The worst day’s publicity in IOC history – ‘failing’ to impose outright ban on Russia’s entire Olympic team for Rio – might have been diluted with two more adroit media news releases on July 19 and 24. Accepting last Sunday only innocent Russian athletes for the Games – when attempting to find solutions, both moral and legal and under intense pressure – precipitated a hostile media storm.
In the first document, outlining the Executive Board’s intended meeting to assess the appallingly incriminating findings of WADA’s independent investigator, Professor Richard McLaren, into Russia’s institutional cheating at Sochi ’14, the IOC stated it would “explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes”. This avoidably specific wording inadvertently set the trap into which the IOC then fell headlong five days later. When sidestepping such a ban by passing responsibility for
accreditation to individual International Federations.
In the second document, last Sunday, it was not until Paragraph 21 on Page 3 that the following was inserted: “Additional sanctions may be imposed, following the final report (of McLaren) and due legal procedure by the Disciplinary Commission established on July 19”. The announcement of that Commission had noted the IOC’s intention “to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated”, by
McLaren’s request “to continue and finalize his report” within a compressed time-line that did not yet permit compilation of data to establish criminal violations. The EB will assess the Commission’s report in December.
This of course begs the question: If the NOC of Kuwait can be suspended for bureaucratic government interference in national Olympic sports administration, why not Russia’s for criminal malpractice? English club football was banned from European competition in the 80s for crowd violence: a phenomenon partially outside the jurisdiction of the national federation. McLaren suggested Russia’s minister of sport must have known of criminality at Sochi’s testing laboratory.
In line with President Thomas Bach’s profession as lawyer, the IOC was acting in legal accordance with individual justice – for Russian athletes who might be compliant with testing procedure – and by further examination of Russia’s malign governmental programme of doping manipulation.
Unfortunately, the IOC became lost in their own verbiage, though well aware that the world’s media, and countless sporting critics including current athletes, were expecting Russia’s total exclusion. The IOC’s decision on Sunday should have embraced at the top of the story the delayed potential execution of Kremlin secret service henchmen.
That might possibly have dampened the media ‘experts’ – many of whom have never seen the inside of an IOC session, and wouldn’t recognize an EB member, several of whom are lawyers, even if they tripped over one –from squawking: “IOC destroys Olympics!”
For media who care to bother to learn how the disciplinary commission reaches their verdict, on which the EB may determine life suspensions at their December meeting – beyond the provisional decree of July 19 to terminate all/any Olympic related events in Russia – the Commission members are:
Guy Canivet (vice-chair, IOC Ethics Commission, former member of French Constitutional Court); Dr Robin Mitchell (vice-chair, IOC Medical and Scientific Commission, of IOC Ethics Commission) from Fiji; Yang Yang (Athletes’ representative on IOC Ethics Commission) from China; Andrew Ryan (Executive Director of ASOIF); Wolfgang Schobersberger (International Winter Sports Federations).
The almost uniform accusation that the EB “passed the buck” or “capitulated” in deferring the qualification of every Russian athlete – other than those in track and field where the Court of Arbitration for Sport had upheld IAAF’s suspension of the Russian Athletics Federation – to all twentyseven IFs was unavoidable: in the brief time available, 12 days before the Games, the IFs would be the organisations with the swiftest access to compliant overseas doping tests by Russian competitors in their sport.
As in the Salt Lake City scandal that broke during an EB meeting in late 1998, the IOC needed tighter PR management: or, as they say nowadays, spin doctors.
This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.