Political doping

Where would you place Russia on a trust barometer in sports? Most people wouldn’t give them the rating President Putin wants, but I’m not sure the official status is always accurate.

Doping would definately be in keeping with their propaganda apparatus, and when Russia sends athletes out of the country it’s probbaly never just about sports. It’s about showing Russia as a strong country, both in sports and politics. So every time there is a news story about Russia cheating no one is surprised. I read a news story this week that sounds different to me. This is a quote from an article in the Guardian:

“The unprecedented step was taken (Russia banned from the Olympics) by the International Association of Athletics Federations because an expert task force ruled that Russia had not taken sufficient steps to overhaul it’s testing procedures…….”

The next paragraph says that “although good progress had been made the IAAF Council was unanimous that Russian athletes could not credibly return to international competition ……….” 

These two quotes suggest that Russia hasn’t done enough, but it seems to me that getting any admission from one of the dominating forces both in sports and in politics is a major accomplishment.

If we look at the history of doping I’m not sure how clean any country is. I think many Americans assumed a few years ago that Americans didn’t cheat. It’s like sending “our boys and girls” to war. We don’t torture and rape people, we are the goods guys. We have a similar attitude in Scandinavia. We never do anything wrong. We know bad things will happen when you won’t consider the possibility that there is a problem in your own midst. We saw it when they started testing the riders in Tour de France or in US baseball for example,  and it took a while for NBA to take the problem seriously too. The same thing happened with the early cases of doping in Norway. Many still refused to believe that Norwegians had it in them do be dishonest.

The Americans are neither better or worse than anyone else, but I believe there is probably a culture in all countries of doing whatever it takes to win.That means entering some grey zones and sometimes crossing the line. I am not sure how it is today, but it used to be a problem that it was the national sportsfederations that banned athletes. There have been cases where an athlete tested positive, but was still allowed to compete until he/she was tested in an international event. This happened in 1988 when the US federation didn’t tell anyone that five athletes had tested positive just before the games in Seoul. Read about it in the Guardian.

carl lewis at the olympics in Los angeles
I was disappointed when I read that one of my idols had cheated. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I was a huge fan of Carl Lewis, but what happened in 1988 turned out to be a huge disappointment. Ben Johnson of Canada won the hundred meter, but when he tested positive the gold was awarded to Carl Lewis. He later admitted to failing three tests during the US Olympic Trials, and shouldn’t have competed in Seoul.

This doesn’t excuse what the Russians have done of course, but it doesn’t surprise me that this dramatic ban comes at a time when we appear to be moving towards another cold war. The Olympics is supposedly free of politics, but that’s probably just as likely as finding Santa’s workshop on the North Pole.


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