POSTED: January 17th 2018

NEIL WILSON: Olympic bans must stick - for the sake of sport

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will hear the appeals of Russian athletes next week © CAS
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will hear the appeals of Russian athletes next week © CAS

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

(SFC) The  Court of Arbitration for Sport will devote all of next week to hearing the appeals of 42 Russian winter sport athletes against their bans by the International Olympic Committee from next month's Winter Olympics. 

The decision of the Court expected on January 30 will determine not only whether they will be in PyeongChang when the Games open 10 days later but the credibility of  the investigations into Russia's state-orchestrated doping system. 

Lined against them will be the man who blew the whistle, the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov, who will be supporting the findings of Richard McLaren's two inquiries if not in person but by telephone from his hideaway from those in his birthplace who wish him harm. 

The integrity of sport is at stake. If CAS find for the athletes, even on a legal technicality, the future of efforts to police the sporting arena, the so-called war on doping, will be dead and buried. The World Anti-Doping Agency might as well shut its doors and admit defeat. 

No surprise then that the Russians have turned their guns on WADA in recent times. Moves have started within its Upper House of Parliament to impose 'sanctions', including possible criminal charges, on unnamed WADA executives believed responsible for encouraging the IOC ban. 

Fancy Bears, the hacking group believed linked to Russia's intelligence services, have upped its efforts to cast shadows over WADA with the latest in leaks that began back in 2016. 

Among those leaks was an email letter sent to IOC president Thomas Bach by IOC Honorary member Hein Verbruggen, nine months before his death last year. 

The letter was an attack by the former president of UCI cycling's world body, on WADA and in particular its inaugural president Dick Pound. The organisation, claims Verbruggen, has failed to be a "viable and universally trusted respected anti-doping organisation". It has "anti-IOC, and anti-Europe" attitudes. 

Nothing much new in the sentiments. Verbruggen had been daggers drawn with Pound for years, believing that the Canadian had it in for him and his sport since he chose to support Jacques Rogge for the IOC presidency in 1999 as opposed to Pound. 

And nobody - including probably Bach, the recipient of the letter - would give much time to the criticisms on anti-doping to a man whom an investigation concluded had colluded with the arch-doper of his sport, Lance Armstrong. 

The pertinent point though is that the leaking by Fancy Bears is part of a Russian effort to further under-mine the credibility of the organisation that fronted the Russian investigations and has not changed its view that Russia should not be competing in Olympic Games at present.

If proof is still necessary that Russia has not accepted its guilt as a nation for its involvement at the highest levels of government in sports doping, it is the timing and content of Fancy Bears's recent leaks.

WADA has flaws of structure. It should never have been charged to police, prosecute, charge and convict, a guaranteed conflict of interests. But for all that it has done more than any organisation to expose the dishonesty that exists within sport.

Without it, the world of sport would become the Wild West. A bit like Russia. 

** 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.

Keywords · Olympics · Neil Wilson

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