POSTED: May 10th 2013

NEIL WILSON: Time to stop rewarding the Russians

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) If we accept that doping is cheating, as any sporting person must, then cheating is endemic in Russia. It may be in other countries but of Russia we can be certain. The latest statistics prove it.

There are currently 38 Russians serving doping bans, or provisionally suspended pending disciplinary hearings, and that is in the sport of track and field alone. In the last two months there have been cases of Russians caught from the sports of water polo, cycling, swimming, weight-lifting and biathlon, all Olympic sports. One swimmer was caught twice in three months!

This says much for the improvements in testing procedures in Russia since its anti-doping laboratory was up-graded under a new anti-doping agency three years ago. It also tells us that doping in endemic in Russia, and at all ages. The two biathletes caught were juniors.

What must concern Olympic authorities is that international federations continue to reward Russia by asking it to host their most prestigious events.

Thirty eight Russian athletes suspended, and where is the IAAF next world championships? Moscow, of course, this year. And by his presence Usain Bolt, king of the track, will be seen to be giving his regal blessing to Russia.

The next Winter Olympic Games? Sochi next February. The next World University Games. Kazan in Russia this year. Further down the calendar are football’s World Cup in 2018 and the world hockey championships in 2016, each in Russia.

More immediately embarrassing is that the International Weightlifting Federation will hold its Electorial Congress later this month in Moscow, just weeks after eight Russian lifters were suspended.

Under IWF rules, a country where eight lifters are caught in a calendar year can be fined $300,000 and its officials excluded from all IWF events for two years. One more case and the fine rises to $500,000.

It is a good rule – India was banned as a country from IWF events not so long ago for numerous transgressions – and one which other IFs would do well to copy. Which though has the courage.

Imagine the IAAF’s dilemma if it had a similar policy of national exclusion. Not even 38 cases would persuade it to pull its world championship out of Moscow three months ahead. The legal consequences, as much as the political fall-out, would deter it.

But something has to be done about systematic doping within nations. It is not right that great athletes such as Bolt will be forced to avert their eyes and hold their noses to the stink of corruption in Moscow this summer.

As Britain’s world hurdles champion Dai Greene said: “Do these countries deserve to hold Championships if they are so irresponsible with their athletes? I’d rather run in another country.”

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Russia · Olympics

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