July 28, 2016
By Eduard Popov for Fort Russ
Translated by J. Arnoldski
IOC President Thomas Bach with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2014 Sochi Olympics
In my last article for Fort Russ, I suggested that the IOC’s decision to allow the Russian team to participate in the Olympics would be followed by nasty surprises. And this is exactly what has happened.
Such unpleasantries have struck a number of federations and individual athletes who have been barred from competing. The most egregious example is the rejection of the two-time Olympic champion and record holder for pole vaulting, Elena Isinbayeva. She was not convicted of doping, but is not going to the Olympics.
Such troubles are also touching even those athletes who have already arrived in Rio de Janeiro. All of the members of the Russian national team are being required to take a doping test, a humiliating rule applied only to the Russian team. And still, no guarantees have been made that the victories of “clean” athletes will not be annulled over false accusations of doping.
Serious troubles have even arisen for the head of the IOC, Thomas Bach. By making the objective decision to admit the Russian team to the Olympics, he apparently broke someone else’s rule (which we’ll touch on a bit later). Bach has become the main target of tabloid, yellow-journalist-style attacks. Offensive and baseless accusations against this honored and respected organizer have captivated the pages of even quite respectable publications in Germany, the UK, and the US. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that all these tabloid headlines, which I don’t even want to repeat, saw first light in European or American media before Ukrainian media. Thomas Bach has paid dearly for his desire to be objective and professional. He has become the victim of a planned psychological attack. I would like to express my moral support for him. I think that not only Russians, but also all admirers of sports and sportsmanship will join me in this.
Whose rule did Thomas Bach break with his interference? The WADA report on a “state program” for doping in Russia contained little-proven charges based on dubious and unrepresentative sources. The decision of the IOC, the main international sports organization, in fact even refuted the WADA Commission’s findings. I would posit that a large-scale provocation, a kind of anti-Russian sanctions 2.0 in the sporting field, has been launched against Russia. Proving the unity of opinion among international sporting organizations was crucial to the authors of this provocation. But the decision of the IOC’s head violated this “unity.” This explains the campaign to discredit Thomas Bach in the tabloid press. As in the case of the Russian national team, those hurling accusations at the IOC’s head have not bothered to collect any base of evidence. They a priori found him guilty of complicity in the “doping program” for which they have indicted Russia.
This accusation is probably meant to have more moral and psychological effects, but it is still probable that it will be followed by attempts to remove Bach from his leadership position in the IOC. Nonetheless, he still ruined Russia’s opponents’ plan. The EU sanctions against Russia managed to pass because every single country in “united Europe” voted for them. No one dared express opposition. The same unanimity was shown at the NATO summit when the alliance’s members adopted a resolution declaring Russia to be the main global threat (international terrorism was put in second place). On the sports front of this hybrid war, this plan failed thanks to the actions of the IOC.
Russia has drawn conclusions from its mistakes. In the previous article, I already expressed my opinion that Russia’s sports management has proven itself to be professionally and psychological unprepared for such a harsh and unsportsmanlike techniques of the enemy. But Russia has, after the fact, begun to correct such systemic errors. The contours of a new program were spelled out by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting with the Olympic team. He said: “We are convinced that in order to truly effectively, and not selectively, fight against doping, we need to develop unified international requirements for doping control. And, of course, both athletes themselves and fans should have open access to the results of tests.” On the order of the President of Russia, an anti-doping commission under the leadership of IOC Honorary Member Vitaly Smirnov has been established. Russia will most likely begin to regain its influence in the international sports federations from which Smirnov has suggested Russia withdraw.
I will once again repeat the conclusion of the last article: sports are far from the only sphere of the hybrid war underway against Russia. Pressure will only become all the more stringent. This means that it is time for Russia to abandon complacency and thoroughly clean up its layer of unprofessional managers. Russian Sports Minister Mutko will most likely become the first such honorable victim of cadre purges in the management layer.