POSTED: August 4th 2016

JOHN GOODBODY: Backing Thomas Bach despite failure to ban the Russians is a disgrace

IOC President Thomas Bach © Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach © Getty Images

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN in RIO DE JANEIRO / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) One does not know whether to be just disheartened or acutely depressed at the failure of almost all the members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to criticise their President Thomas Bach and the Executive Board for their failure to ban the entire Russian team from these Games.

Only one IOC member had the clear-sighted conviction to stand up to Bach and that was the former British bob sledder. And who does he represent? The Athletes' Commission. It is really time that members of the IOC listened to what the competitors themselves want and then work out how to carry out their wishes.

In almost 50 years of covering these Games, I cannot remember feeling so sad that the Olympic ideals have been so tarnished. Yes, there was the massacre of the Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972 but that was something that was a political intrusion of the most violent kind and for which the Olympic Movement could not have responsibility.

The fact is that the IOC was the motivating force in setting up the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) in Lausanne in 1999 and one of their vice-presidents, Sir Craig Reedie, is its current President. Yet the IOC has ignored its recommendation to ban Russia from these Games. Reedie being a member of the Executive Board did not vote when the Session took place this week.

Yet as the McLaren report made clear, it was the Russian state, so closely aligned with the Russian Olympic Committee, who subverted the last Winter Games in Sochi with practices so devious that they besmirched the entire competition. The IOC is responsible for those Games but it has allowed Russia to be subjected to the most flimsy of punishments.

The argument has been made that the innocent Russian competitors should not be penalised for the clear faults their colleagues have committed and their Government has aided. However, how about the innocent black South African competitors who were barred from the Olympics from 1960 to 1992 through no fault of their own, except they had the misfortune of being forced to live under the apartheid system ? They had to suffer -for a greater good, namely the destruction of apartheid which had pervaded all areas of their country, including sport.

Nor have the IOC showed the courage to allow Yuliya Stepanova, the Russian whistleblower, to compete in these Games. It is true that she has not demonstrated that she is still a runner of sufficient ability to qualify for this event. But that is not the point. Just as the IOC has rightly ensured that refugees are able to compete in these Olympics, so they could have included Stepanova. The refugees will be welcomed by spectators and athletes alike and so would Stepanova.

When the murky behaviour of Fifa was fully revealed last year, it was the sponsors who began to put pressure on the world governing body of Fifa. And I just hope that various sponsors (most of whom are American) will express their distaste for the IOC's abject failure.

Dick Pound, the former head of the Wada, at least called for an Extraordinary General Meeting of the IOC to discuss doping issues. But that will be too late to carry out what is right and proper, namely the absence from these Games of all Russian competitors.

Just how many Russians will actually be competing here is still to be determined. At least at the moment, the international federations of athletics, weightlifting and rowing seem to have acted with commendable distinction. But they should not have had the task of acting by themselves. That was the duty of the IOC and it has patently failed to carry it out.

** JOHN GOODBODY will cover the 2016 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 13th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

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