POSTED: November 10th 2016
NewsUpdate

JOHN GOODBODY: Russia still not accepting blame for doping

Alexander Zhukov at the Peace and Sport forum in Monaco / Getty Images
Alexander Zhukov at the Peace and Sport forum in Monaco / Getty Images


THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) This year has been one of the most unsavoury in the history of the Olympics. There have been the revelations in the McLaren Report, the failure of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban Russia from the 2016 Games despite its officials' connivance in doping, the weakness of almost all international federations in also allowing Russian competitors to take part in Rio, and the controversy over the use of therapeutic use exemptions (Tues).

If the most depressing feature of 2016 has been the lack of moral leadership of leading figures in the IOC, especially Dr. Thomas Bach, who is proving such a disappointment as its President, not far behind has been the inability of Russia to take proper responsibility for the actions of its officials.

This week, Alexander Zhukov, the President of the Russian Olympic Committee, addressed a meeting in Lausanne called to discuss reforms to the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).  What one would have hoped from a man in his position was, first of all, some regret, some contrition over the record of his country in drug-taking, the multiple cases of positive tests and the malpractice at the 2014 Winter Games laid bare by the McLaren Report.

Before outlining the situation in Russia and some suggestions about the future of the Wada, he should have apologised for the damage done by his country to the ethical basis of international sport.

However, according to allsportinfo in Russia, which published the text of his speech, there was no real regret. He certainly mentions the allegations mentioned in the report but adds they require "unbiased investigation" thereby immediately questioning the veracity of a panel, which included IOC member Dick Pound, the first Wada President.

And Zhukov said that "the controversial and unverified information from Mclaren's Report introduces unprecedented sanctions that violate human rights and run counter to the basic humanitarian values."  These are hardly the words of someone, who is expressing any sorrow or responsibility for what has occurred in Russia in recent years.

And when he stated that "the fight against doping on the principle of zero tolerance has always been, is and will be one of the key directions of our state policy", I am surprised that the meeting, which included several leading Wada executive Committee members, did not burst out laughing at the hypocrisy of the words.

And he goes on to urge the Wada to allow the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and the Moscow laboratory to be once more accredited, stating that the current regime overseen by United Kingdom Anti-Doping is only testing 1500 competitors a year rather than 6000 when Russia was doing its own testing.

Zhukov is perfectly right to raise the issue of Tues, the use of which was highlighted by the hackers of the Fancy Bears group. There is certainly much work to be done here and for the Wada, together, if necessary, with the IOC to ensure their employment is standardised and clarified.

However, by concentrating his speech of this issue, he is clearly hoping that it will divert attention away from the morass of malpractice that has been prevalent in recent times in his own country. Given that a further report from Professor McLaren is due before the end of the year, this is unlikely to occur. 

Zhukov's views as a campaigner on anti-doping cannot be taken seriously until, first of all, he and Russian sport in general accept their liability for the past.  Otherwise Russian officials may be inclined to repeat their malpractice in future.

** 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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