Russia’s state-sponsored doping regime apparently extended to their paralympic athletes as well. The International Paralympic Committee banned the entire Russian team of handicapped athletes for cheating.
During his announcement in Rio de Janeiro,International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven put the blame squarely on Russia’s government.
Russia has “catastrophically failed its para athletes,” Craven said. “Their medals-over-morals mentality disgusts me.”
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told Russia’s news agency Tass he will appeal the decision and submit a claim to the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“We will fight for our Paralympians,” he told Tass.
Joining Craven at the news conference was Todd Nicholson, the IPC athletes council chairperson, who said he could “only imagine the disappointment Russian athletes must feel at this decision.”
But Nicholson assured athletes that the decision was made in their best interest “to ensure a fair and level playing field for all athletes.”
The Paralympic Games start September 7 in Rio.
Dan Wetzel, Yahoo sports columnist, points out the tragic irony of the ban:
The Paralympics are the best, a reminder that around the globe there are people who are mentally, emotionally and physically tough. Yes it is naïve to believe there wasn’t doping in the Paralympics, but could naïve please still exist somewhere?
The Russians certainly deserved the ban. The country probably should have had all their Olympic athletes banned after the country operated a doping ring in the run-up to and during the Sochi Games of 2014. Politics and pressure caused the International Olympic Committee to retreat to cowardice on that one (the IPC, an entirely different group, is clearly far tougher).
Meanwhile, doping continues to loom over the Rio Games, mostly via an even darker cloud of suspicion anytime someone from Russia is competing.
That isn’t totally fair to the Russians though. It’s reasonable to assume some athletes from every country are cheating. That includes the U.S., where our men and women just do it on their own, not via the government. You could look at it as a tribute to our individualism.
The Russians are different that way. In Sochi they constructed a lab next to the official drug testing facility. In the middle of the night they swapped clean samples for dirty ones through a hole in the wall. The entire saga feels like it came from a Russian spy novel, complete with double crossings, double-crossing whistle blowers and mysterious deaths.
“This is not about athletes cheating the system but the state-run system that is cheating athletes,” Craven, the IPC president, said.
At the Sochi Paralympic Games – surprise, surprise – Russia won a whopping 80 total medals, more than three times any other country (Ukraine, 25). It was near total domination. Russia won 30 golds, well ahead of Germany’s nine. The United States took home just two.
A World Anti-Doping Agency Investigation, detailed in the so-called McLaren Report, found not just Olympic cheats but 35 “disappearing positive” tests for Russian Paralympians from 2012 to 2015. Here’s guessing that was just the tip of a Putin iceberg.
Who the heck would try to fix the Paralympics, essentially handicapping rival handicapped athletes? Even for Vladimir Putin that seems weak.
The amount of money involved for the Paralympic games is not as substantial as for the Olympics. But there are still sponsorships, TV rights, and athlete endorsements to be had. “Naive” went out the window decades ago when it comes to anything about the Olympics. The modern day games have become a cynical exploitation of a fantasy ideal — the “Olympic spirit.”
What with the International Olympic Committee members selling their vote to choose a host city, the Russian doping, the corporate schmoozing with national and international sports authorities, and the athletes themselves being paid enormous sums in many cases just to show up to a competition, the Olympics and Paralympics have devolved into just another spectacle, not worthy of our time or interest.