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Armour: Only One Way to Restore Integrity to Olympics After Russia Doping

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A fan holding the Russian flag at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Evidence has confirmed a Russian whistle-blower’s claims of government-ordered cheating. Photo: David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Russia’s state-sponsored doping program corrupted the London Olympics on an “unprecedented scale,” and probably did much the same to the Sochi Games.

So what do we do about it?

If the McLaren reports, the second of which was released Friday, have shown anything, it’s that the current anti-doping system is irreparably broken. Unless a testing body is created that is completely independent and requires compliance from nations and sports federations as the price of competing, it is only a matter of time before another system failure occurs.

Maybe not to the degree of the Russian conspiracy, which involved more than 1,000 athletes and reached to the highest levels of the government. But whether it’s one or 1,000, it doesn’t matter. If fans and athletes don’t trust that the playing field is level, than the competition has been lost before it even begins.

The only way to restore integrity to the Olympic movement is with a testing agency that is not beholden to the International Olympic Committee or its sports federations. Require the respective Olympic committees to sign on, agreeing to uninhibited and unannounced out-of-competition testing. Insist that the sports federations cede responsibility for sanctions.

If anyone balks, they’re banned from competition, simple as that. No World Cups, no world championships, no Olympics. It’s severe, but it’s the only way forward. No less than the future of the Olympic movement is at stake right now.

The events of the last year have proven that the people in power don’t have the will, or the resources, to protect the clean athletes. There is no faith in the current system and, really, why should there be? The details McLaren laid out Friday were so appalling they were mind-numbing: male DNA found in the samples of female athletes. Samples diluted with coffee grounds and salt. Manipulation of supposedly foolproof testing procedures.

And all of it happened underneath the noses of both the World Anti-Doping Agency and the IOC, giving little confidence they can fix the mess.

The IOC was confronted with evidence of the Russians’ cheating months ago and it still wasn’t enough to get President Thomas Bach to hold them accountable. He’s made it quite clear that the $51 billion Russia spent on the Sochi Games is worth more than the spirit of competition. The individual summer sports federations gave a passing glance at McLaren’s first report and then welcomed Russian athletes to Rio with open arms.

Meanwhile, clean athletes were getting robbed. So, too, the fans who watched competitions thinking they could believe what they were seeing.

“For years, international sports competitions been hijacked by the Russians, coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field and sports fans have been deceived,” McLaren said. “It’s time that stops.”

Yes, it is.

There’s only one way to stay ahead of those who would subvert the system, and that is to change it.

By Nancy Armour

This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

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