups, no world championships, no Olympics. Itâs severe, but itâs the only way forward.
âItâs a litmus test for sport leaders now,â said Max Cobb, president and CEO of US Biathlon and a longtime critic of the anti-doping system.
âSystemic doping is a violation of the rights of athletes, itâs an affront to the health of athletes and itâs a perversion of sport as a propaganda tool,â Cobb said. âNow is the time when the sports leaders of the world need to say where they stand on that.â
Better yet, itâs time for them to take a stand. Create an independent testing system and give the athletes the level playing field they deserve.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
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