Steph Curry

Guilt by association is not cool

2016-06-21-Olympic-Summit-thumbnail.jpg

When Brock Turner was convicted of sexual assault, were the other swimmers on the Stanford men’s swim team sentenced to jail, too?

When Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5 of the just-concluded NBA Finals, were Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and their other Golden State Warriors teammates told to sit out, too?

On Monday, the Somali track coach Jama Aden was arrested in Spain after police raided his hotel room near Barcelona and, Associated Press reported, found traces of the blood-booster EPO and other banned substances. He coaches, among others, the Ethiopian star Genzebe Dibaba, the women’s 1500 world-record holder; London 2012 London men’s 1500 champ Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria; and Beijing 800 men’s silver medalist Ismael Ahmed Ismael of Sudan. Should each or all of them be held out of the Rio Olympics? Or everyone on the Ethiopian, Algerian and Sudanese teams?

These examples — and there are many, many more — underscore the complexities of the legal, ethical and moral dilemmas now on the table amid the scandal sparked by allegations of state-sponsored or -sanctioned doping in Russia.

The scene at Tuesday's IOC "summit" // IOC

What about double Olympic champ Mo Farah, the British distance star? As the running-themed website Let's Run points out, he has a documented relationship of some sort with Aden. What is Farah guilty of? Anything?

These examples also make clear why the International Olympic Committee did what it did Tuesday in declaring, in a key clause, that every international sports federation “should take a decision on the eligibility of … athletes on an individual basis to ensure a level playing field in their sport.”

Everything else — everything — is just noise.

Or, maybe worse, piggy-backing for political advantage or leverage.

Last Friday, track and field’s international governing body, announced — to great self-congratulation — that it intended to sustain the ban on the Russians imposed months ago. In response, Russian president Vladimir Putin countered with this:

“Responsibility must always be individual and those who have no connection with these violations should not suffer.

“We ourselves are outraged when we’re faced with doping problems and we work to ensure that those guilty are punished. But the clean athletes, as they say, why should they suffer? I really don’t understand.”

At Tuesday's IOC meeting, Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said, “We consider it unfair on the vast majority of our athletes who have never doped and have not violated any rules. They will be punished for the sins of others.”

Zhukov also said, “Banning clean athletes from the Rio Olympic Games contradicts the values of the Olympic movement and violates the principles of the Olympic charter. It is also legally indefensible and devalues their competitors’ success.”

In a preface to the new novel, The Idealist, by the American George Hirthler about Pierre de Coubertin, widely credited with being the founder of the modern Olympic movement, the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach writes that the book “reminds us of the soaring idealism that motivated one relentless aristocrat to create a celebration of humanity the entire world could embrace.”

That’s not, for emphasis, the entire world except for the Russian track and field team.

— A THREE-ACT PLAY —

If the prelude to this geopolitical play with multiple dimensions was the imposition of the ban, Act One amounted to that IAAF meeting last Friday, in Vienna. Afterward, IAAF leaders promoted the notion that the federation's move amounted to an act of great courage. That is nonsense. It was political expediency. IAAF president Seb Coe did what he had to do — make it look like the IAAF had some backbone, which got the baying hounds of the press off his back, at least for a moment. All the while, the IOC kicked the decision upstairs, if you will, to the IOC.

Act Two: Tuesday’s IOC decision amid a so-called “summit” in Lausanne, Switzerland. It opens the door, the IOC emphasizing that any Russian who competes would be there as, you know, a Russian, not wearing the virginal white of some Olympic “neutral.”

Act Three: the rounds of forthcoming litigation, presumably before the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe at news conference last Friday in Vienna // Getty Images

To be clear, the allegations involving the Russians are dead serious.

And the intensity of the matter is all the more likely to ratchet up even higher next month, when a World Anti-Doping Agency-appointed commission led by the Canadian expert Richard McLaren releases a report into allegations of state action in connection with results from the Moscow lab.

McLaren has already reported a “preliminary finding” of “sufficient corroborated evidence to confirm … a mandatory state-directed manipulation” of results at the lab from 2011 through the world track and field championships in Moscow in 2013.

Systemic cheating is as bad as it gets.

Anyone proven to have cheated justifiably deserves sanction.

But, and this is the big but, right now what we have are allegations, not adjudicated proof.

Damning allegations, for sure. But, still — allegations.

Sanction rooted in allegation, not tried proof, is mob justice, fundamentally flawed. It's shameful. And on the wrong side of history.

What we also have is that worst of all situations: officials trying to make reasoned, calm decisions when time is short, the shouting from the media and from online trolls is intense and politicians of all sort are weighing in.

The Rio Olympics start August 5. That’s not anywhere near enough time to sort all this out.

In theory and in practice, too, some number of Russians may well be dirty. Some may be clean. But proving that you are “clean” is itself problematic if not impossible because, as the Americans Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong made abundantly clear, you can pass hundreds of tests and still be juicing to the max.

As the IOC noted Tuesday, the presumption of innocence from Russia and Kenya, in particular, where the national anti-doping agencies have been deemed non-compliant, has been “put seriously into question.”

Still, without direct or circumstantial proof that is tested by cross-examination and that rises to the level of a preponderance of the evidence if not more, in the instance of each and every individual athlete, it is very difficult — for emphasis, very difficult — to make the case that he or she, or for that matter an entire team, ought to be banned.

— OTHER BANS ARE NOT THE SAME —

Other bans in sport, even in Olympic sport, simply are not on-point.

For sure, if one runner on a medal-winning relay team gets busted, the entire relay squad is apt to lose those medals. But that doesn’t mean that a javelin thrower loses hers, too.

Why not? Because, obviously, the javelin thrower can’t be held to answer for the conduct of others.

Two real-life on-point examples:

The American sprinter Tyson Gay admits to doping. The U.S. team’s London 2012 4x100 relay medal? Oops. But does that mean that, for instance, the bronze medal that Justin Gatlin won in the men’s open 100 should be stripped? Of course not. Or that the entire U.S. track and field team ought to be DQ’d? Of course not.

If it turns out that Jamaica’s Nesta Carter really did test positive, as news reports have suggested, that might well mean the return of the Jamaican men’s 4x1 gold medal from Beijing 2008. But should Usain Bolt turn back his other five Olympic medals as well? Should he be banned by association from Rio 2016?

Yes, in weightlifting, bans can be applied to an entire squad. (See: Bulgaria.) But — and this is the big condition — only after a series of escalating, and well-known, preconditions are first met.

In the United States, it is true, the NCAA can impose, say, a post-season ban or strip scholarships for the infraction of a single athlete. But the team still gets to play, at least the regular season. (See: USC.) The lesson of the SMU football team from the 1980s has made plain the institutional distaste for the so-called "death penalty" — which in the case of most Olympic athletes is essentially what a ban from the every-four-years Summer Games would amount to. Beyond which, there is this key distinction: Olympic athletes are professionals, not college "amateurs."

So why the hue and cry, particularly in the United States, Britain and Germany, to ban the entire Russian track and field team?

Because it’s Russia, man.

It’s that simple.

And that profound.

Elementally, many people in the west simply do not like Putin. Probably, they fear the man.

“The overwhelming consensus among American political and national security leaders has held that Putin is a pariah who disregards human rights and has violated international norms in seeking to regain influence and territory in the former Soviet bloc,” the Washington Post wrote in a recent report on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s financial ties to Russia.

Is that purported American standard the measure by which Putin ought to be judged? Within Russia, he seems awfully popular. There, for instance, the action in Crimea is widely hailed as the righting of a historical wrong.

To believe that this isn’t in many influential quarters all about Putin, in some fashion, is to beg credulity. The New York Times, for instance, is on something of a crusade about the Russians. Of the several stories it published after last Friday’s IAAF ruling, a featured column started out this way, “So the bear will be left to wander the athletic wilderness this August.”

The “bear”? What, are we back in the Cold War? Should we expect to see more of Boris and Natasha as part of a retro promotion of the 1960s hit cartoon, "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show"?

The Times is so bent on its perspective that it took until the 10th and 11th paragraphs of the story about Tuesday’s IOC action to get to the point, sort of — the concept of individual scrutiny.

Associated Press? First paragraph, appropriately: “Some Russian track and field athletes could be competing under their own flag at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics after all.”

This matters because, for all the changes affecting daily journalism, the Times still tends to set the tone for a great many people. Especially in Washington.

On Monday, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee sent a seven-page letter to WADA president Craig Reedie demanding answers to all sorts of questions involving the agency and the Russians.

Current and former WADA presidents: Craig Reedie, left, and Dick Pound // Getty Images

Putin, whatever you may think of him, does not typically spend his time telling Americans how America should be run. Yet in the sport sphere the United States keeps trying to impose itself on him, and Russia — Democrats and Republicans alike, President Obama making a political statement in the choice of his delegation to the Sochi 2014 Games and, now, this letter from the Republican-led Senate.

This is the same committee, by the way, that used to be run by Arizona Republican John McCain, who every now and then finds international sport a compelling vehicle by which to try to score domestic political points. Now it’s overseen by John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota.

If you don’t think it’s exceedingly likely that McCain (standing or re-election in November) and, for that matter, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart had some influence over the sending of that letter, then — to quote from the 1980 movie classic “Airplane” — you picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue.

The purported rationale for the letter is that, since 2003, the U.S. government has provided $25 million to help fund WADA.

For fiscal 2016, per WADA accounting, the United States contributed $2.05 million.

How you view that $2.05 million depends, as ever, on your point of view.

No question, $2.05 million marked the largest contribution from any government anywhere in the world to WADA’s budget, about $26 million. All of Africa contributed $27,888. Jamaica, among the Americans’ top rivals in track and field, ponied up all of $4,638.

Britain put up $772,326. Germany: $772,326. Russia: the exact same number, $772,326.

For a different comparison: the 2016 U.S. federal budget spells out expenditures of roughly $3.54 trillion. Not billion, trillion.

Let’s not make the math too complicated: $2 million equals 0.000002 trillion.

The Senate can’t take gun-control action even in the aftermath of 49 murdered at a gay bar in Orlando but finds it worthwhile to expend time and resource chasing answers in connection with an enterprise worth a barely-there fraction of the 2016 federal budget?

Here it is worth recalling what Bach said upon the opening of the Sochi Games, in an indirect but obvious reference to Obama, “People have a very good understanding of what it really means to single out the Olympic Games to make an ostentatious gesture which allegedly costs nothing but produces international headlines.”

— "... THIS NEEDS A FULL REVIEW" —

At the same time, it should be noted that Putin has used sport as an instrument of soft power — that is, to assert Russian standing in the international community and, probably even more importantly, at home.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and IOC president Thomas Bach at the closing ceremony in 2014 in Sochi // Getty Images

The Russians spent a reported $51 billion on the 2014 Sochi Games. The track and field championships in 2013, the swim championships in 2015 in Kazan, soccer’s World Cup in 2018 and more — under Putin, Russia is indisputably one of the most influential destinations, and Putin himself one of the most important personalities, in world sport.

There are more than 200 national Olympic committees across the world. The U.S. Olympic Committee funds itself. Everywhere else, sport is typically an arm of the federal government, often its own ministry.

Who wants to believe that Russia might be the only place in the entire world where there might be a connection, provable by the weight of the evidence, to state-sanctioned doping?

For the sake of argument: let’s say, hypothetically, the Kenyans have had a thing going on. As the IOC noted, the Kenyan and Russian national anti-doping agencies are non-compliant. Is it fair to boot all the Russians but let in all the Kenyans? On what theory?

Further: who is to say that cheating in a country like the United States on a grand scale, like that perpetrated by Jones and Armstrong, isn’t all the more serious than cheating — again, if proven — in Russia?

When it comes to the use of illicit performance-enhancing drugs, concepts of “free will” and “choice” may mean one thing in the west and quite another in a place like Russia, given different expectations of and experience with compliance when it comes to "suggestion" or otherwise.

Cheating, ladies and gentlemen and everyone in between, is part of the human condition. If we — the worldwide “we” — want to rein in doping in the Olympic movement, the constructive thing is not seven-page letters looking backward in pursuit of blame.

This is another significant component of what happened Tuesday at that IOC meeting — the forward-looking call for an “extraordinary” world conference on doping matters, in 2017.

No. 1 on the agenda ought to be how to make WADA truly independent. That’s going to take real money, way more than $26 million. Something on the order of 10 times more, as Reedie has said in suggesting that perhaps a fraction of the television revenues supporting Olympic sport ought to go toward the anti-doping campaign.

What's fundamentally at issue is the tension-laden relationship between sport and government, as well as the corollary, the subject that's super-boring until it explodes, like now, in scandal — governance. Sport wants to be autonomous. In every country but one, though, sport largely depends on government funding. Sometimes that money maybe comes with some very complicated strings.

As Bach said Tuesday, referring specifically to the anti-doping campaign in remarks that apply fully in the most general context, “It has to be more transparent. Everybody has to understand better who is doing what and who is responsible for what and this needs a full review.”

The incredible Aries Merritt, and more

IMG_5295.jpg

A dozen musings on track and field, on the 2024 Summer Games bid race and more:

1. At a news conference Friday in Eugene, Oregon, before Saturday’s line-up of events at the 42nd annual Prefontaine Classic, the question went out to Aries Merritt, the 2012 London men’s 110-meter hurdles champion who is also the world record-holder, 12.8 seconds, in the event: on a scale of one to 10, where did he fall?

Heading toward the U.S. Trials in a month and, presumably, beyond to the Rio 2016 Summer Games, Merritt has probably the most unbelievable, incredible, authentic story in track and field. He had a degenerative kidney condition. With almost no kidney function, he somehow won a bronze medal in the hurdles at the 2015 world championships. Thereafter, with his sister as the donor, he underwent a kidney transplant. It required not just one but two surgeries.

Aries Merritt showing off his kidney transplant scar at a pre-Pre news conference

So — one to 10? “Ten,” he said. Which means that the hurdles, always one of the best events at the track, figures to be that much better. And, America and beyond — get ready, via NBC and every outlet out there, for the Aries Merritt story. He deserves every bit of good publicity he gets.

2. With all due respect to the sainted Steve Prefontaine — no snark or sarcasm intended, only a full measure of respect — a significant chunk of the problem with track and field in the United States is Steve Prefontaine.

Every sport needs heroes. Not just legends.

The elements of the Prefontaine story have been well-chronicled: the U.S. records at virtually every middle- and long distance event, the fourth in the 5k at the Munich 1972 Games, his life cut short in a car crash at 24.

The legend of Prefontaine, and appropriately, has had a longstanding hold on the U.S. track and field imagination.

Steve Prefontaine racing in London in September 1972 // Getty Images

But imagine if, say, baseball was stuck in the Roberto Clemente era. Or the NBA fixated on Reggie Lewis, Len Bias, Malik Sealy or, for that matter, Drazen Petrovic. Or the NFL on Junior Seau and others.

One of the major challenges with track and field now is that there is no 2016 version of larger-than-life Prefontaine. No one is that guy (or that woman). Ashton Eaton could be and maybe should be. But who else? Merritt? It's anyone's guess.

Most Americans, asked to name a track and field star, will answer: Carl Lewis.

It has been roughly 20 years since Lewis made any noise on the track itself, more than 40 since Prefontaine was alive. Meanwhile, fourth-graders all around the 50 states can readily debate (pick one) Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, whether Derek Jeter was the best Yankee ever, whether they would start an NBA team with (pick one) LeBron James or Steph Curry.

Every sport, to repeat, needs heroes. Not just legends.

3. Earlier this year, the former 800-meter world champion Caster Semenya made even hardened track geeks go, whoa. She raced, and won, three events — on the same day — at the South African national championships, the women’s 400 (personal-best 50.74), 800 (1:58.45) and 1500 (4:10.93, outside Olympic qualifying time).

So much for the theory — oft-advanced by track freaks who never bother to, say, watch swimming — that a world-class athlete can’t race, and win, multiple events on the same day.

From start to finish, Semenya ran the three races in about four hours.

She went 1:58.26 to win the Doha Diamond League meet in early May, winning by nearly an entire second.

On Sunday, and she wasn’t even really going all out, Semenya ran 1:56.64 for the win at the first IAAF Diamond League meet in Africa, in Rabat, Morocco. She won by more than a full second.

For comparison: on Friday night, on Day One of the 2016 Prefontaine Classic at historic Hayward Field, American Alysia Montaño-Johnson won the women's 800 in 2:00.78.

 Caster Semenya of South Africa celebrates her May 6 victory in the women's 800 at the Doha Diamond League event // Getty Images

Semenya doesn’t deserve to do anything but get to run, and run as fast as possible. At the 2009 world championships in Berlin, she ran away with the 800, in a crazy-fast 1:55.45. Then it was disclosed that she had elevated testosterone levels. The gender testing — and, more, the shaming — that she endured thereafter proved unconscionable.

The rules are the rules. The rules say she can run in women’s events.

The real question is: what should be the rules?

Because it’s perhaps not that difficult to explain why Semenya is — after silvers in the 800 at the 2011 worlds and 2012 Olympics and then injuries and subpar performances since — running so fast again now.

It’s all about testosterone levels.

Because of Semenya, track and field’s international governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, as well as the International Olympic Committee, put in place a new policy: you could run in women’s events if your testosterone levels fell under a threshold of 10 nanomoles (that’s what it’s called) per liter. In scientific jargon: 10 nmo/L.

Context: as the South African scientist and writer Ross Tucker points out in a brilliant Q&A on what is called “hyperandrogenism” with the activist Joanna Harper, 99 percent of female athletes registered testosterone levels below 3.08 nmo/L.

From the science department, part I: “hyper” is science talk for what in ordinary speech might be described as “way, way more.” The primary and probably most well-known “androgen” is testosterone.

Part II, simple math: the upper limit of 10 is more than three times higher than for 99 in 100 women.

Last year, in a decision that pleased human rights advocates but left knowledgable track observers puzzled (to say the least), sport’s top court, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, ruling in the case of sprinter Dutee Chand from India, said the IAAF (and IOC) could no longer enforce the testosterone limit.

In real life, and particularly as we look toward Rio, this means what?

The IAAF and IOC are trying to come up with a new policy.

In the meantime, Semenya, “plus a few others,” as Tucker writes, “have no restriction.” The erasure of the limit has “utterly transformed Semenya from an athlete who was struggling to run 2:01 to someone who is tactically running 1:56," Tucker goes on to say, adding, "My impression, having seen her live and now in the Diamond League, is that she could run 1:52, and if she wanted to, would run a low 48-second 400 meters and win that gold in Rio. too.”

He also writes that Semenya is “the unfortunate face of what is going to be a massive controversy in Rio” — my words here, not his, about who is a “female” and gets to run in “women’s” events. He writes, "It won’t be any consolation to Semenya, [that] the media, frankly, have no idea how to deal with this – nobody wants it to be about the athlete, and it certainly is not her fault.  However, it is a debate we must have, and I want to try to have it from the biological, sporting perspective, and steer clear of the minority bullying that so often punctuates these matters.”

Tucker is right. The debate — calm voices only, please — needs to be held, and in short order.

4. UCLA, per a report first from ESPN, landed the biggest college sports apparel deal ever, with Under Armour. Terms: 15 years, beginning in July 2017. The deal is believed to be worth $280 million.

Biggest-ever is likely to be relative, depending on what comes next.

Because, in recent months:

Michigan, 11 years (option to extend to 15), Nike, $169 million,

Texas, 15 years, Nike $250 million.

Ohio State, 15 years, Nike, $252 million.

Boosters of these schools, and others, typically tend to react with glee at these sorts of numbers.

Rhetorical question, part I: why, when USA Track & Field chief executive officer Max Siegel scores a $500 million, 23-year deal with Nike, do some number of track fans bemoan Nike’s influence as a death star of sorts and claim the federation is verging on stupidity if not recklessness?

Rhetorical question, part II: how is it that dismissive claims about the USATF/Nike deal become gospel among the disaffected when track athletes actually get paid to run for a living but college athletes, as UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen noted in a Tweet that quickly got deleted, don’t — and likely won’t —get to see a dime of any of those millions?

Just a thought here: maybe Siegel was, you know, ahead of the power curve.

5. More on USATF, now on the dismissal this week per 11-1 vote of the federation’s board of directors of the Youth Executive Committee and its chairman, Lionel Leach:

Many, many things could be said here about Leach and the conduct that led to this action.

For now, this will suffice:

This is a movie whose ending we can all know, and now.

Why?

Because it’s a re-run.

What’s at issue, at the core, is a power struggle between the volunteers and professional staff.

Here’s news: the professional staff is going to win. As it should.

It used to be that the U.S. Olympic Committee found itself consumed by precisely this sort of petty, personalized politics. That changed when governance reforms became real; when the board empowered the chief executive to run the show; and when the chief executive proved professional and hugely competent (USOC: Scott Blackmun, USATF: Siegel).

It's a fact that USATF has a long and contentious history. But this is a fact, too: Siegel's first four years have shown dramatic, and consequential, improvement for the federation, and the sport.

6. Moving along, to an international sports federation president who also gets it, even if the IOC often doesn't want to admit so: Marius Vizer, president of the International Judo Federation.

Vizer, in advance of the start Friday of a major IJF event in Guadalajara, Mexico, spent about two hours doing a live Q&A on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/MariusVizer/status/736270089708703744

Imagine: actually doing exactly what the IOC says it wants to do, to reach out to young people in those ways, like Twitter, by which young people connect with each other.

Far too many federation presidents might have something resembling a panic attack at the thought of entertaining questions about whatever from whoever. Vizer, who has never had anything to hide and has consistently been a forceful voice for accountability and change (to the IOC's chagrin), made it plain: bring it on.

Indeed, Vizer ended by saying more such Q&A's would be forthcoming.

https://twitter.com/MariusVizer/status/736291453161246722

7. Switching to 2024 bid news:

If you might be tempted to look past those potentially significant developments related to the allegations of Russian doping — first, a potential U.S. Justice Department inquiry and, second, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart’s bombshell of an op-ed in the New York Times — it was otherwise a good week for the LA24 bid committee, at least for those things it could and can control.

Los Angeles, behind a bid headed by Casey Wasserman, who is also in charge of LA24, won the right to stage the 2021 Super Bowl.

Plus, a rail line from downtown to Santa Monica opened, to real excitement and big crowds. Roll that around in your head: LA. Rail. It’s real. Really.

8. Still a long way to go in the 2024 race, which the IOC will decide by secret ballot in September 2017 at a meeting in Lima, Peru. Three others are in the race: Paris, Rome, Budapest.

It’s a proven that what wins Olympic elections are, first, relationships, and two, telling a story that will move IOC members emotionally.

Right now, only two of the four are telling a real story: Los Angeles. And Budapest.

9. Turning to the 2020 Summer Games campaign, won by Tokyo:

The Japanese Olympic Committee announces a three-person investigation of allegations of bribery. This from the same place that brought you the burning of the Nagano 1998 books so as to avoid embarrassing the IOC.

Let’s all wish for really good luck in getting a genuine answer.

Why in the world would you need to send $2 million to Ian Tan Hong Han, a consultant based in Singapore, who is close friends with Papa Massata Diack, son of Lamine Diack, the then-president of the IAAF, when virtually no one in the Singapore international sports community knew of Han or his firm, Black Tidings?

Black Tidings had precisely what know-how to provide such high-level consultancy services?

More: those who were there for the Singapore 2010 Youth Games know there had to be external help when Singapore was bidding for YOG. Curious.

10. Russia uses sports as an instrument of what’s called “soft power,” meaning president Vladimir Putin has sought to use sports to project a Russian image of strength, not only abroad but, crucially, within Russia itself.

The United States, which under President Obama has clashed with the Kremlin over issues ranging from the disclosures of the activist Edward Snowden to the composition of the formal U.S. delegation to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, has if not unparalleled then at least significant resource available to its spy agencies.

How is it that Sochi 2014 lab director Gregoriy Rodchenkov could flee Russia and end up so quickly in the United States? No one in the American spy apparatus would want to embarrass the Russians, would they?

Again: just curious.

11. What a surprise! The London 2012 doping re-test positives became public on a Friday!

The numbers: 23 athletes from five sports and six countries, based on 265 re-tests

More numbers, 32 doping cases from London 2012, 57 for Beijing 2008. Previous high, according to IOC figures: 26, Athens 2004.

To reiterate a central point: you have to be frighteningly stupid to get caught doping at the Olympic Games themselves.

It’s one thing to be caught in no-notice, out-of-competition testing. But at the Games?

You know there are going to be drug tests. You know the samples are going to be kept in the freezer for (at least) 10 years to allow for advances in testing.

It has been said many times but is still worth repeating: failing a drug test at the Olympics is like failing an IQ test.

Stupid.

12. If you’re thinking of going to Rio, don’t. Sorry to say so but — don’t. Watch on TV.

The pictures will be beautiful and the only danger in overloading on TV is breathing in that funky orange-red Doritos powder.

In Brazil, meanwhile:

The case of the Spanish sailors getting held-up at gunpoint, lucky to escape with their lives, underscores the No. 1 challenge ahead of these Games. More than dirty water, or maybe even Zika, or presidential politics, or corruption scandals. More than anything. To compete, or to be at, the Games in Rio, you have to deal with life in Rio as it is. Maybe — maybe even probably — it will be fine. But one wrong misstep, even with no fault, and you might well find yourselves in a scene evoking Tom Wolfe’s 1987 masterpiece, “Bonfire of the Vanities.”

Who wants that? Be a master of your TV universe.