There is a contemptuous saying in the Russian language which, loosely translated, sgoes something like this: ‘Piss in his eyes but he will still say it is a God’s dew’. Despite its crudity, this saying perfectly reflects the habitual pattern of deception by the Russian authorities, who lie, prevaricate and stonewall despite whatever weight of evidence condemns them.
Doping in sport? Never! Crimea? We had no Russian soldiers there! Ukraine? Nothing to do with us. Malaysian aircraft shot down with horrific civilian casualties? Someone else’s fault! And always, “You have no proof!”
The doping scandal and the near miss at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a humiliation for the entire country of incomparable magnitude. And, I regret to say, a wasted opportunity by the IOC to declare, clearly and strongly, ‘Enough is enough!’
The IOC did not have the guts to kick out the dope cheats and to send a message to the world that doping is unacceptable. Instead, it preferred to pass the buck and “leave it to the discretion of the individual sports bodies” to decide the fate of the Russian Olympic sports team. Judging by the delighted Russian reaction, this decision has confirmed their contemptuous opinion of the Western institutions, especially European ones, as corrupt, weak and easily controllable by discrete (or should I say – hybrid?) means.
The IOC has made a mockery of integrity. It let countries aspiring to the same level of corruption as in Russia know that all they have to do is respect the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not get caught. And if they do get caught, the appropriate response is to deny and lie, despite all evidence. If that doesn’t work, get the IOC to refer the cheaters to individual sports bodies. Countries, like China, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, North Korea and their ilk will understand the message quite clearly.
The harm IOC inflicted by this decision goes much deeper than sports. It strengthens the Russian and similarly autocratic, corrupt and oppressive countries’ opinion that everyone is as corrupt as they are; that the rule of law is just a figment of the Western propaganda; that Europeans are weak and cowardly; that the niceties of international civilised behaviour and the primacy of individual freedom over the collective predominance is nonsense; that a state can and should interfere wherever it wishes and is not answerable to anyone, least of all to the rule of law.
In effect, the IOC has colluded with the Russian government in blatantly breaching international decency. Declaring its decision as motivated by the desire to be inclusive, it has, by a simple exercise of intellectual dishonesty, approved of the Russian government’s behaviours. The meek and mild IOC decision, in effect, gave the Russian government, which committed a hanging offence, a slap on the wrist. In exchange for what?
From the Russian point of view, the logic behind such a decision is impeccable and eminently deserved. Russians regard their country as surrounded by the malevolent and predatory West, which dreams of subjugating Russia. (The possibility that, ultimately, nobody gives a damn about their country simply does not enter the collective Russian mind). Since the need to defend Mother Russia is perceived as real, the end justifies means. Because there are pitifully few things Russians can be proud of, the country’s preeminence in sports is regarded as essential to the national dignity and an important part of the overall defence against a world that opposes it at every turn and in every field of human endeavour. This posture, a sacred domain of the Russian government, has to be maintained no matter what. Whatever it takes, including cheating. To approve, commit and finance a sports-doping offensive of such magnitude would require the level of resources only the Russian government have at the highest, political level.
In the sea of everyday corruption that is Russia, a country without an independent judiciary, the breach of the existing laws and rules is so commonplace that it is accepted by the population as an integral part of cultural reality and everyday life.
But what about ordinary Russian sportsmen and women? What about the starry eyed, eager, adventurous and peace loving boys and girls who trained their hearts out? After all, they worked hard and would be devastated at the possibility of being disqualified, losing the chance of migrating from their beloved country to the decadent, materialistic and non-spiritual West.
Frankly, I find it hard to believe the ‘ordinary Russian athletes’ who tell urbi et orbi – “we did not know”! Really? If this is the case, then they should’ve been collectively deaf, mute, blind and stupid to the point of anencephaly. Of course they knew! Every single one of them.
Do you really want me to believe that they did not see (or partake in) the distribution of anabolic steroids to their comrades? Or had no opportunity to notice unusually wide shoulders of their female swimmers, like at the time of German Democratic Republic swimming triumphs? Or had never heard their team doctors instructing their colleagues in use of the erythrocyte oxygen enhancement? They were happy to pretend for many years, along with the IOC no less, that Soviet and post-Soviet sport is an amateur, non-professional manifestation of the Olympic ideal when it was nothing of the sort. Consider me an unusually suspicious type, but I cannot make myself so naïve as to believe an average Russian athlete is whiter then white.
The government of a country which invades its neighbours, shoots down passenger aircraft, cheats in international sports, has a long and a harrowing history of self-immolation, sincerely believesthe delusion that all its troubles are the result of international conspiracy; it lies continually to the rest of us cannot be trusted. The failure by the IOC to call a spade a spade for many years is a great disservice to the world. More than that, it is a great disservice to the Russians themselves, because it would have been one of those rare opportunities for them to learn how the world really feels and that the illegal actions have consequences. Thanks to the IOC’s supine decision, this opportunity has been tragically missed.