JULY 29, 2021
It’s bad enough that the Tokyo Olympics fined female athletes for refusing
to dress like pole dancers. But nothing beats the fact that the
International Olympic Committee (IOC) has allowed the world’s champion
sports doping culprit and superpower pariah – Russia – to compete at
the Tokyo Games in contravention of a four-year ban for handing out
performance-enhancing drugs to Russian athletes like they were aspirins.
An investigation into this criminality began in 2014 after Sochi, and in
2019 Russia was officially banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. A
Russian whistleblower had come forward and provided evidence of systemic
doping and years of cover-ups. The IOC followed suit and said it would
ban Russia from two Olympics.
Then a loophole was concocted and the IOC agreed to break its own ban: Russia
would be “banned” from the Games, but its athletes would not be, provided they
tested “clean”. The result of this amoral climbdown has been an invasion
this year of 335 Russian “counterfeit” competitors in the Tokyo Olympics, who
are capturing Gold Medals and headlines by posing as “neutral athletes”
representing the Russian Olympic Committee or the “ROC” instead of Russia itself.
(The ROC acronym represents the local chapter of the IOC that should have been
held responsible for the doping that led to the ban.) Allegedly, these Russian athletes have passed drug tests, but even that’s a question mark, given the IOC’s, and
the ROC’s, failures to detect doping for decades.
The IOC stipulated that only the acronym ROC will identify Russian competitors, not “Russia”; that uniforms cannot contain the word “Russia” unless followed by the phrase “neutral athlete”; that the Russian flag won’t be flown; and that the Russian anthem
won’t play if they reach the podium. If an ROC participant wins gold, a few
bars from a Tchaikovsky piece are played and a phony ROC flag is raised.
This isn’t the first Olympic dust-up involving Russia. In 1980, the United States
led 54 other nations in a politically-driven boycott of the Summer Olympics
in Moscow in protest over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1984, the Soviets decided to boycott the Los Angeles Games, aimed directly at President Reagan and his reelection campaign.
But this ban was not political and was based on the principles behind the Olympics — fair international competition and sportsmanlike behavior. That’s why the IOC’s about-face raises questions about the ethics among its membership and, worse, hands over a marvelous public relations coup for Vladimir Putin, who already gets away with waging
war, poisoning opponents, jailing people, and invading countries. With medals being racked up, he struts his stuff on the big boy stage, safe in the knowledge that his country’s phony “neutral athletes” with their faux flag and acronym will be allowed to dodge the rest of the ban which is supposed to apply to the 2022 Olympics and
football’s World Cup in 2022.
What’s most galling is that there is no question about guilt. The evidence was
handed over by the Russian who ran the doping scheme. He explained how they
deleted files and samples that could have helped to identify drug cheats.
In Sochi, for instance, he said a hidden room was built to swap out urine tests
by Russian athletes for samples taken from others or from earlier dates when
drugs were not in their systems. In Rio, similar frauds were deployed.
Didn’t the members of the International Olympic Committee read the
Doping Report or watch the documentary about Russia’s scheme called
“Icarus”, or its trailer? The movie is still available on Netflix.
It’s bad enough that the Tokyo Olympics have been blighted by this
corruption, but the damage beyond the Games is more serious. Gold Medals
(and cheating) have long been a favored distraction used by Russia’s
military dictatorship to entertain its victim-citizens and inflate
national pride. This technique is especially crucial when your people
have a living standard lower than India’s, have one of the world’s
lowest life expectancies (one notch above North Korea’s), and have to
live under Europe’s most repressive regime.
Besides exploiting athletic triumphs to the home audience, Putin has also
found the Olympics a useful “beard” or disguise for staging non-sportsmanlike,
military victories. In July 1992, during the Barcelona Olympics, he put the
final touches on his illegal seizure of a strategic sliver of Moldova. In August 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, he launched the first European war of the 21st century
by illegally invading Georgia. And during the February 2014 Winter Games in
Sochi, he began to roll out the invasion and occupation of as much of
Ukraine as he could grab. These conquests are euphemistically known as
In fact, the identical technique used this year in Tokyo was used to invade Crimea: soldiers and weapons did not identify themselves as Russian military which they were; they invaded wearing green, not Russian uniforms; they claimed they were members of some organization that wanted to liberate the people and not Russian operatives; and
they waved a fake flag. Nobody was fooled but this enabled the Kremlin to
swipe land in defiance to all established international treaties and rules.
Likewise, Putin has come to Tokyo and conquered. By July 29, Russia, posing as ROC, had won 26 medals, including lots of golds, and ranked third among all competing
nations. Apparently, none of those medals will be recorded in Olympic records as Russian wins — as part of the punishment — but they represent a victory for the
world’s most dangerous dictator and defeat for the principles of fairness on the
What the IOC has done is to exempt one competing nation from its rules,
and referees, but not the rest. This is not only a disservice to other competitors
but to all nations. It will encourage cheating down the road. It will imperil
young athletes in Russia who will be asked in the future to take drugs — under more surreptitious circumstances — and it teaches everyone that crime can, indeed, pay.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, the IOC, and Euro Cup (that ignored the
ban altogether and allowed Russia to play as Russia this year) should be ashamed of themselves and reassembled. I, for one, refuse to watch any Olympic events involving sham ROC participants. They simply don’t belong in Tokyo.