Neutral Athletes: Russia, Drugs and the Olympics

Being a moralist in the Olympics doesn’t carry you very far. Turn one way, and there are enterprising drug cheats; turn another, there are wads of cash in envelopes finding their inexorable way to an official’s accounts. The challenge of the Olympics is, in a fundamental way, a challenge of institutional decay, ruination and sport as profit.

Having the International Olympic Committee banish a state from a competition that is itself compromised is a truly tall order.  It reeks, by its nature, of falsely applied judgment.  In the case of the Russia ban for the Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, the pot has assumed judgment over the kettle.

The decision assumes that a particular state has gone defiantly rogue to an extraordinary degree while presuming a state of near decent purity on the part of the entire family of Olympic nations.  According to Samuel Schmid, chair of the commission report submitted to the IOC charging Russia with an extensive doping program, “We have never seen any such manipulation and cheating and this has caused unprecedented damage to Olympism and to sports.”

The statement resembles a holed raft awaiting its inevitable sinking.  As always with such observations, history is risibly ignored in favour of the inglorious present.  Doping, after all, was the preserve of state sponsored, and engineered perfection, for decades during the Cold War.  The body beautiful became the patriotic instrument, suitably tanked and packed by…

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