POSTED: December 14th 2016

NEIL WILSON: Ending doping is in the hands of the athletes

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

(SFC) When Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, in an emotional attack on Russia this week asked "is there nothing you will not lie about and justify", she was speaking of their Syrian involvement. She might just as well have been reacting to McLaren II.

The Canadian law professor's report of his investigation into doping in Russia and at the Sochi Winter Olympics concluded that there was "immutable and conclusive evidence" of state-organised doping. The immediate reaction of that country was what dopers have been told since time began - deny, deny, deny. Or lie, lie, lie.

Vitaly Mutko, the man at the top of Russian sport who has been promoted since the scandal unfolded to deputy prime minister, dismissed it outright. "It would simply not be realistic to do what they are accusing us of," he said.

The Russians will not show regret or remorse because they will not admit they were remiss. The attitude is that anything they were doing others were as well.

And to be sure there is not a major sporting nation that has not had some of its athletes suspended for doping. The difference is that those doped by personal choice; they were not aided, encouraged and protected by their state.

As Andrey Dmitriev, a middle-distance runner who has returned to Russia after four years at a US college, blogged this month: "Those (Russians) who say they are not doping are laughed at."

 Those who decline to dope are not invited to state and national teams, he explained.   He estimated that at the top level those not doping were no more than 5% of the athletes.

What is to do? My belief is that this is in the hands of athletes. Forget the IOC, the international federations and WADA. Each is conflicted. The resolution of the problem belongs to those who compete, the athletes the IOC likes to claim are always at the forefront of its actions.

 The first steps have begun.  Athletes forced national federations and finally an international federation to move bob and skeleton's world championships from Sochi this week. Olympic champion Lizzie Yarnold began it by saying she was considering not going.  Americans Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams supported and, decisively, so did Latvia's defending world champion Martin Dukars.

Williams put it best, perhaps, when she blogged that "I wouldn't compete at a crime scene either."

 If athletes would not compete in countries not WADA-compliant or against athletes who have served lengthy sentences for doping, they would very rapidly clean out the sporting stables.

I doubt we could persuade too many to stand aside from the Olympic Games but it would be in their own interests to do it at every other level. Ultimately the message would get through, to the IOC, their international federations, sponsors and, most importantly, those nations which encourage doping for reasons of national prestige.

It would not matter how much athletes doped if nobody would give them a race.

** 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.

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

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