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IOC

The Olympics as canary in coal mine

If English is not your first language, or you have forgotten or never learned about the dangers inherent in mining, or you have (inexplicably) little to no regard for “Zenyatta Mondatta,” the classic 1980 album from The Police, herewith an appreciation of the phrase “canary in a coal mine.”

And why, like the canary, the Olympic movement is an eerily prescient predictor of change buffeting our uncertain, if not broken, world — the kind of change that produced Brexit, the vote Thursday that will now lead to the United Kingdom’s self-inflicted divorce from the European Union.

Sharapova on May 24 in Chicago at the 'Sugarpova' chocolate launch // Getty Images

Sharapova on May 24 in Chicago at the 'Sugarpova' chocolate launch // Getty Images

Doping

Maria Sharapova, common sense and “intent”

It verges on the comical to read Maria Sharapova’s indignant assertion, after she was tagged by an anti-doping panel Wednesday for two years for meldonium, that the decision is, in her words, “unfairly harsh,” and that she intends to appeal to sport’s top tribunal, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Have at it. Indeed, it’s way more likely that the relevant authorities are going to want to appeal because, in a passage that surprisingly has drawn little attention in the avalanche of stories about Wednesday’s decision, the ruling threatens to blow a barn door-sized hole in the rules as they not only were meant to be but have to be in order to have any chance at working.

The three surviving members of the 1976 U.S. women's 4x100 gold medal-winning relay: left to right, Wendy Boglioli, Jill Sterkel, Shirley Babashoff

The three surviving members of the 1976 U.S. women's 4x100 gold medal-winning relay: left to right, Wendy Boglioli, Jill Sterkel, Shirley Babashoff

Swimming

‘The Last Gold’: on history, and shades of gray

The very essence of competition at the Olympics is fair play. What happens when doping makes a mockery of that ideal? When it’s all but impossible to re-write history? When the notion of who is a victim, and why, is the farthest thing from black and white — but is, instead, layered in varying shades of gray?

These and other questions are as essential now, amid allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia, as they have been since at least 1976, at the Montreal Olympics, when East German’s female swimmers won 11 of 13 gold medals.

Yulia Stepanova, competing under her maiden name, at the 2011 IAAF world championship 800-meter semifinals // Getty Images

Yulia Stepanova, competing under her maiden name, at the 2011 IAAF world championship 800-meter semifinals // Getty Images

Doping

WADA did not just sit idly by

Fat headlines are fun. A rush to judgment can feel so exhilarating. Yet serious decisions demand facts and measured judgment.

To believe the headlines, to take in the rush, one would believe that the World Anti-Doping Agency sat around for the better part of four years and did nothing amid explosive allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia sparked in large measure by the whistleblower Vitaliy Stepanov, a former Russian doping control officer, and his wife, Yulia, a world-class middle-distance runner.