Christine Brennan, USA TODAY Sports
July 18, 2016
Manan Vatsyayana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
We now know it's not just Russian track and field. It’s not just Russian winter sports.
Russian summer sports are dirty to their core too, according to an independent
World Anti-Doping Agency report issued Monday by Canadian attorney Richard McLaren.
Russia just won the gold medal for doping: systemic, long-term, state-sponsored doping. This is
Lance Armstrong times 100. Perhaps 1,000. The McLaren Report says Russia and its athletes are not to be trusted, that instead of promoting clean sport, as Russia signed on to do as a major player in the Olympic world, it has become the new East Germany.
International Olympic Committee now has to step up and do what it won’t want to do, but must: Russia has to be kicked out of the Rio Olympic Games. Not just the Russian track and field athletes, who, with the exception of two athletes, already are.
Everyone must go, except for any athletes who can prove in quick appeals to their international sports federations that they have undergone real, thorough, non-Russian-style testing in the past year, just as the two track and field athletes have.
Otherwise, to allow them to compete in Rio is to taint the entire Olympic Games. If the IOC and the Olympics stand for anything, the Russian flag must not fly in Rio.
How bad is the cheating in Russian summer sports? It’s everywhere. It’s weightlifting. It’s wrestling. It’s canoeing. It’s the Paralympic sports. (The Paralympics!) It’s cycling and swimming and soccer and rowing and judo and volleyball and boxing and fencing and…
That’s what McLaren revealed in his devastating report. His investigation found not one but two ways in which Russian sports and government officials, working in concert, diabolically altered the results of major international competitions.
From 2011 through much of 2015, bureaucrats worked up and down the Russian doping chain of command to cover up more than 300 positive tests. McLaren even came up with a wonderful name for this system that sounds like a Nancy Drew mystery I missed: “The Disappearing Positive Methodology.”
This kind of subterfuge wasn’t going to work with the world watching the 2014
Sochi Olympics, however, so the Russians upped their game.
Athletes’ urine was taken and tested well before the Olympics, confirmed to be clean and stored in a freezer. Then, at the Games, when the time came, the dirty urine sample provided by the cheating athlete after the competition was switched out for the clean one from the freezer.
To make sure that it appeared to be a fresh sample, the Russians even added table salt or distilled water. These world-class cheaters didn’t miss a trick. And it worked like a dream. Russia recovered from a devastating performance at the 2010 Vancouver Games to win the medal count in 2014.
One way or the other, Russian officials were able to steal world and Olympic medals for their athletes that rightfully belonged to athletes from other countries — athletes who were not cheating, who were training and being tested properly, who had no idea what was happening around them as they innocently went about their business.
What happens now? Time is short with the Aug. 5 Rio Opening Ceremony approaching. There will be those who say that if Russia is banned, clean Russian athletes would be unfairly cast out of the Games because of the behavior of their leaders. IOC president
Thomas Bach has clearly labeled the issue as the need to balance “collective responsibility and individual justice.”
Whatever choice he makes will hurt athletes who are not doping. Either he lets in a nation whose sports program is built on cheating, thereby harming thousands of Olympians whose nations have played by the rules, or he hurts those Russian athletes who happen to be clean.
But, as of now, we have no idea who those clean Russian athletes are, which means every result involving a Russian will be suspect in Rio if Russia is allowed to compete. Every single result. In every sport. Consider that as you clear your schedule to watch the Olympics on TV.
On the other hand, if the Russian athletes who say they are clean move quickly, as their track and field counterparts did, they can still get into the Games under a neutral flag.
Bach knew this was coming. In May, he wrote an op-ed in USA TODAY in which he envisioned the exact scenario facing the IOC:
"It would have to consider, whether in such 'contaminated' federations the presumption of innocence for athletes could still be applied, whether the burden of proof could be reversed. This could mean that concerned athletes would have to demonstrate that their international and independently proven test record is compliant with the rules of their International Federation and the World Anti-Doping Code, providing a level playing field with their fellow competitors.”
He sounds like he gets it, but here's the wild card: Bach is totally beholden to Russia President
Vladimir Putin, the man who spent $51 billion to put the Olympics in the middle of nowhere (Sochi), endearing himself to Bach and the IOC if not forever, at least through the summer of 2016.
It’s hard to imagine Bach not caving in to his buddy Putin and letting the Russians compete in Rio.
But he shouldn't. In his relatively new IOC presidency, this is the challenge of a lifetime. What he decides will be his legacy. He will forever be known as the man who let the cheaters in — or as the man who did not.