No doubt anyone with even a relatively keen ear heard the latest ‘shot heard round the world’ on Tuesday (Dec. 5).
And we don’t mean only those with an interest in the shooting sport of biathlon at the Olympic level.
No, around the world, those who view the International Olympic Committee as little more than an uber wealthy, fat cat, good old boys club interested in promoting its own agenda above all others, were calling out in praise after the group suspended Russia from participation in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.
Based on an overwhelming amount of evidence uncovered by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s McLaren Report, and subsequently the IOC’s own Schmid report, there is a mountain of corroborated evidence pointing to a state-sponsored doping program which reaches into the higher echelons of Russian politics.
One can only imagine the elation of ‘clean’ athletes in all sports around the globe who feel, and rightly so, that their efforts to compete on a level playing field have for decades been undermined by those with superior pharmacies.
How demoralizing must it be to turn in one’s absolute best performance in a given competition only to have known dopers appear on medal podiums ahead of them?
The fact that so many athletes continue in their endeavours to represent their nation in Olympic Games speaks to love of sport and dedication to competing fairly. How easy would it be for clean athletes to give up their sport after seeing suspended, then returned, athletes continually victorious in many sport disciplines?
Russian athletes are not the only ones who turn to drugs in order to excel in their sport – and not all Russians are tainted, of course. In Canada, we had our Ben Johnson incident, which opened many eyes as an embarrassment on the global stage, and there have been a few other incidents within our borders.
The IOC suspension, though, while a very positive move, has fallen short.
Unfortunately, while this type of suspension is long overdue, much of the sting of the IOC’s action has been already been relieved by the fact that many Russians will compete in PyeongChang anyway. Short of some outright suspensions of particular athletes, the vast majority will appear as an OAR (Olympic athlete from Russia).
Trouble is, when a large number of such athletes appear at the opening ceremonies, all in a standardized uniform, there will be no doubting which country they really represent. Whether under an IOC banner, or wearing IOC-provided neutral uniforms, the world will still view them as Russian athletes.
This is no doubt why Russian President Vladimir Putin has not officially called for a boycott; he understands that his athletes will be viewed as Russians regardless of the uniform they wear. In the end, if OARs make podiums in their sports, and they will, it will be a Russian victory.
The devil is in the details. The IOC panel will now determine who is able to compete, based on a record of stringent doping tests. However, if there is one thing this saga has taught us, it’s that negative drug tests do not necessarily denote a clean athlete. Athletes who associate with previously convicted doping coaches must also be further scrutinized.