Prediction: the Russians will be at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, and as Russians.
Assertion: the Russians should be at the PC 2018 Games, and as Russians.
Rationale: the central principle of the Olympic movement is inclusion.
A first read of the communiqué issued over the weekend by the International Olympic Committee after president Thomas Bach's urgently taken meeting with Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov might well prompt the response, "Atlichna." That's Russian for "excellent." Indeed, in the statement, the IOC quotes Zhukov this way: "The Russian Olympic Committee is determined that the clean athletes should compete in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Anyone found guilty of using illegal drugs or anyone who facilitated or was complicit in their use must be punished.”
Max Cobb wrote this guest column, published now at 3 Wire Sports.
Cobb is the president and chief executive officer of US Biathlon Association and the chairman of the International Biathlon Union's Technical Committee. He served as the technical delegate for the Biathlon events at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. He has been a part of every Winter Games since 1992, including serving as biathlon competition chief at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Gone are the denials of a problem and gone are the accusations of a western plot to embarrass Russia. The leaders of sport in Russia recognize there is a problem and are eager to fix it so they can participate in the Olympic Games just nine months away.
But history and the very roots of this, arguably the largest-scale doping scandal ever uncovered, should give pause to those responsible for protecting the rights of clean athletes: the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
It is they who must carry out a full and independent investigation into doping in all sports in Russia, not just track and field. It is they who must identify and hold liable all athletes, coaches, and others who violated the World Anti-Doping Code.
The matter carries all the more import with the full WADA board meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to consider next steps.
Why not let the Russians do it themselves?
First of all, the Russians have had 16 years -- since the creation of WADA -- to put in place a successful anti-doping program. They failed. Is it reasonable to expect them to reform the system in just nine months?
Given the governmental funding structures and the level of involvement of the FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, in the Moscow lab, there seems little question that the conspiracy to dope athletes and protect them from anti-doping controls was known and condoned, if not ordered, by those responsible for leading sport in Russia. That includes the Russian Olympic Committee and the Russian Ministry of Sport.
Neither WADA nor the IOC should accept this effort by the ROC as anything but a thinly veiled attempt to find scapegoats and preserve the structure and positions of the very leaders who oversaw the creation of the largest and most sophisticated cheating syndicate ever to plague sport, one that evokes memories of the notorious East German regime of the 1970s.
Secondly, it is not just those "found guilty of using illegal drugs” who need to be punished.
It is all those found guilty of violating the WADA Code who need to be punished.
This includes those who evaded anti-doping controls.
Process can be, to say the least, boring. But in the legal world that surrounds the efforts to protect the rights of clean athletes, process is critical.
Whistleblowers within the Russian anti-doping agency, RUSADA, which serves all sports in Russia, have indicated that it was not just track and field athletes who were protected from anti-doping controls.
The scale of what was done, in the words of RUSADA staff member Vitaliy Stepanov, reached as well to “swimming, cycling, biathlon, athletics, weight lifting, nordic skiing.”
Not only that, but the WADA-appointed independent commission report, published last Monday, reported both that RUSADA doping control officers routinely informed athletes days ahead of time that they would have a “no-notice” out of competition test, and then did not properly supervise the collection of a sample.
That means, simply, that athletes were given the opportunity to provide a stored clean sample, effectively avoiding the doping test.
RUSADA also failed to enforce the required reporting of accurate athlete “whereabouts” information, a requirement for all athletes in order to ensure that they are always available for no-notice testing. Repeated failure to submit accurate whereabouts information can result in a ban.
In short, the evidence strongly suggests that those who were doping in Russia colluded with RUSADA and the WADA-accredited lab in Moscow to ensure they would not “be found guilty of using illegal drugs,” Zhukov’s measure of guilt.
But all signs indicate guilty they are of serious violations of the WADA code.
As has been said again and again over this last week, track and field is not the only sport with doping issues; WADA must investigate the other sports as well to identify all those who violated the Code.
Failure to do so calls into question WADA's relevance and resolve to protect clean athletes.
As has also been noted repeatedly since the publication of the commission report, doping is not just a serious problem in Russia.
But make no mistake:
The shocking essence of this scandal is not that there was doping.
It is that the doping was thoroughly integrated into the elite sport culture in Russia, in a coordinated effort to perpetrate a fraud that anti-doping tests were being rigorously carried out, all the while using the most advanced scientific methods to dope the very same athletes to maximum effect.
And contrary to what Russian sport minister Vitaly Mutko has said, this was not a choice made by individual athletes. This was a system that compelled the athletes to dope or lose support of the sport organization funding their training and competition.
The WADA commission’s report strongly suggested that the doping program was “state-supported.” That means the Russian government.
The report also found that the FSB infiltrated the WADA-accredited laboratory in Moscow where the anti-doping tests were carried out during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. That means the Russian government knew about the conspiracy to systematically dope Russian athletes and fraudulently cover it up.
There is no credible way that any Russian sport or government organization can properly and objectively investigate this enormous corruption scandal.
The IOC and WADA should recognize the huge job they have in front of them. They should remember their pledge to protect clean athletes and dig deep into their war-chests to set up the independent commission needed to assess and punish those who have violated the WADA code in Russia while at the same time giving Russia the "road map" for clean sport they have asked for.
When this is in place, everyone will say, atlichna.
Then it will be time to welcome the clean athletes from Russian to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio.
Track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, did what it had to do Friday in provisionally suspending Russia after shocking revelations of systemic, perhaps state-sponsored, doping.
The IAAF action followed by a few hours a step taken by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel. It, too, did what it had to do. Among other things, it found Russia non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.
What it all amounts to is this, the real story: a historic opportunity is now upon us, all of us, that may not come again quite some time, to get Russia — if you will — to behave, and stay behaving.
And not just in track and field. Across all sports.
To reiterate an important point: Russia is not inherently any better or worse than anywhere else. But when evidence emerges of a doping scheme that may well have been state-sanctioned, evoking memories of the notorious East German system in the 1970s, that’s a call to significant action. That was the take-away, loud and clear, in a report made public Monday by a WADA-appointed independent commission.
The twin messages that emerged amid Friday’s action were also manifest:
— One, there is recognition, admission, acknowledgement — use whatever term you want — from the Russians. None of this happens — hello, Mr. President Putin — without the Russians recognizing that, for real, they are up against it.
On Wednesday, Putin, ordering an investigation into the WADA-appointed report findings made public Monday, had said there ought to be “professional cooperation” with international anti-doping bodies.
His coded language makes plain: the Russians realize they have to play ball.
Again, after everything set out in Monday’s report, there is no other option, particularly with the 2018 FIFA World Cup yet to come. You’re naive if you don’t think emissaries further emphasized — at senior levels within the Russian sports and government infrastructure — that this was, indeed, the message.
Message received, the Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, telling the R-Sport news agency on Friday, "We're prepared for broad cooperation." He also said he has asked WADA president Craig Reedie to provide a "road map" Russia could follow.
All the other stuff Mutko is saying? Allegations that the IAAF concealed more than 150 doping cases, mostly from countries other than Russia? Maybe. The British anti-doping system held “zero value” and was “even worse” than Russia’s? Come on.
Look, within international politics at its keenest, which is indisputably what this is, face-saving can be an important skill.
— Two, and this is the challenge in front of WADA and the IAAF: how to push the Russians — hopefully, themselves — into putting new systems in place that can survive both the short and long term?
Of course there is going to be push-back.
Here, for instance, was Yelena Isinbayeva, the Russian pole-vault queen, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medalist:
“To ban innocent … athletes from competing in international events and [the] Olympic Games in Rio is not fair,” she wrote in a letter published on the Russian track federation website hours before the IAAF met via teleconference.
With all due respect, Isinbayeva’s logic proves too simple.
If one runner in a relay tests — and proves — dirty, everyone’s medals get taken away. The entire team has to deal with the sanction.
Same here, just on a systemic level.
Because this is, as the WADA panel’s report made plain, a systemic problem.
The clean athletes in Russia — a note on behalf of skeptics: assuming, indeed, there are any — ought now to be just as eager for change in the Russian track and field system as everyone anywhere else.
Otherwise, the clean Russians don’t get to take part in the world indoors, in March in Portland, Oregon, and in the Rio 2016 Olympics in August.
That ought to make for internal leverage.
The external leverage came Friday from the IAAF, which voted, 22-1, to provisionally suspend the Russian track and field federation.
It’s not clear who the sole holdout is. Talk about being on the wrong side of historic change.
An intriguing issue before Friday’s IAAF teleconference was whether the Russians would declare themselves unfit or, for a variety of political reasons, let the IAAF do it — which ended up being the course.
Make no mistake: the clear intent of the IAAF and WADA actions Friday, all around, is to give the Russians every opportunity to get things fixed, if not by Portland, then for sure by Rio.
As Mutko told Associated Press, “We may miss one or two competitions. But for athletes to miss the Olympics and world championships would be real stupidity.”
The full WADA board will meet Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, presumably to ratify what has already been done and then — prediction — deliver a study group on the notion, suddenly pushed by the International Olympic Committee, of an independent body that would be responsible not just for drug testing but sanctioning, too.
Observations: the last thing world sports needs is a new layer of structure. Give WADA significantly more means and commit to its authority. If you want someone independent to run the doping scene, that’s sensible. But look to WADA, already with 16 years experience.
WADA, for the record, already deserves significant congratulations.
It had the cajones to set up an independent commission in the first place; it fully authorized commission head Dick Pound and his two associates, Canadian law professor Richard MacLaren and German law enforcement official Guenter Younger, who along with staff proved relentless; and it had the will Friday to act decisively in finding Russia non-compliant.
You know who else deserves kudos?
Seb Coe, elected in August the IAAF president.
Coe has taken withering media heat this week, with many, particularly in the British press, suggesting he was — because he served for eight years as an IAAF vice president — part of the problem and thus neither can nor should be part of the solution.
There has been, and repeatedly, the suggestion that because Coe was vice president he must have known what the former IAAF president, Lamine Diack, who stepped down in August after 16 years, was up to. French investigators allege that Diack accepted more than $1 million in bribes to allow at least six Russian athletes to compete, including at the 2012 London Olympics.
Also under investigation are Diack’s legal adviser, Habib Cissé, and the former head of the IAAF anti-doping department, Gabriel Dollé.
The figure at the center of all this is probably one of Diack’s sons, Papa Massata Diack. Interesting how he has known in recent days to avoid France.
Ask yourself: would Coe really have been in the loop?
During 2011 and 2012, what was Coe’s focus? Yes, he was an IAAF vice president. At the same time, this is what he was really doing: he was running the London Olympics.
Further, there were — and are — four IAAF vice presidents.
What we know from French authorities is not complete. Nonetheless, the suggestion is that Diack was part of a conspiracy. The only way a conspiracy works is for those involved to keep it, you know, quiet. Do you think Diack called the four 2011-15 IAAF vice presidents — Coe, Ukraine’s Sergey Bubka, Qatar’s Dahlan al-Hamad and the American Bob Hersh — and said, hey, guess what I’m up to, fellas?
Further: French authorities interviewed Coe in recent days. Have they since said anything about Coe being a target of any sort? No.
A side note for those who intently follow USA Track & Field: Hersh was the senior IAAF vice president from 2011 until elections this past August. The USATF board opted last December not to re-nominate him for an IAAF role but to put in his place Stephanie Hightower — even though USATF membership, which typically knows next to nothing about international track, had voted overwhelmingly for Hersh.
Guess that USATF board decision is looking pretty good right about now.
At any rate, a 22-1 vote makes clear the IAAF council is in Coe’s corner.
In an IAAF statement, Frank Fredericks of Namibia, the former sprint star who is now chair of the IAAF athletes’ commission, said the council was “100 percent in support of President Coe and believe that he is the leader that our sport needs to instigate the necessary actions swiftly and strongly.”
A vote of 22-1, meantime, also spotlights a fact of life in international sport that came up time and again at a conference last week in New York sponsored by the Qatar-based International Center for Sport Security:
International sport is big business. Far too often, the governance structures in international sport have not caught up to that reality.
The focus for most now is on Russia, and whether the Russian track and field team will get to Rio. But if you’re paying attention:
The IAAF council, for example, currently stands at a full 27. That’s too many. It should be more like 15. That’s the number on, among others, the International Olympic Committee executive board, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s board of directors and the USATF board.
Further, if the IAAF was too often run by Diack and, before him, Italy’s Primo Nebiolo as expressions of autocratic power in word and action, now is the time for the IAAF to put in place a chief executive officer, and empower him or her to run the thing day to day.
Coe for sure seems to be paying attention, another reason he deserves to be cut some slack. In our 24/7 world, everyone seemingly wants answers now. But process and governance take time.
The IAAF statement announcing the 22-1 vote also included a note about what was called Coe’s “reform program,” Coe’s No. 2 at the London 2012 organizing committee, Paul Deighton, appointed to oversee a far-reaching review, to be carried out by Deloitte.
The plan is to feature, among other facets, a “forensic” accounting and, as well, the creation of an “integrity unit.” The unit, to be made up of a board and review panels, would oversee issues relating to anti-doping and more.
Coe, in the IAAF statement:
“Today we have been dealing with the failure of ARAF [the Russian track federation] and made the decision to provisionally suspend them, the toughest sanction we can apply at this time. But we discussed and agreed that the whole system has failed the athletes, not just in Russia, but around the world.
"This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated. To this end, the IAAF, WADA, the member federations and athletes need to look closely at ourselves, our cultures and our processes to identify where failures exist and be tough in our determination to fix them and rebuild trust in our sport. There can be no more important focus for our sport.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report that shines a long-overdue spotlight on Russian doping in track and field begs a question in Russian history. As Lenin himself wrote in the famous pamphlet published in 1902: what is to be done? At the same time, and though the report, released Monday, has little to nothing to do with the United States, a bit of political history from the American archives is worth noting, too. From the Watergate years: who knew what, and when?
Make no mistake.
On the surface, this report is about track and field.
This is about the intersection of sport and politics, indeed domestic and geopolitics at its highest, most complex, indeed most nuanced levels. Its roots are in the way countries can, and do, lean on sports to advance nationalistic agendas of all sorts.
The report is lengthy, more than 300 pages.
Much like the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s “Reasoned Decision” in the Lance Armstrong matter, made public in 2012, and for the same reason, it reads like a John le Carré spy novel.
That reason: it’s designed not just for insiders but for everyone.
The report is rich with Olympics 101, spelling out the acronym- and influence-rich scene, explaining who is who and what is what — for instance, on page 88, the helpful note that “stacking” means mixing oral steroids with injectable drugs.
In sum, this is what the report says:
— Corrupt state-funded agencies helped Russian athletes to dope and evade detection. These include the Russian athletics federation, which goes by the initials ARAF; the WADA-accredited testing laboratory in Moscow; and RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency.
— The successor to the KGB secret service, the FSB intelligence agency, oversaw the lab and embedded spies at the 2014 Sochi Games, according to witnesses.
— The Russian sports ministry exerted influence on the Moscow lab, issuing orders for athletes’ samples to be manipulated. There was a second, secret lab in Moscow; there, samples — blood and urine — would be pre-screened to identify clear ones for the WADA process.
— Finally, athletes would also get false identities to travel abroad to evade possible testing.
The first question in wondering what is to be done is to ask: if the scale of Russian doping was this monumental, evoking comparisons to the notorious East German regime in the 1970s, how did it take until now to get uncovered?
It’s not as if certain people didn’t at the least have strong suspicions. They just couldn’t prove anything.
You don’t just stroll into Russia and go, hey, I have some questions for you — buy you a coffee and we’ll chat?
The report makes manifestly plain the lengths to which athletes, coaches, trainers and more sought to evade the providing of answers.
Further, the international sports movement moves in English. Russia does not.
Beyond that, to secure proof you need either cooperation or, to use a word, leverage. That leverage usually means action from the public authorities, police and prosecutors, who can demand answers at the risk of jail time or financial ruin.
This is what’s happening in France, where Interpol, the international police agency, is based, and where Part II of all of this is due to drop later this year. Last week, the French authorities said they had put under criminal investigation Lamine Diack of Senegal, the former president of track’s international governing body, the IAAF, on suspicion of corruption and money laundering. At issue are allegations Diack accepted more than $1 million in bribes to allow at least six Russian athletes to compete, including at the London 2012 Olympics.
Also under investigation are Diack’s legal adviser, Habib Cisse, and the former head of the IAAF anti-doping department, Gabriel Dollé.
Sports agencies do not wield subpoena power. And those who seek to enforce the rules of fair play have not always found easy sledding.
WADA is now 16 years old. As Monday’s report notes, “WADA continues to face a recalcitrant attitude on the part of many stakeholders that it is merely a service provider and not a regulator.”
The report actually underscores a fundamental flaw in the way, big picture, international sports work. There typically is no check-and-balance within the system.
The only reliable check is good journalism, and kudos here to Hajo Seppelt and the team from the German broadcaster ARD for the documentary last year that led to the WADA-appointed commission, and this report.
Reality: far too often, Olympic and international sports officials treat journalists with that pair of favorites, skepticism and derision. This week’s international federations forum at the IOC base in Lausanne, Switzerland — closed to the press.
Maybe because far too many are afraid of — the truth? And having it reported?
Earlier this year, Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation and at the time of SportAccord, said at the SportAccord convention, referring to Diack, “I dedicate and I sacrifice my family for sport, I mean sacrifice in a way of dedication, and in my eyes [Diack is] a person who sacrifices sport for his family."
Quickly, many others in the so-called Olympic family turned on Vizer. He lost the SportAccord job.
Time has now seemingly proven him right. So why were so many in senior positions so uneasy at hearing what Vizer had to say? Why was he so ostracized?
And what else -- beyond FIFA -- might be out there?
At any rate, and moving on to the rocks-and-glass houses department for those who think doping in sports is a Russia-only problem:
Cheating is never going to go away. There will always be doping. That's human nature.
From the WADA-appointed report: “… in its considered view, Russia is not the only country, nor athletics the only sport, facing the problem of orchestrated doping in sport."
Just consider what the United States has been through in recent years: Marion Jones and BALCO, MLB’s steroid problem, Armstrong.
Here, though, is the key difference:
There is no federal sports ministry in the United States.
Dick Pound, the longtime Canadian IOC member and former WADA boss who headed the commission that produced Monday’s report, called what happened with regard to Russian track and field “state-supported.”
He said, “I don’t think there's any other possible conclusion. It may be a residue of the old Soviet Union system."
The report: “While written evidence of governmental involvement has not been produced, it would be naive in the extreme to conclude that activities on the scale discovered could have occurred without the explicit or tacit approval of Russian governmental authorities.”
This is where things get really interesting.
In the Olympic sphere, Russia is arguably the most important country in the world.
The short list why:
The $51 billion that went toward the 2014 Sochi Games. Hosting of the 2013 world track and field championships in Moscow, and the 2015 world swim championships in Kazan. The 2018 World Cup. The 2015 SportAccord convention, back in Sochi. And more.
Without question, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is one of the top five most influential personalities in world sport.
That short list:
Thomas Bach, the IOC president; Putin; the FIFA president, whoever that might be; Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, president of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees and a member of the FIFA executive committee; and Sebastian Coe, the recently elected head of the IAAF.
When Bach was elected IOC president, in September 2013, it’s wise to remember, the very first phone call he took was from Putin.
The chairman of the 2022 IOC Winter Games evaluation commission? Alexander Zhukov, the head of the Russian Olympic committee.
There can be zero question that, as in the Cold War days, Putin is using sport — and its prestige — to advance his reputation and his nation’s standing, both domestically and geopolitically.
Either that, or you think that hosting the Winter Games, the swim and track championships and the World Cup are all just because Russia and Putin are just good sports.
So, mindful that the FSB was in on the deal, and that control in state-directed Russia can be everything, how far up the chain did the activities detailed in Monday’s report go?
Is it believable that Vitaly Mutko, the sports minister, really didn’t know?
Mutko reports to Putin. Really, neither knew?
Referring to Mutko, Pound said Monday he believes it was “not possible for him to be unaware of it.” And if he was aware, “he was complicit in it.”
After the 2010 Vancouver Games, where Russian athletes won only three gold medals, the-then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, made a point of declaring that a raft of sports ministry officials ought to hand in their resignations, or be fired. The resignations ensued.
Medvedev, who segued back to prime minister after Putin took over the presidency again in 2012, also observed that Russia "has lost the old Soviet school ... and we haven't created our own school -- despite the fact that the amount of money that is invested in sport is unprecedentedly high."
Mutko, who has been an ally of Putin’s for years, survived.
The Russians then won the medals count in Sochi, with 33, and the most golds, 13.
A reasonable question: how did that happen?
Pound on Monday: “I don’t think we can be confident there was no manipulation” of doping tests at the 2014 Winter Games.
Monday’s report says the 2012 London Games were “in a sense, sabotaged” because athletes ran who shouldn’t have, because they were dirty. The report targets five Russian runners for lifetime bans. Among them: the London 2012 800 gold and bronze winners, Mariya Savinova-Farnosova and Ekaterina Poistogova.
They got to compete, the report said, because of the “collapse of the anti-doping system,” blaming RUSADA, ARAF and, lastly, the IAAF.
The report recommends that Russia be suspended until there is compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code.
Travis Tygart, the head of USADA, went hard Monday, saying in a statement that the “evidence released today demonstrates a shocking level of corruption,” adding, “If Russia has created an organized scheme of state-supported doping, then they have no business being allowed to compete on the world stage.”
Late in the day, Mutko's sports ministry put out a statement that said, "We are not surprised by most of the points in the report." It declared "we have undertaken measures to remedy the situation, including the appointment of a new ARAF president and head coach. It then turned on the IAAF, saying the ministry "is waiting for such measures from IAAF, where the new president also has zero-tolerance for doping."
Coe took over for Diack in August. On Monday, the IAAF issued a statement saying it would consider appropriate sanctions; such measures could mean no Russian track and field athletes at next year’s Rio Olympics; the Russians have until the end of the week to respond.
“The allegations are alarming,” Coe said. “These are dark days.”
Perhaps, then, that is what is to be done: no Russians in track and field in Rio.
Consider: Yelena Isinbayeva, the pole-vault diva and two-time (2004, 2008) gold medalist, the IOC Youth Olympic Games ambassador and Sochi Games Olympic Village mayor herself, would not get one more chance for gold.
Or perhaps Mr. Putin might not like that idea of no Russians in Rio, might not like at all the notion that Isinbayeva, a favorite, might not get the chance for a third Olympic gold.
And where would that lead?
What will be done? Who knows? Who thinks that sports and politics are, truly, separate?
We are living, in real time, in history.
SOCHI, Russia — There are apples. And there are oranges. The International Olympic Committee this week put out a news release, amid the provocation launched by SportAccord president Marius Vizer, that all but begs any and all to make the comparison. IOC president Thomas Bach, the release noted, enjoyed “another full week” that included meetings around the world with world leaders and dignitaries — and kids! — “championing the importance of sport in society and its ability to spread peace.”
Draw your own conclusions, the IOC seemed to be suggesting as it (finally) ramped up its communication machinery, the release including a video and eight — count them — photos of the president in action.
After just over a year and half as president, this — Bach as Action Man — has come to be his meme.
This hardly — ask Vizer, among others — makes Bach perfect.
At the same time, it makes for a marked contrast to Bach’s predecessor, Jacques Rogge, who assuredly preferred a different pace and style, particularly in the countdown of his 12 years in office.
The dignitary count for the one week on Bach's agenda, according to the IOC release, included United Nations secretary-generals (one), presidents (four), prime ministers (two), ministers (various) and more.
The eight pictures included one of Bach with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Vizer and Putin have long enjoyed a close relationship. Then again, the very first telephone call Bach received after being elected IOC president, and within just minutes -- from Putin. Here in a country where Kremlinology was once -- and is maybe again -- something of a science, the symbology could hardly have gone unnoticed for close watchers of the Olympic scene.
Also this, from the release: “The President held a number of discussions with the Russian Minister for Sport, Tourism and Youth, Vitaly Mutko, about the legacy of the Sochi Games and the development of sport in Russia. He also held talks with President Putin’s key advisor, Igor Levitin.”
This mention, too, that Bach was accompanied by IOC members Vitaly Smirnov and Alexander Zhukov — Smirnov the IOC doyen, that is, its senior member, and Zhukov, the president of the Russian Olympic committee, a deputy prime minister and, left unsaid, chairman of the 2022 evaluation commission.
Later, this, from Bach’s meeting with Putin: “The Russian President emphasized that the Russian authorities continue to work closely with the IOC, and he praised the ‘excellent relations’ with the IOC as ‘leader of the Olympic Movement.’ “
How about them apples?
From Day One, Bach has set out to reshape the IOC presidency, operating in a style evocative of Rogge’s predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Samaranch served as president from 1980 until 2001, Rogge from 2001 until September 2013.
One key difference between Bach and Samaranch, perhaps: Samaranch preferred a big-tent approach in which someone like Vizer would have been brought in closer to IOC circles, maybe even made an IOC member. Vizer noted in his address Monday that he had repeatedly sought dialogue with the IOC but gotten no response.
The next chapter in the relationship between Vizer and Bach, of course, is yet to be written. And Vizer declared Thursday, “I don’t give up.”
Rogge was often more into process. Bach gets and respects process. But what he wants is getting stuff done — as he said in his remarks here Monday, in response to the provocative “Welcome Address,” as the IOC release put it, delivered by Vizer that opened the SportAccord convention.
“Let me summarize,” Bach said in closing his response. “Our doors are open to each and every one of you. We are making this offer of cooperation and support to each and every one of you. I thank you for having taken it already in the last one year and a half and having contributed to this effort of open dialogue and concerted action within the sport movement.
“And when making this offer, and when taking this offer, we should always consider that sport at the end is about results. It’s in the competition but it’s also in the work we are doing. This is not about plans and projects in sports. It’s about results and actions. And when taking these actions we have to be efficient …”
In an interview here, Bach paid tribute to Rogge even as he made clear that the challenges the two men face are at the same time similar yet very different.
“We’re different types. And it’s a different style. He had his way to approach issues. I have my way. He had his challenges. I have my challenges. It’s different times.
“He had his mandate … my task is to consolidate the success left by Samaranch and then at the same time to address the issues of good governance and anti-doping. This [Rogge] did in an outstanding way. Now the world is different.
“As I said in Monaco,” at the session last December at which the full IOC approved the 40-point Agenda 2020 reform plan that Bach championed, “now today the people are asking more and other questions than five years ago.”
For those interested in another comparison, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s compensation package in the 12-month period that ended March 31, 2013, totaled $44.2 million.
Bach is technically a volunteer who earns no salary.
That said, the IOC, as part of the Agenda 2020 view toward enhanced transparency, recently announced it would provide an annual 225,000 euro — about $242,000 — “indemnity” to reimburse Bach for his 365-day-per-year IOC mission.
“It is not a salary,” he made clear, adding a moment later that the IOC ethics commission “fixed the amount” and, “I accept it. There was no discussion or whatever about this.”
The IOC also covers Bach's living expenses in Lausanne, Switzerland, which in Rogge’s last years ran to about $700,000.
By these standards Bach is an outrageous bargain.
The IOC presidency is a 24/7/365 job. The travel, stress and criticism — all of which Bach knew going in, so for sure no pity party — can be relentless.
The challenge is elemental: to try to make a difference in a world in which a lot of people wonder what the IOC, and the Olympic movement, are all about.
It’s clear, for instance, that in the most-successful recent editions of the Games — among them, London 2012, Vancouver 2010, Sydney 2000 — there ran through those cities, indeed those countries, an intangible but for-sure there feeling. Maybe, at the risk of being geeky, that’s the Olympic spirit.
In those places, there was something of a real commitment, beyond just words, to the Olympic values — often defined as respect, excellence and friendship — and beyond just the 17 days of a Games.
This is not to diminish other recent Games hosts. Or to question the wisdom of taking the Games to places such as China, Russia, Brazil and elsewhere. Hardly. The movement is, after all, worldwide.
The issue is how to integrate the Olympic values both locally and globally in a way that ties in with a particular edition of the Games — and even before, in the bid process.
It’s a question that is both simple and incredibly complex.
“With the Games,” Bach said, “you’re not bringing the values only to the host countries. You show the values to the world. It is the message coming from the Olympic village and from the ideals of the Games. They do not stop at the boundaries of the host country. They go to the world. This is the strong message.
“Therefore the host country is important, is the focus. But our message is not only addressed to the host country.”
“I think the overarching challenge” of the movement, often spotlighted on the IOC presidency, ”is to define the values for today’s world.
“I can give you an example. You spoke about the fight against doping or match-fixing. This for me is not the value. The value is the protection of the clean athlete. This is I think the definition for today in this respect.
“Then we also see that we have been speaking about other values and the definition for today — we needed to have another definition of non-discrimination. It was needed 10 years ago. This is what the Olympic Agenda  is also about.
“When changing the fundamental principles of the charter — the fundamental principles mean something … they are not foreseen by change every year. This is the overarching challenge and then it comes to your question to disseminate it, and to promote it.”
Back to Bach’s closing remarks at the opening of SportAccord. There he said:
“… What we all need for our sports, if we want to promote our values, if we want to be a respected part of society, if we want to grow our sport, if we want to attract young people, if we want to show to the world that sport has values and can do something for society, if we want to do all this, if we want then there to achieve our mission of organizing sport and to put at the same time sport at the service of society, then what we need all together is credibility.
“And this credibility we can only achieve if we have some unity in all our diversity,” he said, turning once more to his familiar slogan from his 2013 campaign for the IOC presidency.
“And in this respect and in this sense I invite you all to bring your diverse opinions to the table, to bring your diverse projects, your diverse goals to the table. But then be united in our concerted and common effort for the growth of sport and a better society for sport.”
It is good to be the king, and it is good -- unless and until there is evidence of doping, which it must be said could be tomorrow and could be never -- to be Usain Bolt. Because when you are Usain Bolt, you win, and when you win, you celebrate like he did Sunday at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, after yet another dominating performance by the Jamaican 4x100 men's relay team to close out the 2013 track and field world championships.
He shouted, "Moscow!" into the microphone. He threw his spikes into the crowd. Barefoot on the track, he did his "to the world" pose and performed his take on a Cossack dance.
Most important, later in the evening, Bolt -- perhaps alone among all the figures in track and field - has the gravitas to say what needed to be said about these championships. On a scale of 10, he said, they deserved a seven.
"It has been a different championships," he said. "But it has not been the best. It got better over the days. More people got more relaxed. More people started smiling. There were more people in the stands. It picked up at the end but at the start it wasn't as good."
He added, referring generally to the Russians, "They don't smile a lot but they're cool people … and there are lots of beautiful women."
The Russian journalists wanted more. "The food," Bolt said, "was always the same. And I'm used to going to the 100-meter final with a stadium that's packed, so that was different.
"So there were little things but nothing major and it was stuff that took me a while to get used to."
If Bolt weren't using the athlete access, he could have added that one entrance to the stadium was through a grass path by a parcourse set-up that was being used -- despite security restrictions -- by the locals. Or that access to the IAAF tent required going through not one, not two but three separate security stations -- all 20 feet apart.
Or that the wireless access in the press seating was completely worthless. And that the main press center was a half-mile away from the journalists' entrance to the stadium. The press bus stop was even farther.
Because Bolt doesn't have to worry about such things, it's not his problem that eating and drinking in Russia -- we're not talking alcohol, just regular stuff -- is super-expensive. A bottle of water can run 170 rubles. That's nearly $6.
Not to mention the controversy over Russia's anti-gay law, which erupted over Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro's rainbow-painted fingernails and Russian pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva's comments about Russians considering themselves "like normal, standard people," and Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko saying Sunday the law won't infringe on the private lives of athletes and fans at next February's Sochi Games.
In ways large and small, these championships set the stage for Russia to play host to the world in Sochi -- and, as they always do, fixed track's place in the world of sport for the here and now.
So -- what of track and field?
Track geeks know that the sport's next big thing is the world championships, in Beijing, back at the iconic Bird's Nest, site of the 2008 Games, in 2015.
That is two years from now. Two years is a very long time.
Until then, track and field will be pretty much -- at least for the casual fan -- off the radar.
That is, to be obvious, nothing short of a disaster.
Yes, track's governing body, the IAAF, puts on the regularly scheduled Diamond League series of meets, mostly in Europe, in the spring and summer. The IAAF deserves credit for that. But the meets are mostly relegated to -- to use a newspaper analogy -- the sports-section back pages.
Soccer is on, and on television, pretty much somewhere in the world seemingly every day, and the World Cup will go down next year in Brazil. The NBA has made tremendous inroads all over the globe with a season that runs from October until June. American football has already started and won't conclude until February. Even the American baseball season runs from February until late October, sometimes early November.
The 2013 Diamond League will feature three more meets -- Stockholm, Zurich, Brussels -- but, unless there's a lightning strike like last year's 12.8 world-record by American 110-meter hurdler Aries Merritt at the Brussels meet, track won't get much worldwide attention absent -- regrettably, yet another -- doping scandal.
The best thing track has going for it is Bolt.
He says he is thinking about running at the Commonwealth Games, next year in Glasgow.
To be, once again, obvious: the more Bolt is on the track, the more track is on track.
To be even more obvious: every sport needs stars.
It would make for a great bar bet to see if the average person anywhere in the world could name even five athletes not named Usain Bolt who competed in the Moscow championships.
Here's the corollary to that bet: if asked to name a track or field star, that average person would probably say ... Carl Lewis ... or Michael Johnson. That shows you how much work track and field must do to bring itself out of its glory days and into the 21st century.
What Bolt didn't say about the Moscow meet, because it's not his job:
Great meets tend to produce world records. It just so happens that the swimming world championships in Barcelona immediately preceded the track meet in Moscow.
It is just four short years since the craziness of the plastic-suit era at the 2009 Rome world swim championships, when swimmers set 43 world records and experts were wondering if those marks would ever be threatened.
In Barcelona, the swimmers set six new world records, all by women. They set three in one day, the final Saturday of the meet. Katie Ledecky of the United States set two world records herself.
In Moscow -- no world records.
Sure, there were world-class performances in Moscow: three championship records, 16 world-leading bests, 48 national records. In all, 18 nations won gold medals, 38 won a medal of some color.
Those totals are all the more intriguing considering who didn't show because of injury (the likes of London 2012 men's 800 gold medalist David Rudisha) or doping (significant cases before the meet in Russia and Turkey as well as failed positives involving U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay and, among others, Jamaicans Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campbell-Brown).
FINA, swimming's governing body, introduced high-diving at the Barcelona championships. It was a huge hit -- action sports, if you will, for the water crowd.
The track championship is still the same meet it is, and has been, for years.
A few thoughts:
There's no rock or hip-hop music at a track meet the way there is at a baseball game, when a reliever is introduced in the late innings. What if, for instance, each of the sprinters in the 100, 200 and 400 was allowed to pick a riff by which he or she was introduced?
What about putting wireless in the stands -- in a robust way -- so that fans could really follow along on their cellular phones or tablets? The IAAF iPhone and iPad app, introduced before the Moscow worlds, was genuinely great. Who actually knew about it?
For that matter, nine days is too long -- way, way, way too long -- for this meet. Make it six, max. That's long enough still for the marathons, the distance events, everything. And if it's not, then it's time for some creative thinking about how to do this championship differently.
Every sport has to change, and grow. There are sound reasons swimming and gymnastics were elevated this year into the top rank of the International Olympic Committee's financial tier, along with track and field -- a slot the IAAF had for years occupied, alone.
Outside Luzhniki Stadium stands a statue of Lenin. Thus he -- in a matter of speaking -- oversaw everything here. So he and perhaps his most famous aphorism are worth bearing in mind as the IAAF and its stakeholders pack up and begin the two-year trek to Beijing, some serious thinking in order between now and then about what its proponents believe is -- and could again be for all -- the finest sporting endeavor humankind has ever dreamed up.
As Lenin said: what is to be done?
MOSCOW -- Over the past few weeks, Russia's controversial anti-gay law has suddenly become a driving narrative in the lead-up to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. At issue is both the power of the Games to focus attention on social change as well as the very real limits of the Olympic movement to drive such reform. Nick Symmonds, the U.S. 800-meter runner, here for the track and field world championships, put it beautifully in his blog for Runner's World magazine.
He "disagreed" with the controversial new law, which outlaws the promotion of homosexuality to minors or holding gay pride rallies, saying our "LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) neighbors deserve all the same rights as the rest of us. However, as an American who is about to reside in Moscow for 12 days, this will be the last time I will mention this subject.
"I say this not out of fear of prosecution by the Russian government, but out of respect for the fact that I will be a guest in the host nation. Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend's house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people.
"If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country's generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home. Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union."
One of the wonders of the Games is that it can open up a country in ways that take time -- years -- to appreciate. Consider Seoul in 1988, and South Korea now. The city and country are very different, and the Games were a catalyst. Barcelona 1992 -- the same.
We don't know what having the Games in Beijing will mean in and to China -- the impact of having had thousands of foreign visitors there, mingling -- by 2018 or 2028.
In the same vein, it's now six months before the 2014 Winter Olympics. In no way can we judge what having the Olympics in Sochi in 2014 will mean in and to Russia by, say, 2024 or 2034.
This is a country that, as Sochi 2014 leaders consistently point out, hadn't seen a recycling program for its water bottles and didn't have a culture of volunteering before it won the Winter Olympics.
As Johnny Weir, the gay U.S. figure skater, observed in his latest blog post, "The Olympics will be 14 days of direct reporting, from the source, and shedding light not only on the best athletes in the world, but also the many ways in which we can help our fellow man in a repressive nation."
That's why calls for a boycott -- which, aside from the obvious, that boycotts only hurt athletes -- are so stupidly wrong.
In his open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, the British activist Stephen Fry said an "absolute ban" on Sochi 2014 is "simply essential." The letter, delivered this week to the IOC, also compared the "barbaric, fascist law" to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany and said of Russian president Vladimir Putin, "At all costs, Putin can not be seen to have the approval of the civilized world."
For one, barring something unforeseen and extraordinary, the Games are not going to be moved. There are six months to go. A Winter Olympics is not a middle-school ski meet that you just pick up and move on short notice to, say, Vancouver. There's sound reason the IOC awards it seven years out.
For another, this is not 1936. The parallel between Russia now and Germany then simply does not hold, and further does a disservice to the memory of the 6 million Jews and others who were slaughtered without mercy in the Nazi death camps.
For sure, rhetoric such as Fry's has its purpose. The open letter was said to have been delivered with more than 300,000 signatures. Experience reveals the IOC is often ultimately unmoved by such displays. In 2008, the Olympics were, in fact, held in China amid great pre-Games controversy over Tibet.
Moreover, isn't it perhaps a bit presumptuous for Fry to assert that Russia is not part of the "civilized world"? The country that boasts of -- just to name one of any of a number of great institutions -- the Bolshoi Ballet? That gave the world the literature of, among others, Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy? One of the world's superb art museums, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg?
The IOC, its senior vice president, Singapore's Ser Miang Ng, said earlier this week, was engaged in "quiet diplomacy" with the "highest authority" in Russia.
In that context, the IOC is obviously trying to buy time. Rogge said Friday at the briefest of news conferences -- 10 minutes, six questions in all -- the IOC was still trying to translate the law itself from Russian to English to understand it fully. Of course, why the IOC didn't already have a copy of the law in hand, translated, is confounding. Email went down? Fax machines didn't work?
President Obama said this week he had "no patience" with the Russians over the issue. With profound respect for the president, who has issues with Russia over Syria, the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and other matters, he also said, "Every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people's sexual orientation shouldn't have anything to do with it."
The last part -- dead-on right.
The rest -- it's the Winter Olympics, not the Summer, and of course here some IOC members would be inclined to take note of Mr. Obama's off-point remarks and again call up, say, the U.S. presidential security detail tying things up before the 2009 vote in Copenhagen at which Chicago got whacked in the first round, Rio winning the 2016 Summer Games.
The Russians have already spent north of $50 billion on the Sochi project. They have a lot at stake in making it work.
So, too, the IOC.
The IOC should -- as it assuredly is doing in its "quiet diplomacy" -- oppose in the strongest possible terms any move that would jeopardize the principle, laid out in the Olympic charter, that the Games should be open to all, free of discrimination.
To be sure, the IOC will have in turn received from the Russians -- again, at the highest levels -- assurance that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games. That is the way this works, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko urging critics Thursday at a news conference to "calm down."
Referring to criticism, Mutko was quoted Friday as saying by Interfax, according to an Associated Press report: "I wouldn't call the pressure light. Russia must understand that the stronger we are, the more other people aren't going to like it. We have a unique country."
"We don't have to be afraid of threats to boycott the Olympic Games. All sensible people understand that sports demand independence, that it is inadmissible that politics intervene."
All the same, the expectation of what is -- and is not -- possible must come through clearly:
The IOC is not a government. It is not even quasi-governmental. Its role is to inspire the best in human beings around the world -- to promote friendship, excellence and, yes, respect.
That does not mean, however, that we are all going to agree. Or that we should. Or that the way we do it this year in the United States, or the west, is the way it should be done everywhere.
Diversity means, you know, "diverse."
A number of the states in the United States consider the death penalty sound public policy.
Weigh the following: a new law that allows Russian authorities to impose fines for providing information to minors about the gay community against American state-sanctioned execution.
The United States is seriously considering a bid for the 2024 Summer Games. Would Americans welcome a petition campaign by Russians, western Europeans, or for that matter, anyone anywhere demanding the state of Texas, for example, change its capital murder policy -- or else deny any U.S. city the right to stage the Games?
Back to Symmonds, who went out in the 800 semifinals in Beijing, finished fifth in London and who is considered a strong medal contender here this week, the world championships getting underway Saturday:
"I will say now what I said before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, when people asked me how I felt competing in a foreign country with questionable human rights standards: The playing field is not a place for politics. In a world rife with never-ending political battles, let the playing field be where we set aside our differences and compete for national pride and the love of sport."
As Nick Symmonds would be the first to tell you, that can't happen unless everybody who is invited shows up. The Winter Games start in Sochi on Feb. 7. You know how pin-trading at the Games is a big deal? Here's guessing the rainbow pin will be much in demand.