President Clinton

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.

To begin:

Sharapova and her entourage got ripped by the three-member International Tennis Federation-appointed panel, and deservedly so.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova announcing in March in Los Angeles that she had failed a doping test for meldonium // Getty Images

Rarely in the anti-doping literature do you read a case that proclaims, as this one does of Sharapova, “She is the author of her own misfortune.”

At the same time, the ruling trips all over itself in seeking to assert that she did not “intend” to cheat.

There is no quarrel with the basics: an athlete is responsible for whatever is in his or her system.

The ruling declares: “She must have known that taking a medication before a match, particularly one not currently prescribed by a doctor, was of considerable significance. This was a deliberate decision, not a mistake."

Isn't that the classic definition of "intent"?

Well, the panel goes on to say, on the one hand Sharapova “did not appreciate” that meldonium, the substance she tested positive for, had since Jan. 1, 2016, been on the World Anti-Doping Agency banned list. She tested positive on Jan. 26, after an Australian Open quarterfinal match with Serena Williams.

On the other, the panel says, Sharapova “does bear sole responsibility … and very significant fault, in failing to take any steps to check whether the continued use of this medicine was permissible,” adding, “If she had not concealed her use of [meldonium] from the anti-doping authorities, members of her own support team and the doctors whom she consulted, but had sought advice, then the [situation] would have been avoided.”

So which is it? Apples? Or oranges?

The stakes are considerable for all involved.

A two-year ban: sure, Sharapova would miss this summer’s Rio Olympics and the Grand Slams this year and next. But, like Nixon, she can come back tanned, rested and ready. She’s only 29. Williams is 34 and has come back repeatedly from time away owing to injury.

The way-more-serious risk, because it would be naive to believe that politics is not at work:

Sharapova is one of Russia’s leading athletic lights. Aside from her five Grand Slam titles, she won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics. More, she carried the Russian flag into the opening ceremony.

Being the flag-bearer at the Olympics is always fraught with political symbolism. In Russia, where Vladimir Putin has proven to be keenly and personally interested in the Russian team’s performance, all the more so.

A detail not addressed in Wednesday’s decision is why Sharapova, with her family — she came to Florida when she was a little girl and apparently now has a family doctor in California — felt the need in the first instance to go to a doctor in Moscow. Like, no one in American medicine was good enough? Or was there something else at work?

Beyond that:

There’s a fundamental financial risk to Sharapova’s endorsement career. For years, she was the highest-paid female athlete in the world. Forbes said she made $29.7 million in the 12 months ending June 2015. That’s more than the WADA’s 2016 annual budget, about $26 million.

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

The endorsement angle is almost surely why Sharapova tried Wednesday to get in front of the story — a statement went up on her Facebook page literally within minutes of the ruling itself being made public — and why she is making it seem like she is the aggrieved party at the hands of a bunch of suits interpreting the anti-doping rules.

The challenge for Sharapova is akin to the situation facing the-then Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant after events in Colorado in 2003: how long, like Bryant and “Colorado,” before she gets reported about without the word “meldonium”?

The key issue at hand for WADA, the International Olympic Committee, the ITF and every other Olympic sports federation is to divine the common-sense meanings of the words “mistake” and “intent.”

Some background, according to Wednesday’s ruling:

Sharapova started started using meldonium late in her teens, prescribed the stuff by Dr. Anatoly Skalny of the Center for Biotic Medicine in Moscow.

Skalny put her on meldonium, which also goes by the brand name “mildronate,” among 17 other substances.

That’s not a typo: in all, 18.

Meldonium is a blood-flow drug. Its primary use is in addressing cardiovascular disease.

The scientific literature is filled with studies showing that it is good for — in the Eastern European vernacular — “sportsmen,” meaning big-time athletes. As a study from a 2012 “Baltic Sport Science Conference” notes, it “increases endurance properties and aerobic capabilities of athletes.”

Just a quick science note, as the ITF-appointed panel explained, reviewing the evidence of WADA’s senior science director, Olivier Rabin:

Meldonium works at the cell level. It inhibits the synthesis of a substance called “carnitine.” When that happens, the cells switch to generating energy from glucose, meaning blood sugar, instead of fat. That requires less oxygen to produce the same amount of energy.

By March 2010, according to the ITF ruling, Sharapova was up to 30 substances, including meldonium.

She began to consider 30 “overwhelming.” So at the end of 2012 she dropped Skalny. But she kept taking meldonium and two more substances, magnerot and riboxin, from the list of 30.

Did she tell the nutritionist she then hired that she was taking meldonium plus two? No.

From the start of 2013, with the exception of one 2015 visit with a Russian Olympic team doctor, did she tell any “medical practitioner” that she was taking meldonium? No.

Did she take meldonium on match days, typically 500 milligrams, in tournaments? For sure.

How many times did she take meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open? Five. Before each match.

How many times, for instance, at Wimbledon in 2015? Six.

Is there even one document after 2010 in her player records that “relates to her use of meldonium”? No.

Did she disclose its use to the anti-doping authorities on any of the forms she signed from 2014 to 2016? No.

Her coach, trainer, physio, nutritionist, WTA doctors that she consulted — did any of them know she was using? No.

Who knew?

Two people: her father and her manager since 1999, Max Eisenbud, a vice president at IMG.

This is where the story goes from the sublime to the absurd.

In a business generating the likes of $29 million in a calendar year, you would think that Sharapova would have assigned to someone two responsibilities: knowing what was on the WADA list and making sure she was in complete compliance.

As the panel put it, this is the “underlying factual puzzle.”

Eisenbud’s explanation for not reviewing the 2016 WADA prohibited list, and it should be observed that the panel notes "the evident implausibility of his account," calling the evidence he put forward "wholly incredible."

In 2015, he “separated from his wife, did not take his annual vacation in the Caribbean,” where he was in the habit of checking the list, ”and due to the issues in his personal life failed to review the 2016 prohibited list.”

In his testimony, Eisbenbud further said he had “no training” that would lead him to understand what was, and not, on the list. He also “professed not to have the basic understanding,” which every athlete subject to the WADA code is charged with, “of how the list works.”

As the panel notes, he did not explain why, among other matters, “it was necessary to take a file to the Caribbean to read by the pool when one email could have provided the answer.”

The panel, again: “The idea that a professional manager, entrusted by IMG with the management of one of its leading global stars, would so casually and ineptly have checked whether his player was complying with the anti-doping program, a matter critical to the player’s professional career and her commercial success, is unbelievable. The tribunal rejects Mr. Eisenbud’s evidence.”

As for Sharapova’s use of meldonium, it says:

“The manner of its use, on match days and when undertaking intensive training, is only consistent with an intention to boost her energy levels.”


“The facts are consistent with a deliberate decision to keep secret from the anti-doping authorities the fact that she was using mildronate in competition.”

The conclusion: “… she took mildronate for the purpose of enhancing her performance.”

In the pre-2015 WADA code days, Sharapova would have gotten two years. Bam. Thank you.

Now, the penalty is four years unless an athlete can show she did not intend to cheat. That can cut you a break.

In the same manner that President Clinton’s conduct prompted an assessment of what the word “is” is, the issue before the ITF panel broke down to what “intent” means amid a conclusion she took the stuff to enhance her performance.

“If the player was genuinely mistaken as to the rules,” the ruling asserts at paragraph 70 of 104, “then she did not intend to cheat.”

Consider that for just a moment.

All anyone now would have to do is say, oops, I made a mistake?

If allowed to stand, this would make for a gaping hole in the rules.

Not a chance.

Here is the deal with an appeal, and while Sharapova can appeal, so can the ITF, WADA or the IOC.

In legal terms, such an appeal would be what’s called de novo. That’s a fancy term that means Take Two. In essence, everything starts from scratch.

That two-year ban? It absolutely could be reduced to something less.

At the same time, and especially given the assessment the ITF-appointed panel made in reviewing the conduct of Sharapova and her team — blunt, candid, harsh, pick your word — she is at considerable risk of seeing a suspension max out.

As ever, meantime, there are always two cases ongoing in any legal dispute — the one in court, and the one in the court of public opinion.

There’s a solid argument that it is spin that got Sharapova in the dilemma she’s in now. Which makes her reaction on Wednesday all the more curious.

It was on March 7 that Sharapova, at a hastily called Los Angeles news conference, announced she had failed the Australian Open drug test. She sought to take responsibility. She said then that she had been taking meldonium for years for a variety of medical reasons.

Obviously, she was seeking not just to get ahead of the story but bidding to control the narrative.

What she almost surely did not count on was the meldonium deluge.

This year, more than 170 athletes, most Russians or Eastern Europeans, have been tagged for meldonium.

A number of meldonium-positive athletes have come out and said, more or less, I haven’t had any meldonium since taking some on, oh, New Year’s Eve.

Whether that is ridiculous or not:

If Sharapova had not admitted she was still using, she might well have put herself in that big New Year’s Eve meldonium boat.

Wait now to see the allegations from most or all of those athletes that the science of how long the stuff stays in your system is squishy.

For Sharapova, in this instance, getting out front got her, at least for now, a two-year time-out.

Continuing that strategy, however, this was her gambit Wednesday:

She put up on her Facebook page a note saying, among other things, “I intend to stand for what I believe is right and that’s why I will fight to be back on the tennis court as soon as possible,” signing it, “Love, Maria.”

An accompanying “short summary” purportedly prepared by “my lawyer” — she has two, so it’s not clear which — went after the doping results management process, saying Sharapova had “no input in the selection of the Tribunal which hears and decides her case, no say in how the hearing is conducted and no right to challenge the fairness of evidence admitted against her at the hearing.”

Say what?

Sharapova’s case included testimony from herself; Eisenbud; Skalny; coach Sven Groeneveld; and, as well, from two experts, Dr. Ford Vox, who reviewed Skalny’s “diagnosis and treatment,” and Richard Ings, a former chairman of the Australian anti-doping authority.

The hearing absolutely provided for cross-examination, including of Sharapova herself.

Documents, too: at the hearing, it was confirmed that Sharapova disclosed each and every document in her possession related to the use of meldonium from 2013 until Jan. 26, 2016.

She was afforded, in every regard, the process due her.

One final note:

Sharapova even argued that “any period of ineligibility” would “disproportionately affect” her, causing “a very substantial loss of earnings and sponsorships, exclusion from the 2016 Olympics and irreparable damage to her reputation.”

As if. That’s the risk you run when you don’t pay attention to the rules. No matter what you may, or may not, “intend.”

Toronto out, is U.S. in for 2024?

The 24/7 Olympic news cycle is consumed right now, and understandably, with security issues for the forthcoming Winter Games in Sochi. Then, too, there are the construction woes over the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, where the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, is paying a visit this week. You had to be tuned in very, very carefully to hear the bolt that came Monday from Canada — even though it carries huge implications not just for the United States but for the race for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Toronto will not bid for the 2024 Games, its chance of winning “next to none,” councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam told the city’s economic development committee.

Without Toronto in the race, the coast would now seem to be clear for a U.S. bid.

Meanwhile, in a development that absolutely should raise screaming alarms that ought to go viral at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, not even one person showed up Monday at Toronto City Hall to try to persuade the economic development committee to support a 2024 bid.

This from a city that is due to stage the 2015 Pan-American Games. Such a regional event typically is a precursor to an Olympic campaign.

Toronto bid for the 2008 Games, finishing second, behind Beijing. It tried for 1996 as well, coming in behind Atlanta and Athens.

Vancouver, of course, played host to the 2010 Winter Games. Calgary staged the 1988 Winter Games, Montreal the 1976 Summer Olympics.

The Toronto move Monday follows rejections last year by voters in Munich and St. Moritz, Switzerland, of 2022 Winter Games bids. In early 2012, Rome dropped out of bidding for the 2020 Summer Games. Common threads: financial worries and unfavorable perceptions of the IOC itself.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said a possible Olympic bid could end up costing $45 million. That figure would almost assuredly be low, given what Istanbul and Tokyo are believed to have spent on the 2020 campaign, won by Tokyo in September. Madrid, a third entry for 2020, spent far less.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is currently going through a roster of potential cities — San Francisco and Los Angeles are believed to be among leading possibilities — with an eye toward announcing later this year whether it is, in fact, going to jump in to the 2024 campaign.

Other possibilities that have been discussed for 2024: Paris; Rome; Doha, Qatar; and a South African candidate.

There are two schools of thought about an American entry for 2024.

— One, Bach and the IOC want the U.S. not only to bid but to win.

The rationale: it’s time.

The U.S. has not held a Summer Games since 1996. The U.S. provides significant financial underpinning to the movement, including but not limited to NBC’s $4.38 billion investment in televising the Games to an American audience through 2020. The USOC and IOC have had their differences over the years, including over certain revenue and marketing shares, but those differences have now been patched up.

USOC chairman Larry Probst, now an IOC member, and chief executive Scott Blackmun have for the past four years assiduously worked hard at the relationship business so key to winning IOC votes. Finally, Bach was elected IOC president last September, replacing Jacques Rogge of Belgium, who served 12 years; Bach understands the import of having a U.S. Games at the earliest opportunity.

— Two, Bach and the IOC for sure want the U.S. to bid. Any American city automatically would make the 2024 race better. But does the IOC really, truly want the Americans to win?

This is the gut question. This is what the USOC is trying to figure out. Because the USOC gets in on one condition only — it expects victory.

Nothing in life is certain. Olympic bid races are by definition unpredictable. But the USOC can not afford another debacle like New York 2012 or Chicago 2016.

Simply put, from an American perspective, for 2024 the U.S. must win.

And, for as much progress as Probst and Blackmun have made over the years, and for all the right signals that are being sent, it’s still a hugely difficult call and the environment is yet enormously layered and complex.

Here, for instance, is one constructive signal:

In 2015, the 204-member Assn. of National Olympic Committees, led by the influential Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait, is due to hold its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Why Washington? Among other reasons, to prove to the three or four dozen IOC members expected to attend that entry in and out of the United States, and not just the United States but the capital itself, can be effected easily and graciously — always a stumbling block to any U.S. bid.

There is yet a ways to go. In recent weeks, two high-profile Olympic visitors have flown into the United States. Both, at very different airports, waited in long, long lines at passport control.

Any American bid, meanwhile, is bound to face an array of lingering issues.

The United States right now has about 450 people giving of their time and energy worldwide in the Olympic movement. Numbers-wise, that’s huge — maybe more than any other country anywhere. The challenge is that for all those numbers, for all that energy, the United States is still struggling to find influence that matters.

The U.S. now counts zero — repeat, zero — presidents of Olympics international sports federations.

On another front, the U.S. was recently awarded the international volleyball FIVB women’s Grand Prix in 2015, in Omaha, Nebraska. Next year, too, Houston will play host to the international weightlifting federation championships.

The USOC is working to attract more such events. But there’s sound reason there’s a perception the U.S. has not done its part in putting on such key championships. Outside of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 and Atlanta in 1996, that Omaha Grand Prix will be the very first major FIVB event the United States has ever staged.

Another perception is that Olympic sport in the United States is an every-two-year kind-of deal — with the rest of the time Americans seeming to care mostly about the four professional sports leagues. In Europe, by contrast, you can see all manner of Olympic sports on TV seemingly every day of the week.

Then there is the political challenge.

Why, again, is that 2015 meeting in Washington?

Perhaps to show the rest of the world strong national support is, indeed, possible.

The American Olympic system is set up differently than everywhere else. Around the world, Olympic sport is largely run by — and funded by — each country's national government. In the United States, by formal act of Congress, the USOC must be self-supporting — not a dime from the federal government.

This has led some to believe there is little interest in Washington in Olympic sport. Compounding this perception in recent weeks: President Obama’s decision to send to Sochi a delegation that includes no senior political figures but does include Billie Jean King, in a pointed commentary obviously aimed at Russia’s law on gay “propaganda” purportedly designed to protect minors.

In the IOC, memories can run long. Every single vote counts.

Certainly, it is well-remembered that President Obama lobbied the IOC on behalf of Chicago’s 2016 bid. It is also remembered that his security detail kept the IOC members waiting.

The IOC will vote for the 2024 site in 2017. By then, President Obama will be out of office.

Just to play politics, Olympic and U.S. presidential, for a moment: When she was First Lady, Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic frontrunner for 2016, led the U.S. delegation to the 1994 Lillehammer Games. President and Mrs. Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the Atlanta Games in 1996.

The USOC — obviously — would never, ever bring up such a possibility. But anyone reading Time magazine this week — with the cover story, “Can Anyone Stop Hilary?” — can play simple deduction.

At any rate, the IOC, in a key part of the bid process, demands a financial guarantee. In virtually every other country, the national government steps up to provide that guarantee. In essence, that makes the bid — from wherever it is — a de facto national bid. The American system of federalism makes such a guarantee impossible.

A Los Angeles or San Francisco bid, as an example, would have to be guaranteed by the respective city and then, too, by the state of California — not by the federal government. Same goes for any city in any state.

That immediately positions the American candidate differently from the others in any Olympic bid campaign.

Chicago and New York sought different options to meet the guarantee.

The IOC was different then — voting in 2009 against Chicago (Rio won) and in 2005 away from New York (London won).

It is still three long years until 2017. Will it be different enough by then for an American city, whatever that city might be?

The hard part is trying to guess this year what the world is going to be like in 2017.

Truly, we don’t even know yet what it’s going to be like by February 23. That’s the day the Sochi Games come to an end. By then, we will all know then a good deal more about the world we live in.


The White House Sochi delegation

President Barack Obama 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500


Dear Mr. President:

It is with great respect for you and your office that I write this open letter.

I have covered the Olympic movement for 15 years. The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics will be my eighth Games.

I will remind you that in 1980, the last time the Olympic Games were in what is now the Russia, what was then the Soviet Union, the United States team did not go amid intense pressure from the White House. Today, Mr. President, the official U.S. delegation to the Sochi Games that you have announced does not include yourself, the First Lady, the vice president nor any member of your cabinet.

Billie Jean King in New York last month at a 70th birthday party // photo Getty Images

This marks the first Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Summer Games that the president, vice president or a former president will not be a member of the American delegation for the opening ceremony. A White House statement said your schedule simply doesn’t allow your to travel to Sochi.

Throughout the 1990s, it was typical for First Ladies to lead the American delegations. In 1996, of course, President Clinton led the U.S. delegation at the Atlanta Summer Games.

Again with respect, Mr. President, what you have done today is disrespected the Russians — and in particular the Russian president, Vladimir Putin — big time.

Mr. Putin has for years taken a personal interest in the Sochi project. He even came to the International Olympic Committee’s all-members assembly in Guatemala in 2007, at which Sochi won the 2014 Games, to lead its campaign. When Mr. Putin became president again for the third time on May 7, 2012, his very first meeting that day was with the-then IOC president, Jacques Rogge.

To be obvious: Sochi matters, a lot, to Mr. Putin.

And Mr. Putin is a very big deal within the Olympic movement. The Russians are spending at least $51 billion to transform Sochi from a Black Sea summer resort to a Winter Games destination. That’s at least $10 billion more than the Chinese spent in 2008 for Beijing, and Beijing was a Summer Olympics. For $51 billion, you get a lot of attention.

Mr. President, you have also sparked potential problems for the athletes on the U.S. team and, looking ahead, for the possibility of an American bid for the 2024 Summer Games, because in this matter of protocol you have also made clear your disregard for the International Olympic Committee.

All of this in the name of politics.

If we’re being straight with each other, this centers in some measure around the new Russian anti-gay law. That’s why you’re sending an icon like Billie Jean King as part of the official U.S. delegation. It’s why a White House spokesman said the delegation, headed by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, now president of the University of California system, “represents the diversity that is the United States.”

Also, too, it assuredly has to do with leverage. You want it. There are complex geopolitics at issue, like your relationship with Mr. Putin, the interplay with the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and other matters that we, who do not have access to the daily White House security briefings, have no idea about.

Mr. President, you are a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. You know full well the Olympics are a time when nations are supposed to give politics a rest, if only briefly.

You know, too, that sport has the power to bring people together. Just a few days ago, you were in South Africa, at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, who understood that ideal perhaps better than anyone in our time.

You flew to South Africa aboard Air Force one with former President President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Obama, sir, if you were looking to make a statement about “the diversity that is the United States,” why not send Mr. Bush and Mrs. Clinton to Russia as your delegation leaders? Both are Olympic delegation veterans — Mr. Bush in 2008, Mrs. Clinton as First Lady in 1994 and 1996 — and that would have sent a very different signal of respect, indeed.

These things matter.

Instead, what you have also signaled — and this is unpleasant to acknowledge — is that, frankly, you don’t respect the American athletes themselves. The statement you’re making to them, loud and clear, is that they’re not important enough for you to step above politics.

Thinking this through to its logical conclusion, sir:

Compare your action Tuesday with President Bush, who cheerfully demonstrated his unity with American athletes in 2002 by literally sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with them in the stands at the opening ceremony in Salt Lake. You have put politics ahead of the athletes in a way that could potentially compromise the U.S. team’s success in 2014 if the Russians take the next steps. What might those steps be? This is not difficult. The Winter Olympics involve a multitude of judged sports. (Think back to the ice-skating controversy in 2002.) Moreover, any Winter Olympics involves transport issues. (It’s a long way up a winding road from the ice cluster in Adler to the snow cluster in Krasnaya Polyana.)

Things have a funny way of happening on snow and ice, Mr. President. It can get slippery.

Is your busy schedule — or, indeed, the First Lady’s — payback for Chicago’s first-round exit in 2009 for the IOC voting for the 2016 Summer Games? Rio de Janeiro won that day. It was historic; you were the first sitting U.S. president to ever appear before the IOC, at the general session in Copenhagen. Yet most of what the IOC members remember about you being there has nothing to do with your fine speech, or even the First Lady’s, for she was there, too. It was the Secret Service sweep and the delay it caused them in getting to their seats.

If that seems petty to some — what about this now?

If the fact that the U.S. Olympic Committee is weighing a bid for the 2024 Games is not foremost on your agenda, be sure that it is high on the IOC's list. The new IOC president, Thomas Bach, and his key advisers, are keenly seeking a U.S. bid. But the USOC is willing to jump in only if it has a high likelihood of winning, because Olympic bids in recent years have run to $50 million and more.

The IOC will pick the 2024 site in the summer of 2017. By then, you will be out of office.

Even so, within the IOC memories run long. And in 2015, three or four dozen IOC members, maybe more, are due in Washington, D.C., for a key assembly, a meeting of the 204-member Assn. of National Olympic Committees.

There they will be reminded vividly that you are there. And that in 2014 you threw this in their face.

All in the name of gay rights? Some of us may see gay marriage as a civil rights measure, Mr. President. But if you were to look at this from afar, it’s still the case that only 16 states and Washington, D.C., permit gay marriage. That’s not exactly a majority.

This controversial Russian law passed the Duma, their lower house, by a vote of 436-0. We can disagree with the measure, but there can be no question about the numbers.

Which begs the question: who are we Americans to be using the Olympics to lecture the Russians about how to run their country? To be sending Billie Jean King over as a symbol of — what? The purported progressiveness of our society or our moral superiority? Isn’t that presumptuous or, worse, arrogant?

After Sochi, are you planning to send Billie Jean King next to states such as Ohio (which you won in 2012), Virginia (ditto) and Colorado (same) to lobby for gay marriage? It’s banned there now in all three. And Colorado is home to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

How would we like it if the Russians — or, for that matter, anyone — came over here and told us what to do? Would we welcome their advice on matters such as the death penalty, which virtually every nation in western Europe now considers morally abhorrent? (Should that be an automatic disqualifier for a U.S. 2024 Summer bid? Or just disqualify, say, Texas?) What about our laws regarding assault rifles? Or legalized marijuana? And on and on.

Mr. President, the concept of American exceptionalism is not altogether popular around the world. But it’s often the case that we Americans are indeed held to a different standard. Here, you should have gone in a different direction in deciding who was, and was not, going to Sochi in the official White House delegation.

Too, you should have made this decision sooner. It was announced Sunday that France’s president, François Hollande, would not be going to Sochi.

Surely, sir, you were not taking your lead from the French?



Alan Abrahamson

3 Wire Sports

Los Angeles, California