KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY: Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s cynicism, maybe it’s a byproduct of the collapse of credibility of international sports leadership, but this writer did not share the jubilation afforded to the response from the IOC to the IAAF’s own Vienna Treaty.
Fair play to world athetics’ governing council, president Lord Seb Coe and the laconically devastating support from Rune Andersen. The council decided that Russian athletics had not done enough to deserve a pre-Olympics reprieve.
Indeed, Anderson suggested Russia was unlikely to be back on track with anti-doping within even a further two years.
Coe and Co also, on lawyers’ advice, offered the “crack in the door” offer of an Olympics place to Russian athletes who had been isolated from the system on some desert island in the Pacific.
Are there any? Consider tennis star Maria Sharapova. She is based in Florida when not flying from one tournament or fashion shoot to another (or, was). But she kept her meldonium pantry well stocked even though it’s not licensed for sale in the United States.
She had to be obtaining it from somewhere. Maybe she was Amazon’s favourite customer.
Can you imagine the Russian Sports Ministry happily allowing any of its athletes to make a ‘clean’ claim to go to Rio when the rest can’t go? Of course not.
Anyone who competed under a ‘neutral’ or IOC flag need not bother flying back to Moscow after the Closing Ceremony.
Thomas Bach, the IOC president, has always left the door open for Russia. If the Russian track and field team are absent from Rio then – like it or not, dismiss them as dope cheats or not – the Games will be damaged. Yet he cannot appear to be dictated to by a newly-minted federation president who is not even an IOC member.
One of the reason US television pays the sort of money which dwarfs even bankers’ bonuses to screen the Games is the four-yearly prospect of seeing United States matched in head to head sports competition against Russia (for which, formerly, read USSR).
Evil empire and all that silly, dangerous rhetoric.
Taking Russia off the Olympic track spells instant devaluation.
I know, given the dope cheating so well documented, this should not be the case. But it is.
Hence Bach was doubtless not a happy man to learn that his old friend Coe had left so little wriggle room for his hastily-convened ‘Olympic Summit’ in Lausanne on Tuesday to conjure up some undreamed-of, face-saving compromise.
What’s in a word?
Look again at that IOC statement after the IAAF decision.
It “welcomes and supports the IAAF’s strong stance against doping.”
Frankly, it could not do anything else.
But it has only “taken note of the decision of the IAAF Council” and “fully respects the IAAF position.”
It did not “welcome” it.
With obvious good reason.
The IOC added that the “eligibility of athletes in any international competition including the Olympic Games is a matter for the respective International Federation.”
So, why, then, has Bach summoned his political nearest and dearest to discuss that very issue if it’s all cut and dried?
Friday’s IAAF decision was not the beginning of the end of the story of Russia and Rio. It was merely the end of the beginning.
This writer would not bet against Russian athletes competing in Rio.
Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s cynicism . . .