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Not just what's happening in and around the Olympic Movement and International Sports but what it all means.
In taking action Tuesday on the Russian doping matter, the International Olympic Committee was faced with the delicate task of trying to thread a needle while wearing a pair of those red mittens that were all the rage at the Vancouver Olympics way back when in 2010, which, you know, is more or less when — because the Russian team performed so poorly there — this sordid tale began, right?
The task at hand was to make it seem like the IOC was coming down hard on the Russians — to appease the baying jackals of the western press, in particular the Americans and the Brits — while simultaneously crafting a diplomatic compromise that would serve the IOC’s long-term purposes.
The IOC, seeking to balance a multitude of interests, got what it wanted.
The initial reports screamed out over the news and social media in our 24/7 gotta-have-it tell-me-what-it-means-this-instant world: Ban! Ban! Ban!
Reality: the IOC made a play for what it always plays for, stability.
And the more sophisticated argument, because as always the real work is in the details, is that the Russians are getting off way easier than would seem at first blush.
The lengthy decision posted Monday in the matter of the Russian cross-country skier Alexander Legkov is to be applauded for its extended review of the Russian doping matter.
A three-member International Olympic Committee “disciplinary commission” panel, explaining the rationale for stripping Legkov of the 50-kilometer gold medal he won at the Sochi 2014 Games, found Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow lab director, a “truthful witness.”
It’s also the case that this decision is likely fatally flawed. Legkov ought to proceed directly to the Court of Arbitration for Sport with an urgent appeal -- do not pass go, do not collect $200, all of that.
IOC president Thomas Bach has promised — most recently in a speech last week to European Olympic officials — that the Russians, Legkov and others, would be assured due process. In a news release accompanying the publication of the Legkov decision, the IOC said, "Due process has to be followed, and re-analysis is still underway."
No way did Legkov get due process.
Why? Because Rodchenkov was unavailable for cross-examination.
Seems like it was only earlier this year that a great many voices were being heard to the effect that the World Anti-Doping Agency, and in particular its president, Craig Reedie, and director general, Olivier Niggli, were ineffective and caught up in this or that conflict of interest.
Now WADA has obtained (via a whistleblower) an electronic file that it says contains “all testing data” from Russia’s national doping lab conducted from January 2012 to August 2015. That’s thought to be thousands of drug tests run on Russian athletes.
Kudos to WADA and, as well, to Reedie and Niggli.
With the file in hand, WADA on Thursday declined to lift its suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.
At issue now is whether the Russians should take part — under the Russian flag, wearing the Russian colors, hearing the Russian anthem — in the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
MARRAKECH, Morocco — A couple weeks ago, it made headlines worldwide when the Israeli judo team was singled out at an International Judo Federation Grand Slam stop in Abu Dhabi.
The United Arab Emirates banned Israeli athletes from wearing their nation’s symbols, the blue and white colors and the Star of David, on their uniforms; the Israeli flag was not displayed; the Israeli national anthem was not to be played.
What drew comparatively little attention, meanwhile, were the gestures and photos, published on the IJF website, that wrapped up the tournament: Israeli under-100 kilo bronze medalist Peter Paltchik with the UAE Judo Federation president, His Excellency Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al Darei, and Aref Al-Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the three of them arm in arm; and Israel Judo Association president Moshe Ponte, IJF president Marius Vizer, Al Darei and Naser Al-Tameemi, general secretary of the UAE Judo, Wrestling and Kickboxing Federation, all four hand-to-hand, as if they were breaking a huddle, U.S.-football style.
Along with the photos, there were also apologies — that a UAE athlete, after a loss, had not shaken hands with an Israeli on the tatami, as a judo mat is called.
And congratulations, too — to the Israelis for winning five medals.
There are 206 National Olympic Committees across our world. You know, Earth. The big blue ball that the NBA basketball star Kyrie Irving maybe thinks is flat.
All the committees in good standing (read: not suspended) get together once a year. It's a big deal. Because of the sheer size of it, it's arguably the biggest-deal meeting of the Olympic year.
It happened this week in Prague.
What a waste of a big-deal opportunity.
Wednesday marked 100 days to go until the opening of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, and once again the International Olympic Committee made it as clear as the sort of ice that makes like a frozen sheet of glass in a mountain lake that the Russians will — as they should be — be at those Games.
So much noise in so many U.S. and other western media outlets about whether or not the Russians will, or won’t, be at the Games. So much political pandering from so many anti-doping agencies whose officials either assuredly do or, for that matter, should know better.
The Olympics are about inclusion. Full stop.
The Russians will be in Korea.
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About Alan Abrahamson
Alan Abrahamson is an award-winning sportswriter, best-selling author and in-demand television analyst. In 2010, he launched his own website, 3 Wire Sports, described in James Patterson and Mark Sullivan's 2012 best-selling novel Private Games as "the world's best source of information about the [Olympic] Games and the culture that surrounds them." Read full bio.