9 November - Russian Cheating

The word ‘dodgy’ has preceded the word ‘Russian’ in several sports for many many years. Now we know that we can simply say ‘cheating’ and avoid the nudge-nudge innuendo. I had always hoped that if a nation had a sufficiently bad doping record it could be banned from major events, but had suspected that the restraint of trade/civil liberties argument would prevent this, so that Dmitry  Clean Angel couldn’t be banned because his compatriot Svetlana Dopemonsterova was dosing up on EPO.

But it’s reassuring to see that if the National Federation can be shown to be falling below required standards, then that Federation can be banned from being represented at major events – and as that is the only way athletes can compete at championship level, they are in effect banned en masse. It’s curious – Russia has all the features in place where you would expec t some fantastic athletes to emerge without needing to cheat; large population, great history in the sport, sufficiently poor that an athletics income can seem attractive for the most talented, great coaching in quantity and quality, and vast sports science expertise that can in theory be channelled legitimately. On the other hand, I have recently read, and been appalled by, Bill Browder’s ‘Red Notice’ and Peter Pomarantsev’s insight into Russian society, and the endemic level of corruption is just staggering, so it would be naïve to assume that athletics, or indeed any sport, somehow had an ethical modus operandi outside the Russian norm