It’s nice to see Vladimir Putin being held accountable to someone.
Although the news was largely buried on many news and sports websites (and in the case of Fox Sports, nowhere to be found) the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Russia’s Olympic team from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea was truly shocking.
I thought the lede on the New York Times’ main story summed up the gravity of the situation the best in its opening paragraph.
“The country’s government officials are forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound,” wrote Times reporters Rebecca Ruiz and Tariq Panja.
The decision, unprecedented in Olympic history, was based largely on the findings of an IOC commission, which uncovered “the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia.” In addition to banning Russia, the IOC also banned Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, for life.
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The IOC’s devision was at least partly based on the brave testimony of Grigory Rodchenkov, formerly the director of Moscow’s Anti-Doping Center and immortalized in the popular Netflix documentary Icarus. Rodchenkov released his diary to the New York Times last month, which detailed how he and Russian officials bypassed drug-testing controls during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
He certainly didn’t out Russia’s massive doping scandal for fame; Rodchenkov now lives in the United States in a witness protection program, and will be forced to watch over his shoulder for the rest of his live. Just last month, Leonid Tyagachev, the honorary president of Russia’s Olympic Committee said Rodchenkov “should be shot for lying.”
The ruling by the IOC I felt was pretty well balanced, heavily punishing the Russian government while allowing athletes who were clean and didn’t take part in Putin’s doping scheme to still compete under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR).
Despite the controversy, Russia will continue to host next year’s World Cup, with the aforementioned Mutko serving as the president of the Russian Football Association and the man in charge of organizing the World Cup.
FIFA, which has long been dogged by corruption allegations, issued a quiet statement following the IOC’s ruling simply stating it had “taken note” of the decision, adding it “has no impact” on the upcoming World Cup.
Sigh. So much for FIFA boss Gianni Infantino’s new beginning. – Rob Tornoe