Yelena Isinbayeva

Choosing to be on the right side of history

The law of unintended consequences can be a horrible thing. Simply put, we don’t know what we don’t know.

If the Russians are kept out of the 2016 Olympics, what will be the import for sport? In politics? In global affairs? Don’t kid yourself. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, can be deadly serious about a lot of things.

To be clear, this is a watershed moment in Olympic history. That’s why the International Olympic Committee needs to be on the right side of that history, and see that the Russians get to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The IOC president, Thomas Bach, at a meeting last month // IOC

There surely will be critics, loud and long.

But the right to be judged as an individual is central to everything the Olympic movement stands for.

At least in theory.

No question: Russia is a key player in the Olympic scene. Putin is arguably one of the three leading figures in international sport, along with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and, maybe, whoever is in charge of FIFA this week.

The Russians — unlike, for instance, the United States — have not only staged but helped to underwrite any number of significant recent events: the 2013 world track and field championships and Summer University Games, 2014 Winter Games and 2015 world swim championships. Not to mention any number of World Cups in any number of sports, winter and summer.

And, of course, they are due to stage the 2018 soccer World Cup.

Ordinarily, doping matters do not occasion news releases from the head of state, no matter where. Here, though, was Putin earlier this week, in a Kremlin statement, referring to the boycotts of the 1980 and 1984 Games:

“In short, people had their dreams broken and became hostages of political confrontation. The Olympic movement found itself in a serious crisis and faced divisions within. Later, some of the political figures of that era on both sides admitted that this had been a mistake.

“Today, we see a dangerous return to this policy of letting politics interfere with sport. Yes, this intervention takes different forms today, but the essence remains the same; to make sport an instrument for geopolitical pressure and use it to form a negative image of countries and peoples. The Olympic movement, which is a tremendous force for uniting humanity, once again could find itself on the brink of division.”

What happens if doping allegations keep the Russians out of Rio? No one knows.

Not much taken with the Russians? Just wait until the only places left to bid for major events are the Gulf States and, oh, Azerbaijan.

One thing we do know: the Russian matter has exposed the complete and utter hypocrisy from those who would ban athletes from an entire state without proven, reasoned, calm justification.

We know this, too, about Thursday’s decision by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport: it is not, repeat not, the case that the Russians, even those on the track and field team, are absolutely out of Rio. The door is for sure open, as a close reading of the CAS matter makes plain.

This, too: the door is still open for Russians in other sports to take part in the Games, which begin Aug. 5, just two weeks away. Indeed, swimming’s international governing body, FINA, on Thursday put out a release saying it was “pleased” to “reveal” the “final entry list” for synchronized swimming at the 2016 Olympics. There on the list of eight teams, between Japan and Ukraine: Russia.

What we do not know is what the IOC, its policy-making executive board due to meet Sunday, is going to do in the aftermath of the CAS ruling, and amid extraordinary scrutiny.

At issue are arguments on both sides.

But the more compelling argument is in favor of the Russians.

That may be a super-unpopular position —especially in the west, and in particular the United States, Canada and Great Britain, where the mainstream media has largely been riding a nouveau Cold War-style rush to judgment.

But it’s true.

And for that core reason:

The Olympics are about fair play.

Everyone — repeat, everyone — deserves to be judged individually. That is the essence of fairness.

On Thursday, for instance, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that Nataliya Lehonkova, 33, a track and field athlete from Ukraine, had tested positive in February for meldonium after taking it last August and November — but would not face sanction based on guidelines issued June 30 by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

She got judged individually.

Last week, USADA announced it was not going to levy sanction in the matter of an 18-year-old American gymnast, Kristen Shaldybin, of Highwood, Illinois, who tested positive June 7 for a prohibited diuretic. Why? Because it was in tap water that ran through the municipal water supply.

She got judged individually.

Remember, as Sting said, if in a very different context, the Russians love their children, too. The Russians are human beings. Just like you and me. That essential dignity deserves not just to be recognized but honored. That is the Olympic ideal.

For those who believe that what’s at stake is the honor and integrity of the Olympic movement,  check.

The arguments in favor of a wholesale Russian ban go like this:

One, banning the Russians means being on the side of "clean" athletes.

No, it doesn't. The authorities can't prove that anyone is "clean" any more than they can prove that the 68 Russians are collectively dirty. Marion Jones passed hundreds of doping tests. So did Lance Armstrong. Moreover, there's a strong element of intent associated now with the anti-doping rules, and notions such as "choice" can be subject to varying interpretation in different parts of our world. Maybe even in Russia.

Two, the McLaren Report offers evidence of state-sponsored doping. If ever a state deserved to be sanctioned, it’s now and that state is Russia. Yes, there will be collateral damage — in particular the 68 athletes on the track and field team. Sorry, you 68, about that.

That’s not the way any reasonable, rational or logical system of law, ethics, morality or policy works.

At least one of which we can be proud.

And for many, many reasons.

To begin:

In what context, primarily, does the phrase “collateral damage” assume its most significant meaning? War, of course. The Olympics are about promoting peace.

In the 100 year-plus history of the modern Olympic movement, a state has been kept away (or the Games canceled) for only three reasons: war, apartheid and the subjugation of women. Who wants to make the case that doping — no matter how serious — rises to the station of war, or apartheid, or the diminishment of an entire class of human beings?

The evidence in the case against Russia is based on allegation. Again, the entire case against Russia right now is based on allegation only. Are those allegations extraordinarily suggestive? Yes. Are they more likely than not true? Could well be. But have they been tested in a formal setting, under oath, subject to cross-examination? Not at all. Without that — without due process and, especially, the crucible of cross-examination — it’s unfair in the extreme to proceed with broad sanction.

-- The pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva Thursday, after the CAS decision, decrying "pseudo-gold medals." The last sentence, before the emoji string, says, "Power is always feared." --

The Russians can and should be held to the most rigorous standard. But so should everyone.

If you think Russia is the only nation in the world where you could allege state-sponsored doping — call me immediately, because I have a beautiful bridge in Brooklyn I would be delighted to sell.

The United States is the only country in the world where Olympic sport is not an arm of a federal ministry. Just three years ago, Turkey suspended 40 track and field athletes for doping, 20 of whom were under age 23. Because there has been no formal inquiry like the McLaren Report into Turkey, Turkey is in the clear but Russia is under the gun? What if adequately funded investigators were sent into — pick any one — Kenya, Ethiopia, China or Jamaica?

To be clear: that the United States does not operate a ministry of sport hardly excuses American athletes and their record over the years. See, again, Armstrong and Jones. And others.

To which the immediate response is: yes, but the Russians are (allegedly) state-sponsored! OK. Take off those red, white and blue American goggles. Now put on the red, white and blue Russian ones. For years, the U.S. Postal Service, an independent arm of the United States government, underwrote the Armstrong team. Now draw a meaningful distinction — go ahead, still waiting — between what is alleged in Russia and what has been proven in the United States in regard to Armstrong’s massive doping conspiracy and cover-up.

Perspective matters. A lot. Like due process and cross-examination.

The CAS ruling Thursday was decided on what lawyers would call narrow grounds, reference to a section of Rule 22 issued by track and field’s worldwide governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations.

To be fair, international federations have to be able to approve and exert some degree of control over their member federations. No quarrel there.

But even in confirming that athletes whose national federations are suspended by the IAAF are ineligible for competitions held under IAAF rules, the CAS panel made plain the way out for the IOC — should it so choose.

Which, of course, it should.

First, the CAS panel explicitly noted that the IOC was not a party to the matter. Thus, the sport court said, it had “no jurisdiction” to decide whether the IOC could accept or decline Russian track and field athletes.

In practical terms, this amounts to blinking red lights and screaming sirens at a train crossing — it says, pay attention, because we just told you it’s OK to take the Russians even if we didn’t explicitly say so.

This is in line, and not coincidentally, with the position taken by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, which on Tuesday put out a statement that said, in part, “It is important to focus on the need for individual justice in all these cases and ASOIF endorses all IF decisions, including those that take into account collective responsibility of organizations under the IFs' governance.”

Next, the IAAF, recognizing that a wholesale ban could prove problematic, to say the least, sought June 17 to give the 68 Russians a path to Rio: prove a) “clearly and convincingly” that b) you were outside the country and c) subject to effective controls, then d) you could apply to compete but e) only as a “neutral” athlete.

So: not only did you have to be outside Russian jurisdiction, you also had to meet standards for being tested at a level comparable to your competition but without being told what those standards are. Who to look at? Who are your competitors? If you’re ranked 11th, who? Numbers 1, 2 and 3? Or numbers 8, 9 and 10? Someone else?

Let’s say we’re talking distance running. Now your competitors, for the sake of argument, might be Ethiopian and Kenyan. Hello?

What if you are a sprinter? The Jamaicans? The Americans? Jimmy Vicault, who is French?

What about any of that is fair?

Neutral athletes? What, Russians who “clearly and convincingly” could so prove are going to line up in Rio as a “neutral” nation, marching in the opening ceremony just in front of, say, Norway, their newly designed flag depicting a syringe with a big red X on it?

Would “Neutral” fans have to show up the stadium dressed only in gray?

Would those fans shout: “Go Neutral! Go Neutral!” Just like “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Or, “Aussie-Aussie-Aussie oi-oi-oi!”

Absurd.

So absurd that, in practice, only two of 68 Russians have been able to meet the IAAF conditions.

Accordingly, the CAS panel said it was “concerned” about the “immediate application with retroactive effect” of the IAAF’s June 17 policy, explaining: “Since such Rule invokes criteria based on long-term prior activity, it left no possibility in practice, and as applied, for the Claimant Athletes,” the Russians, “to be able to try to comply with them.”

Back to keeping-it-simple talk: “concerned” in legalese translates to “this is wrong, people.”

Essentially, it is super-unfair.

Which leads directly back to the central proposition:

The three core Olympic values are respect, excellence and friendship, all of which point toward fair play and the recognition that every single person in our broken world deserves to be accepted as an individual and, moreover, measured by his or her own conduct.

Anything less is a gross violation of the Olympic spirit, and on the wrong side of history.

And being on the wrong side, as history teaches, is very, very likely to provoke a whole host of unintended consequences.

CAS: Could, should, even might have been asked

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Three years ago, in the space of a week, 40 track and field athletes in Turkey were suspended for doping offenses. Each got a two-year ban. Of those 40, 31 came in a one-day chunk. Of those 31, 20 were 23 or younger.

Did track and field’s international governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, move to ban Turkey? No. Was what happened in 2013 within the current four-year Olympic cycle? Obviously. And yet — the IAAF is seeking now to effect a ban against Russia, and 68 track and field athletes, for the Rio Games? Logically: explain the difference, please.

If only.

At a hearing Tuesday, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport — meeting behind closed doors — took up the matter of the Russian ban. An appeal, brought by the Russian Olympic Committee, challenges the IAAF action last November, upheld last month, that seeks to suspend the Russian track and field federation and those 68 athletes, including pole vault diva Yelena Isinbayeva, from the Games amid allegations of a state-sponsored doping conspiracy.

CAS intends to deliver a ruling Thursday. That decision is widely expected to help guide International Olympic Committee policy heading toward the Aug. 5 start of the Games.

Leaving the hearing, Isinbayeva told Russia 24, a state-owned news channel, that she was “optimistic.”

She should be.

A photo posted by Yelena (@isinbaevayelena) on

-- Yelena Isinbayeva on her Instagram account from Tuesday's CAS hearing in Switzerland --

The case pits the notion of collective responsibility against what is elemental in any system of justice, individual adjudication.

Because the CAS hearing was conducted in secrecy, nobody knows what was discussed, or what the three-member CAS panel might have asked.

Like the matter of the Turkish track and field bans three years ago, which assuredly provides an intriguing precedent, the only limit to what might have been asked is the imagination.

Here, then, are a variety of queries that might have been, should have been, maybe even were asked:

— The presumption of individual innocence is a bedrock principle in the law. Why should that presumption be stood on its head in this matter?

— In theory, this CAS case is limited to track and field. However, since any decision is likely to weigh significantly on any IOC action, please answer this fundamental inquiry: why, if a Russian track and field athlete might be banned, should a Russian synchronized swimmer or gymnast — with no record of doping, per the report advanced Monday by the respected Canadian law professor Richard McLaren — be similarly affected?

Doesn’t that underscore all the more the imperative for individualized justice?

— The IAAF task force that reported in June to the federation’s policy-making executive council asserted, at point 5.2: “A strong and effective anti-doping infrastructure capable of detecting and deterring doping has still not yet been created. Efforts to test athletes in Russia have continued to encounter serious obstacles and difficulties; RusAF appears incapable of enforcing all doping bans; and RUSADA is reportedly at least 18-24 months away from returning to full operational compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code.” RusAF is the Russian track and field federation, RUSADA the nation’s anti-doping agency.

These absolutely are serious allegations deserving of careful consideration. At the same time, these same allegations could be made of any of dozens of nations in our world. To name just a few of note in the track and field context: Kenya, Ethiopia, Jamaica. Why a ban aimed only at Russia?

In noting Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko’s assertion that “clean Russian athletes should not be punished for the actions of others,” the IAAF task force responded, at point 6.1: “There can only be confidence that sport is reasonably clean in countries where there is an engrained and longstanding culture of zero tolerance for doping, and where the public and sports authorities have combined to build a strong anti-doping infrastructure that is effective in deterring and detecting cheats.”

Same question: why Russia only when reason and logic dictate a lack of confidence elsewhere in the world as well?

Jamaica, for instance, contributed only $4,638 toward WADA’s $26 million 2016 budget. Kenya and Ethiopia, $3,085 apiece. How do such contributions in any way suggest legitimacy in the campaign to ensure doping-free sport?

— From the same June IAAF task force report: "At a time when many athletes and members of the public are losing confidence in the effectiveness of the anti-doping movement, the IAAF must send a clear and unequivocal message that it is prepared to do absolutely everything necessary to protect the integrity of its sport ..."

Doesn't this sort of rhetoric merely confirm the theory, advanced by many, that the IAAF bid to ban the Russians is nothing but a play rooted in politics and, as well, public relations?

That the IAAF took the easy way out with the understanding that, per the checks and balances built into the international sport system, this court could then address the Russian grievance -- the IAAF knowing it could then proclaim it had been tough but got overruled by sport's judicial branch?

IAAF president Seb Coe, here at the European championships earlier this month, attended Monday's CAS hearing // Getty Images

-- In a bid to remediate the ban, the IAAF established this policy:

"If there are any individual athletes who can clearly and convincingly show that they are not tainted by the Russian system because they have been outside the country, and subject to other, effective anti-doping systems, including effective drug-testing, then they should be able to apply for permission to compete in International Competitions, not for Russia but as a neutral athlete."

Remediation is a basic principle of law. When such a policy permits one or perhaps two of 68 to qualify, how is this sort of remediation in any way reasonable or fair?

— Mr. McLaren's report, commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, alleges state ties in the wide-scale doping of Russian athletes, and across various sports.

The report suggests that such evidence rises to the level of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” Has any of that evidence been tested in a formal tribunal, in particular by cross-examination? If not, isn’t any claim of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” empty?

— Mr. McLaren’s report says that he would have offered more evidence but he ran out of time. Is it a coincidence, or something more, that Monday, July 18, was an IOC deadline for “entry by name” to the 2016 Games? Is that why Mr. McLaren’s report came out that morning?

More: if Mr. McLaren wanted or needed more time, why didn’t he just take it and provide a more thorough inquiry?

— Mr. McLaren’s report offers literally no proof that Mr. Mutko authorized any of the alleged misconduct it details. Without such evidence, how can a broad-based sanction stand?

— Switching to technical matters, first the Olympic Charter.

Rule 27.3: the national Olympic committees hold “the exclusive authority for the representation of their respective countries at the Olympic Games.” Again, “exclusive.” That means, in this instance, the Russian Olympic Comnittee.

On what legal grounds does the IAAF, an international federation, assert it has the right to interfere with such exclusivity?

Back up to Rule 26.1.5. The IFs, the Charter says, “assume the responsibility for the control and direction of their sports at the Olympic Games.” Nowhere does that rule provide an IF any say over entries.

But Bylaw 2.1 to Rules 27 and 28 does: the NOCs “decide upon the entry of athletes proposed by their respective national federations.”

More on the same point:

Rule 40 says a “competitor” must “respect and comply with the Olympic Charter and World Anti-Doping Code.” The Russians assert they have been submitting to regular testing over the past several months.

Bylaw 1 to that rule says each IF “establishes its sport’s rules for participation in the Olympic Games, including qualification criteria, in accordance with the Olympic Charter.” Again, not entry.

When the Charter seeks to use the word “entry,” it does so. Rule 44 declares, “Only NOCs recognized by the IOC may submit entries for competitors in the Olympic Games.” Not an IF. And no note here about IF review of any entries.

Bylaw 4 to Rule 44:

“As a condition precedent to participation in the Olympic Games, every competitor shall comply with all the provisions of the Olympic Charter and the rules of the IF governing his sport. The NOC which enters the competitor is responsible for ensuring that such competitor is fully aware of and complies with the Olympic Charter and the World Anti-Doping Code.”

Rule 46 details the 'role of the IFs in relation to the Olympic Games." Bylaw 1.7:

“To enforce, under the authority of the IOC and the NOCs, the IOC’s rules in regard to the participation of competitors in the Olympic Games.”

To emphasize: doesn’t that plainly relegate an IF such as the IAAF to the secondary role of “enforcing” participation “under the authority” of the IOC and, in this instance, the Russian Olympic Committee?

— The World Anti-Doping Code, in Article 10, explicitly envisions sanction only when an individual athlete is tied to specific misconduct. How to jibe a broad ban with the Code?

— The Code, Article 11: “In sports which are not Team Sports but where awards are given to teams, Disqualification of other disciplinary action against the team when one or more team members have committed an anti-doping rule violation shall be as provided in the applicable rules of the International Federation.” How can the IAAF apply a broad ban to an entire “delegation” when the rules specifically call for sanction against a “team” such as a 4x100 relay?

— Again from Article 11: consequences against teams are premised on an “Event” or “Event Period’ such as the period of an Olympic Games. There is no “Event” here. How can a broad sanction against the entire Russian delegation, not a team, stand?

— The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s charge was, essentially, to be a contractor. When, exactly, did USADA — which has been lobbying furiously in the Russian matter — become a self-proclaimed Olympic movement “stakeholder”? And is that appropriate?

— Like USADA, the IAAF has said it broadly seeks to promote — to take from an IAAF news release — “clean athletes and sport justice.” Is it really here to protect “clean athletes”? Or to protect just the ones it wants to protect?

— Outside each and every U.S. Post Office flies an American flag. The U.S. Postal Service served for years as the primary sponsor of Lance Armstrong’s team during the Tour de France. USADA’s “Reasoned Decision” calls the Armstrong matter “a massive doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in sports history.” What is the distinction between, on the one hand, sponsorship by an independent agency of the U.S. government and, on the other, what is alleged to have happened in Russia?

Cycling’s worldwide governing body, the UCI, did not move to ban the entire American cycling team. Yet the IAAF is seeking to ban the Russians.

Really?

The Russians are coming! Or should be

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Prediction: the Russians will be at the Rio 2016 Summer Games. Reality check: they should be there.

Fundamental fairness dictates that the Russians must be allowed to compete in Rio.

Pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russian sport minister Vitaly Mutko on a Sochi 2014 tour // Getty Images

To start with the obvious, amid allegations that state-sponsored or -sanctioned doping pervaded the Russian sports system:

It’s between a rock and hard place for track and field’s governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, in trying to decide whether to allow the Russians — the track team is currently suspended — into the 2016 Games. A decision is due June 17 at a meeting in Vienna of the IAAF’s policy-making executive council.

Similarly, it’s between that same rock and that same hard place for the International Olympic Committee, which is then going to be charged with reviewing whatever the IAAF decides, and maybe other federations do, too.

Never — repeat, never — has the IOC banned a nation for doping violations.

The IOC has, of course, banned countries from editions of the modern Games. But only for geopolitical concerns:

Germany and Japan didn’t get invites to the London 1948 Summer Games. South Africa’s apartheid policy kept it out of the Games between 1960 and 1992. Afghanistan didn’t go to the 2000 Sydney Games because of Taliban discrimination against women.

To ban a country for doping — especially a country as important in the Olympic landscape as Russia — would set a volatile new precedent.

Improbable, at best.

That said: no matter what decisions ultimately get taken, there’s going to be criticism.

Such criticism is likely to be amplified if the rumor now circulating in Olympic circles turns out to be true — that as many as half of the 31 2008 Beijing positives just announced come from Russia. Again, for now and for emphasis — just rumor.

Look, criticism comes with life in the public sphere. Whatever. If you are Seb Coe, the IAAF president, or Thomas Bach, the IOC president, that’s why you got elected — to demonstrate leadership, to make tough decisions.

Honestly, this one is really not that tough.

The bottom line, and back to fundamental notions of fairness:

You can’t assign collective responsibility in matters — like this one — that demand individual adjudication.

Let’s say that the explosive allegations advanced in the New York Times by Grigoriy Rodchenkov, director of the Sochi 2014 anti-doping lab, turn out to be true: that he substituted dirty samples for clean ones in concert with other Russian anti-doping experts and the FSB, the Russian intelligence service, purportedly having found a way to break into supposedly tamper-proof bottles.

What bearing would any of that, particularly in the Winter Games context, have on athletes due to compete in the Summer Olympics?

Even Bach has been hinting this way, if you stop and parse what he has been saying amid his predictable rhetoric reiterating the IOC’s absolutely ridiculous assertion of a “zero tolerance” policy.

There is no such policy. There never has been. Never will be.

Life is not susceptible to a reduction of simple black and white, of “zero tolerance,” especially in the doping sphere, which is layered with nuance and based on individual determination.

Is American 400-meter star LaShawn Merritt’s 21-month bust for the sexual performance-enhancer ExtenZe, containing the banned substance DHEA, the same as the U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay’s one-year ban for a positive test for an anabolic steroid? Consider: Merritt was hardly secretive in buying ExtenZe; he got it at a 7-Eleven store. Gay voluntarily came forward with evidence against others.

The American swimmer Jessica Hardy got a one-year suspension — missing the 2008 Beijing Games — after a positive test for a banned substance that, the evidence shows, pointed to a tainted dietary supplement. Is that the same as the sprinter Marion Jones using steroids extensively and lying about cheating for years until finally confessing and forfeiting her five Sydney 2000 medals?

Lashawn Merritt anchors the U.S. team to relay gold at the 2015 world championships in Beijing // Getty Images

American swimmer Jessica Hardy at last summers world championships in Kazan, Russia // Getty Images

Obviously not.

Everyone’s case is distinct if not unique.

In a conference call last week with reporters, Bach, asked if the Russian Olympic Committee could be suspended, said, “I will not speculate because there comes a decision we have to make between collective responsibility and individual justice.”

He also said the IOC wants “individual justice for the concerned athletes but also for the clean athletes around the globe.”

It’s that basic, and that was precisely the point the Russian pole vault diva, Yelena Isinbayeva, made in an interview Monday arranged by national track and field officials. Waving forms documenting four recent drug tests she said she had passed, she said this about the idea that she should be forced to stay out of the Games:

“It’s a direct violation of human rights, discrimination.”

If the IAAF or IOC were to move against Russian participation in Rio?

"In the case of a negative ruling for us,” she said, “I will personally go to an international court regarding human rights. And  I'm confident that I'll win."

She is right. She would win. It’s a slam-dunk.

Start wth Rule 44 of the Olympic Charter. It says, “Nobody is entitled as of right to participate in the Olympic Games.”

At the same time, Rule 40 says that to be eligible for participation in the Games, “a competitor” must respect and comply with the charter and with the World Anti-Doping Code, and “the competitor … must be entered by his NOC,” or national Olympic committee.

In 2011, international sport’s highest court, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, was presented with what was widely called the "Osaka rule" case. The IOC executive board had sought (meeting in Osaka, Japan, thus the reference) to ban an athlete from the next edition of a Games if he or she had served a doping-related suspension of more than six months.

The IOC made this argument: “The objective of the IOC Regulation," meaning the Osaka rule, "is to protect the values of the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games from the threat and scourge of doping and to encourage potential participants in the Olympic Games to adhere strictly to the applicable anti-doping programs.”

The IOC also asserted that the rule was “proportionate to the important aims the IOC pursues and does not infringe personality rights as there is no such right to participate in a single event.”

Nope. These did not fly. CAS ruled for the plaintiff, the U.S. Olympic Committee, which had, among other cases, cited Hardy and Merritt. In 2012 in London, Hardy and Merritt won Olympic medals.

“… The Olympic Games are, for many athletes, the pinnacle of success and the ultimate goal of athletic competition,” the panel wrote. “Being prevented from participating in the Olympic Games, having already served a period of suspension, certainly has the effect of further penalizing the athlete and extending that suspension.”

In essence, that’s double jeopardy — being penalized twice for the same thing.

Extending the reasoning:

If since 2011 there is on the books CAS language explicitly saying that being denied participation in the Games amounts to “penalizing the athlete,” it logically follows that it would be impossible to penalize individual athletes who have not been found guilty of anything.

Incidentally, it’s also worth recalling that in its case before CAS, the USOC obtained friend-of-the-court briefs — that is, supporting its position — from around the world. These included the anti-doping agencies of Denmark, France, Norway, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States; the Dutch and Hungarian Olympic committees; the Spanish Professional Cyclist Association; and the Russian Biathlon Union.

In 2012, in a follow-on case, the same three-member CAS panel struck down a British Olympic Assn. guideline that sought to impose a lifetime Games ban for anyone found liable of doping.

There, it said: "By requiring consistency in treatment of athletes who are charged with doping infractions or convicted of it -- regardless of the athlete’s nationality or sport -- fairness and proper enforcement are achieved."

It's extremely difficult to be consistent in applying the doping rules if the doping rules aren't applied to clean athletes, "regardless of the athlete's nationality or sport," in the first instance.

To go further:

Suspicion, even widespread, is one thing. Definitive proof is another. Anyone in that situation, no matter what it was, would want — indeed, expect — that before judgment got passed.

Indeed, Article 10.4 of the current World Anti-Doping Code says that if an athlete "establishes in an individual case that he or she bears no fault or negligence," then there can be no "period of ineligibility."

All of this, by the way, completely ignores the role of personality and relationship in the Olympic movement.

The chairman of the USOC “Osaka rule” panel? Canadian law professor and anti-doping expert Richard McLaren. The BOA case? McLaren.

The WADA-appointed independent commission that was announced last week — to investigate allegations from Rodchenkov and others about Sochi 2014? McLaren heads it.

That WADA-appointed three-member independent commission that issued two reports, one last November, the other in January, about the scope and nature of doping in Russia? McLaren was one of the three (along with Canadian IOC member and first WADA president Dick Pound and German law enforcement official Günter Younger).

That’s not to say or even suggest that McLaren has a conflict of interest. It’s to point out that he understands the layers and the law.

Putin, meanwhile,  is one of the key figures not just in world politics but in the Olympic and international sports scene. That’s what you get when you spend a reported $51 billion for an Olympics, obviously. But more: 2013 world track and field championships in Moscow, 2013 Summer University Games and 2015 world swim championships in Kazan, 2018 World Cup all over the country.

The very first phone call Bach got upon election to the IOC presidency in September 2013? From Putin.

Putin and Isinbayeva, meanwhile, have had a longstanding and obviously constructive relationship. She is the 2004 and 2008 gold medalist, the 2012 bronze medalist. In speaking Monday, it is absolutely the case that she stepped forward as a Putin proxy.

You want evidence? Beyond the fact that her entire interview Monday was specifically arranged so she could make her central point?

Look back at photos from 2014, in Sochi. Who, as a Summer Games star, served as the politically connected “mayor” of the Winter Olympic athletes’ village?

Putin and Isinbayeva in Sochi // Getty Images

Or look at a revealing photo from the Laureus World Sports Award from 2008. A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words.

Isinbayeva, right, fixes Putin's collar at the 2008 Laureus awards. At left: Finnish former Formula One driver Mika Hakkonen // Getty Images

The key position of chief of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games coordination commission? That was announced this past February, amid all the headlines screaming Russian doping: it’s the head of the Russian Olympic committee, Alexander Zhukov. He is a close Putin ally. Who else is on that 2022 commission? Sochi 2014 president and chief executive officer Dmitry Chernyshenko. He, too, is close with Putin.

Coe and Bach go back to 1981, to the IOC Congress at the German resort of Baden-Baden. There they made some of the presentations that would lead to the creation of the very first IOC athletes’ commission.

When Coe ran last year in a hotly contested race for the IAAF presidency, who could he count among his key supporters? You figure it out.

For all this, there is the core argument advanced by those who believe the Russians ought to stay home: the allegations of doping are state-supported.

That, they say, makes it different, akin to the 1970s and East Germany.

Really?

For one, the allegations involving the Russians are, in many cases, still just allegations. The November WADA report suggests clearly that Rodchenkov has issues: “The [commission] finds that Dir. Rodchenkov’s statements regarding the destruction of [1,417] samples are not credible.”

It also says, “There is insufficient evidence to support the figure of 99 percent of members of the Russian national [track and field] team as dopers.”

For another, a huge number would now appear to involve meldonium — a substance about which even WADA has already changed its guidelines. Sir Craig Reedie, the WADA president, says 47 of the 49 positive tests in Russia between last November and May 5 were for meldonium.

Of more import is this: people in glass houses should not throw stones. As the November WADA report makes crystal clear: “… Russia is not the only country, nor athletics the only sport, facing the problem of orchestrated doping in sport.”

Just 12 years ago, the Olympic world was consumed with the United States-based BALCO scandal — which ultimately would ensnare Jones and multiple others with Olympic appearances and medals. Did anyone scream and yell that the entire American track and field team ought to be banned from the Athens 2004 Games?

Three-plus years ago, Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal team finally went down — after years of outright lying and bullying. The U.S.Anti-Doping Agency's “Reasoned Decision” goes on for hundreds of pages in detailing what it called a “massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history.”

Just to be clear: the publication of the Reasoned Decision, in October 2012, and Armstrong’s “confession” to Oprah Winfrey, in January 2013, would put his case squarely within the current four-year Olympic cycle.

Curious that no one is arguing that the entire U.S. cycling team ought to stay home. Or, by extension, the entire American Olympic team.

If it’s state-sponsored doping that is the problem — there’s a very good argument to be made that the American way, with its emphasis on the enormous profit motive inherent in successful doping, is even more perilous.

Which all leads to this:

The reason so many people in so many places don’t want the Russians in Rio is, again, fundamental.

It’s Putin.

Lots and lots of people don’t like, mistrust or, at the core, fear Putin.

But that, in and of itself, is not reason enough to move against the entire Russian track and field, or Olympic, team.

And as the Olympic movement learned painfully a generation ago, with boycotts of the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Games, the notion of punishing athletes for political purposes is wholly unfair, maybe even cruel.

See you along with the Russians in Rio. Maybe even Putin will be there.

Portland 2016: a track and field innovation lab

MedalPlaza2.jpg

PORTLAND, Ore. — For as long as anyone might remember, the mantra in track and field has been: well, that’s the way it has always been done. The 2016 world indoor championships, which concluded Sunday after a four-day stand at the Oregon Convention Center, offered a different take. Here, it was: let’s try something new.

“Innovation,” Max Siegel, the chief executive officer of USA Track & Field, “doesn’t happen by accident.”

It’s a function, he emphasized, of collaboration and resource: “You have to have a deliberate plan. You have to plan to be innovative, and then when you come up with an innovative idea you have to have an effective plan to execute the idea.”

The track was green. With the house lights down, the athletes entered down a ramp as their names were called out, one by one. The medals were, for the most part, awarded not onsite but at a downtown square that had been turned into a live-music and party venue. During the championships, a (mostly rock) soundtrack kept the beat to what was what on the track and in the field (special shout-out to the excellent DJ who threw Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” out there during the men’s masters’ 800).

The party at Pioneer Courthouse Square // photo TrackTown USA

Siegel at Thursday afternoon's opening news conference, at Pioneer Courthouse Square // Getty Images for IAAF

Did it all work? For sure not. A meet session should be two to two-and-a-half hours, max. Too often it went three-plus.

Did enough of it work, however, so that there’s reason, for the first time in a long time, to think that track and field at least stands a chance — again, a chance — of breaking out of its bubble and emerging over the next few years, particularly in the United States, as more than a niche sport?

For sure.

Even the highlight moment of the championships — Ashton Eaton bounding over in his warmups from the long jump pit to congratulate his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, for winning the pentathlon — was, though thoroughly unscripted, at least allowed for.

Organizers timed it so that husband and wife would be on track at the same time.

“When you know you have these possibilities,” said Paul Hardy, competition director for track’s worldwide governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, “you start thinking about creating a timetable that allows for these special moments.”

He added a moment later, “That’s how we’re now looking at it — how we present the sport.”

He also said, “We need to introduce things. Hopefully they’ll work. If you don’t try anything, you never know if it works. If it doesn’t, you can try for the next time. if it does, hopefully we can improve it even more.”

Even friendly police

The vibe was so overwhelmingly positive in Portland that even the police proved smiling, friendly, accessible.

That, too, was by design.

“Community engagement,” as police nationwide like to call it, is “a huge priority for us right now,” Portland police Sgt. Greg Stewart, the department’s acting spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

“Nationally with the police — it really is a contentious time. Police and community relations are maybe not what they should be. The chief,” Larry O’Dea the city’s police chief for the past 16 months, “is really working to make sure that’s a focus for us.”

When the police are cool, anything’s possible. Even in track and field, right?

Some is just easy: the kiss-cam (or smile-cam, whatever), a staple at other major events? Why not?

But why not think really out of the box?

What about re-configuring the set-up so that, in the same way that fans sit court-side at an NBA game, they can sit immediately along the track?

At the Kentucky Derby, thousands of fans crowd the infield. It’s not because they know the life story of every one of those horses, or could remotely care. Absolutely there would have to be some re-thinking of how that might work in track, since the infield is literally where those field events are competed — but why not turn a track infield into the same kind of party zone?

“No idea is stupid,” Hardy said. “If you don’t get people to throw ideas around, you’re never going to get anywhere. We can take ideas from other sports. We can learn from people who follow the sport. We are definitely open.”

As Vin Lananna, president of TrackTown USA, the local organizers of Portland 2016, said, “You can’t be afraid to think big.”

He observed: “The best example is American football. How many real football fans know everything about football and go to the stadium to watch a football game? A lot of it is social.

“We don’t do it in track. We make it impossible. It’s long. It’s often boring. The announcers don’t relate. There’s no music.

“We’re getting there little by little,” he said of the 2016 world indoors. “This is a good start.”

Lananna at that Thursday afternoon news conference // Getty Images for IAAF

Coe at Thursday night's opening ceremony // Getty Images for IAAF

These championships marked the first world championships with Seb Coe, elected last August, as  IAAF president.

Coe, recognizing that track’s demographics trend older than younger, has preached relentlessly that the sport must innovate — in everything from presentation to social media.

“If you’re going to innovate,” Coe said, “a lot of it is going to work but you have to recognize that some of it is like the Paris fashions — not everything is angular, jagged, outrageous. Some of Paris fashion week is inevitably going to end up on a coat hanger in a retail store. But you do need to start somewhere.

“This for me is absolutely crucial: we must give federations, we must give organizing committees, permission to think out of the box and not sit there thinking, ‘I am going to look silly if it doesn’t come off.’ Because some of it is not going to come off.”

Part Two in a three-piece Oregon trilogy

These 2016 world indoors also made for the second act in a three-part Oregon world championship track and field trilogy keyed by TrackTown, in partnership with, among others, USATF. Understand, for instance, that these indoors don’t happen without the significant financial investment of USATF.

Part one: the 2014 world juniors in Eugene. Part two: Portland 2016. Part three: the 2021 world outdoor championships, back at a rebuilt Hayward Field.

There’s more: the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials will be back at Hayward.

Plus the NCAA Division I track and field championships — they have been at Hayward the past two years, will be there this year (June 8-11), indeed will be there every year through at least 2021.

This summer is due to see the launch of the TrackTown summer series meets.

Little appreciated amid the first world indoor championships in the United States since 1987: the IAAF had to want to come. One of the reasons it did so: the IAAF meetings around the 2014 Eugene world juniors, thanks to the efforts of USATF chief operating officer Renee Washington, were arguably best-ever. A detail that might seem small but really isn’t, like the translation services — it was made a priority, not not an afterthought.

The IAAF noticed.

“There is no one person who can single-handedly take all these people stuck in the fact that [the sport] has been done a single way,” Siegel said, emphasizing, “It takes a collective effort of like-minded people to effect any vision.”

From the get-go, the point of emphasis from all involved was that the 2016 world indoors had to be more than simply a track meet.

The audacious goal was to stage “the best indoor meet ever held anywhere in the world,” Lananna said last Wednesday with the idea of sparking what Coe on Thursday called a “reawakening of track and field in this country.”

That kind of thing is, by definition, going to take time.

So an immediate verdict is, again by definition, all but impossible.

Attendance figures suggest, however, that something must have clicked — the OCC, capacity 7,000, was essentially sold out for all three night events, and even the Friday morning session, competing against an Oregon State NCAA March Madness basketball game on TV, drew 4,087.

On Saturday evening, demand was so intense that organizers added— thank you, Portland fire marshal for being so accommodating — temporary seats and allowed for standing-room only. The total: 7,173.

Sunday, much the same: 7,191. Friendly ticket “brokers” could be seen looking for business outside the convention center.

The four-day attendance total: 39,283.

A huge boost to the atmosphere: the U.S. team ended up with 23 medals overall. Runner-up Ethiopia had -- five. France, four. Nobody else had more than three.

The fundamental challenge

Putting aside doping and corruption issues, for which the sport has justifiably earned headlines in recent months and years, the fundamental challenge is easy to identify: track and field is arguably the only sport in which multiple events are going on simultaneously.

On Sunday, for example: the men’s long jump, women’s 5k and women’s high jump (won a few minutes later by U.S. teen sensation Vashti Cunningham) were all going on at exactly the same time.

American Marquis Dendy, long jump winner // Getty Images for IAAF

Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia crosses the line to win gold in the women's 5k // Getty Images for IAAF

American teen Vashti Cunningham in the high jump // Getty Images for IAAF

How to best present or package that? Production, story-telling, engaging an audience — particularly newbies or casual fans?

At the same time, track and field is without question the most diverse, most global, sport anywhere anytime. It’s also fundamental. Virtually everyone, at some point, has done the run, jump or throw thing.

The 2016 championships drew roughly 500 athletes from more than 140 nations — roughly two-thirds of the countries in the world.

That’s the good.

The not-so: no Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin, Allyson Felix, Mo Farah (though he did show up to watch), David Rudisha and, of course, given the status of the Russian team amid doping sanction, the pole vault diva Yelena Isinbayeva.

British distance champion Mo Farah, who often trains in the Portland area, watching Friday night's men's 1500 heats with daughter Rihanna // Getty Images for IAAF

Germany's Kristin Gierisch, a silver medalist in Saturday's triple jump

The convention center pre-track build-out // photo courtesy TrackTown USA

Construction underway: note the wall on the right that had to go // photo courtesy TrackTown USA

Ready to go // Getty Images for IAAF

"Feels Like the First Time" -- thanks, Foreigner

The no-shows missed the transformation of the convention center in just 12 days to a world-class track and field venue.

And, beyond the rock soundtrack (Foreigner: “Feels Like the First Time” during the Friday men’s 1500 heats), a series of other major markers, many of which drew from a series of inspirations.

— The pole vault, men’s and women’s, as a by-themselves package on Thursday night, with hundreds of kids allowed onto the banked 200-meter track to watch.

Organizers were rewarded three times over. First: both winners were London 2012 Olympic gold medalists, the American Jenn Suhr and Renaud Lavillenie of France. Second: for the first time ever in the same competition, four women went over 4.80 meters, or 15 feet, 9 inches, Suhr winning in 4.90, 16-0 3/4. Third: Lavillenie, after setting a new indoor championships record on just his third jump, 6.02, 19-9, made three (unsuccessful) tries at a world record, 6.17, 20-2 3/4, electrifying the crowd.

The Lavillenie victory, moreover, provided emphatic evidence that, for all its challenges, track and field remains indisputably at the intersection of real-world politics and sport -- why it's so relevant in so many nations. French president Francois Hollande, on Friday posted to his Twitter account a message that read, in idiomatic English: "Congratulations to Renaud Lavillenie for his second world title! Here's to a great Olympic Games in Rio!"

In the manner of the pole-vault meet that now-IAAF vice president Sergey Bubka used to run in his hometown of Donetsk, Ukraine, stand-alone events would seem a key to the future of track and field.

USATF, for instance, made the hammer-throw at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials a signature event, held — before 5,000 people — at the Nike campus outside Portland. In 2014, the U.S. nationals saw the shot put go down on the California state capitol grounds.

Now: what about featuring that women’s high jump? On, say, the Vegas Strip? Or the Champs Élysées in Paris? Or the riverfront Bund in Shanghai?

— Those athlete entry ramps.

Swimming has long done the athlete intro big-time, with swimmers coming out from behind a partition to lights and music. Track tried that at the World Relays in the Bahamas in 2014, and again last year. Now, the ramps.

Another logistical (and time-saving) advantage: no stripping off the warm-ups in the lanes right before the start of a race.

Coe, noting that the indoor format lends itself more easily to experimentation, said, “Enough [new ideas have] come off here to make a big difference already.”

At the same time, as he noted, and this question about the ramps was rhetorical, not signaling an opinion, “Will that work on a Friday night in London when it’s 48 degrees?”

Norway’s Svein Arne Hansen, president of the European Athletics Assn., emphasizing that he, too, is a big proponent of trying something new, noted with a wry smile about turning down the house lights for athlete introductions: “I cannot turn down the lights at Bislett,” the annual summer stop in Oslo. “It’s sunlight.”

— A digitized scoreboard for the horizontal jumps.

You could see, not just have to imagine, what record a particular jumper might be going for. What a concept.

— Locals operating food trucks as an alternative to arena hot dogs. Voodoo Doughnuts!

— Uber as a sponsor, an example of integrating new, and cost-effective, technology.

Normally, an organizing committee has to find a car sponsor or rent a bunch of cars to create a dedicated carpool system. With Uber — Uber provided the carpool. If you wanted a ride — well, you know how Uber works.

— The make-over of Portland Courthouse Square downtown into the place for medals, music and more.

The nightly medals ceremonies focused on the athletes, a key for Lananna and Coe. Lananna said, “You take youth and connect them to their great heroes. That’s what it’s all about — that next generation.”

A clear logistical benefit to moving the ceremonies offsite: carving time out of the rundown at the track itself.

The offsite medals plaza has many roots — see the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Games, for instance. Or the party vibe each summer at those Bislett Games in Oslo.

The vibe at the square: Portlandia from the start. At the opening news conference there last Thursday, Coe didn’t wear a tie, the first IAAF event in years at which the president did not wear a tie. Neither did Lananna. Nor Siegel.

Again, all quite deliberately.

“It has been a good event,” Hansen said Sunday as the championships came to a close. “The music. The atmosphere. Excellently organized.”

And, at least for four days, in a nod to the wave of doping and corruption headlines, he said, “We don’t talk about [the bad stuff] anymore.”

A historic "road map" for Russia?

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.

Russian president Vladimir Putin earlier this week in Sochi with sports minister Vitaly Mutko // Getty Images

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.

No, really.

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.”

Who knew what, when? And what is to be done?

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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.

Not really.

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 WADA-appointed three-member Independent Commission upon the release of the report Monday in Geneva: Canadian lawyer and professor Richard McLaren, former WADA president Richard Pound and German law enforcement official Guenter Younger // photo Getty Images

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?

Answer:

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.

Why?

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.

Dmitry Medvedev, right, now the Russian prime minister, and sports minister Vitaly Mutko at the 2015 world swim championships in Kazan // Getty Images

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.

Why Putin?

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.”

Consider:

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.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, left, listens in as Russian pole vault champion and Sochi 2014 Olympic village mayor Yelena Isinbayeva, center, whispers during a visit to the Olympic village at the 2014 Sochi Games // Getty Images

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 and security

If bombs went off in San Francisco, would that stop you from making a trip to Los Angeles? The Bay Area is roughly 400 miles — 640 or so kilometers — from LA.

Volgograd, where a suicide attack Sunday rocked the train station and another Monday destroyed a trolley bus, is roughly 400 miles northeast of Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Games, which begin in 36 days.

Experts have suggested the attacks might signal the onset of a wave of terror attacks directed by Russia’s most-wanted militant, Doku Umarov. Last July, he vowed to disrupt the Olympics. He called the Games “satanic.”

“Dear friends,” the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said in televised remarks amid visits to the Russian Far East and then Wednesday to Volgograd itself, where the death toll in the two attacks has reached 34, “we bow our heads to the victims of violent terrorist attacks.

“I am sure we will continue to fight against terrorists harshly and consistently until their complete destruction.”

What the Volgograd attacks have done already is add another layer of complexity to what may be —this is no hyperbole — the most complicated project in the history of the modern Olympic movement.

Thirty-four years ago, the Olympic Games were held in Moscow. The United States, and several other countries in the west, boycotted, under intense pressure from Jimmy Carter’s White House.

Now, of course, we are within weeks of the first-ever Winter Games in Sochi, in the country that was the main part of the Soviet Union, that is now Russia.

The International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, is new to the job, elected in September. That said, he has in his first few months on the job shown formidable energy and capacity, and he and Putin also appear to have a remarkable relationship; Putin tracked Bach down within minutes of Bach’s election at the IOC meeting in Buenos Aires, on a cellphone, to wish Bach good luck.

Putin has been involved from the outset in oversight of these 2014 Games. They will have cost a reported $51 billion, the most-ever, at least $10 million more than the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

These Games have always marked a vehicle to assert Russia’s standing in our world — and, perhaps even more important, within Russia and to Russians, as the nation finds its way in these first decades after communism.

The 2014 Games have been enveloped for months in political controversy.

How much of that, one wonders, is left over from the old Cold War days, when the Soviets were “them” and the west was “us”?

How much, as the controversy over the Russian law purporting to ban gay “propaganda” aimed at minors has underscored, is because some Russian cultural values may be more conservative than in some quarters in the west, and yet many activists in the west believe Russians must be just like our most progressive precincts?

How much from the simple fact the Russians use a different alphabet?

Russia can be different.

Different, however, doesn’t mean worse. Or, for that matter, better. It just means different.

And that is entire purpose of the Games, indeed of the Olympic movement.

We are all, each of us, different.

The point is to celebrate our humanity. You can’t do that at separate world championships. You can’t do it unless you all come together in one place, at one time.

The reality is that security at the Sochi 2014 Games is going to be highly visible and, probably, heavy-handed. The feeling of being there is probably going to be akin to being in an armed camp, and the Volgograd attacks will probably ratchet things up a degree or two more.

It’s going to be something like being in Salt Lake City at the 2002 Games, five months after the 9/11 attacks.

The difference for most visitors to Sochi is that the language and cultural barriers are bound to be ferocious. And there’s yet another layer to the security system for many in Sochi, a pass system to get in and get out of whatever it is they’re going to see. In all, the scene is likely to be tense, perhaps even intense.

Is it going to be safe? Life holds no guarantees. The probable reason the bombs are going off 400 miles away is because Volgograd is the sort of “soft” transport center a terrorist can target to sow fear when the harder target — Sochi — would be far, far more difficult to strike.

Have the perpetrators of the Volgograd attacks done their job? Now my mother, across the time zones, wants to know whether I’m still going to Sochi.

Of course. I wouldn’t miss it for a second. The 2014 Winter Olympics are going to be the place to be.

This is not bravado talking. I went to Iraq in 2003 and have no need to see more war zones. Beyond which, I have a wife and three children and for sure want to come home safe and sound.

Here, though, is the reality: Life must hold passion, and meaning. You have to play your part in things that are meaningful. The idea that people from around the world can come together and perhaps find not only a way to talk to each other but common ground, even if in our mixed-up world it takes some soldiers and rifles to do it — that’s worth finding a way to make happen. Then to be able to tell the story when something good happens — that’s great stuff.

As Bach said in his New Year’s message, the enduring appeal of the Games is that they provide a means for the athletes of the world to “experience first-hand the ability” to “build bridges and break down walls.”

He also said, “The Sochi Olympic Games should be a demonstration of unity in diversity and of remarkable athletic achievements — not a platform for politics or division. This is even more important after the cowardly terrorist attacks in Russia, which we utterly condemn. Terrorism must never triumph. We trust that the Russian authorities will deliver safe and secure Olympic Winter Games for all athletes and all participants.”

The Russians will get their next likely test of whether they can, indeed, deliver safe and secure Games on Jan. 20. On that date the Olympic flame relay goes to Volgograd. The swim school there has produced such notables as Alexander Popov (four gold, five silver medals), now an IOC member; and Evgeny Sadovyi, who won three gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Games swimming for the Unified Team, including the 400 freestyle, in 3:45, a time that would have gotten him fourth at the 2013 world championships. The pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva (two gold, one bronze), was born in Volgograd.

Sadovyi is due to be one of those running Jan. 20 in his hometown.

Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation as well as Sport Accord, the umbrella organization for the international sports federations, wrote a year-end message as well. His words, too, are on-point:

“The Sochi Winter Games,” he wrote, “represent not only a magnificent financial effort from Russia and the exclusive attention of President Vladimir Putin but they are also an outstanding effort of respect and solidarity towards humanity, a noble gesture of appreciation from the Russian people towards all the countries of the world that will participate in this event. These Games are staged to welcome all those who have a special role in sports, politics, media and human values.

“I consider that athletes, politicians, media and all the entities that define the human values must be not only [in] solidarity with Russia’s efforts of respect, but on the occasion of this event, they should also support and celebrate together a total gesture of solidarity, unity and appreciation in order to become themselves an example for humankind.”

 

To quote Lenin, what is to be done?

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.

14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 - Day Nine

"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.

Consider:

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?

 

Rainbow fingernails stir it up

There was a terrific track meet Thursday at Luzhniki Stadium at Moscow. But the central action came -- unsurprisingly -- courtesy of Russian pole vault diva Yelena Isinbayeva, underscoring the controversy over Russia's new anti-gay law. It all started when Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro posted an Instagram picture of her fingernails painted "in the colors of the rainbow," with the hashtags #pride and #moscow2013. Also, Swedish sprinter Moa Hjelmer ran in the heats of the 200-meter heats with her nails painted in rainbow colors as well.

Isinbayeva, who got her gold medal Thursday after Tuesday's captivating pole-vault action, told reporters, in English, "If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people. We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys.

"Everything must be fine. It comes from history. We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don't want to have any in the future."

Green Tregaro is one of the world's best jumpers, a consistent top-10 performer; she is due to return to the track Saturday for the high jump finals. Isinbayeva said even painted fingernails were out of place.

14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 - Day Six

"It's unrespectful to our country. It's unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians. Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands. We have our home and everyone has to respect (it). When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules."

Isinbayeva's comments in defense of the Russian law, which prohibits the promotion of homosexuality to minors or holding gay pride rallies, need to be fully understood in context.

Who thinks that someone of her stature made such remarks without the full support beforehand of the leading authorities in Russia? After all, she is due to be the honorary mayor of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games athletes' village.

This, too: the demonstration by the Swedish athletes makes for an interesting test. There were no immediate reports of Green Tregaro being arrested. Nor, for that matter, Hjelmer.

Back to the track:

In the same way that Isinbayeva captivated fans Tuesday night with her victory in the pole vault, the men's high-jump thrilled fans Thursday, with Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko coming out on top in a duel with Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim, Canada's Derek Drouin and Russia's Ivan Ukhov.

For the first time since 1995, a 2.35-meter clearance in the high jump -- 7 feet, 8-1/2 inches -- would not even be good enough for a medal.

Bondarenko's winning jump: a championship-record 2.41 meters, or 7 feet, 10-3/4 inches.

Barshim and Drouin tied for bronze last year in London; here, Barshim took silver, Drouin, bronze. Ukhov, last year's gold medalist, settled for fourth. American Eric Kynard, the 2012 silver medalist, took fifth.

With a huge contingent of fans from Ukraine on hand, in their blue and yellow shirts, Bondarenko, seventh last year in London, made three tries at a new world record -- 2.46 meters, or 8 feet, 3/4 inch -- but no go. It was quite a spectacle; he wore one yellow shoe and one red.

In the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase, Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi continued his dominance with an 8:06.01 victory.

14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 - Day Six

If track and field were more of a mainstream sport, particularly in the United States, Kemboi would be a dream. As it is, in many precincts, he is a virtual unknown. Amazing, considering he has two Olympic golds and, now, three world championship golds.

For this race, Kemboi showed up with a Mohawk. He is a character and celebrated his win -- which he ensured with his typical kick into overdrive down the homestretch -- with, per usual, a dance, using the Kenyan flag as a makeshift skirt.

Under his singlet, it turned out, he was wearing a shirt that proclaimed he was wearing his victory -- he had a certain confidence, apparently -- to Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and deputy William Ruto, "my heroes my kings I love Kenya."

Kenya's Conseslus Kipruto -- he's just 18 -- took silver, in  8:06.37, and France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad bronze 8:07.86.

As a measure of their county's dominance in the event, check out the rank of Kenyans in top 10 in the order of finish: 1, 2, 4, 7.

Meanwhile, Evan Jager of the United States ran fifth in 8:08.62, the best finish for an American man since Mark Croghan in 1993. Jager's marked the fastest fifth-place time, ever, in a 3,000-meter steeplechase at a world championships.

Jager now has the three fastest 3k steeple times in American history. And he has only run the event 12 times.

"I'm definitely happy with how far I've come, and I'm excited for the future," Jager said. "But I really wanted a medal. I wanted it real bad."

Jehue Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago became the island nation's second-ever world champ -- behind sprinter Ato Boldon, now an NBC analyst -- winning the men's 400-meter hurdles, in 47.69, the fastest time in the world this year. American Michael Tinsley finished in a personal best 47.70.

Both men ended up sprawled on the blue track just after the finish line, the race too close to call for a few moments.

Serbia's Emir Bekric, the European under-23 champion who almost seems too big and too tall to be running track -- he looks like a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, or something -- took bronze, in a national-record 48.05.

Felix Sanchez, the 2004 and 2012 Olympic champion, got fifth, in 48.22.

In the women's 400 hurdles, Zuzana Henjova of the Czech Republic, who had served notice all week that she was the one to beat, came through for the gold in 52.84, the best time in the world this year.

Americans went 2-3, Dalilah Muhammad catching Lashinda Demus at the line for the silver. Muhammad finished in 54.09, Demus in 54.27.

Caterine Ibarguen's win in the triple jump marked Colombia's first-ever gold medal at the worlds.

Finally, in the women's 1500 -- the start of which was held for 10 minutes while the men's high jump wrapped up -- Sweden's Abeba Aregawi kicked past American Jenny Simpson, who had led for most of the race.

Aregawi -- who ran for Ethiopia at the 2012 Olympics, finishing fifth -- crossed in 4:02.67, Simpson in 4:02.99. Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba took their in 4:03.86.

Simpson's silver proved emphatically that her victory in the event two years ago at the worlds in Daegu, South Korea, was no fluke.

"I think the last 200 I was almost unconscious," Simpson said. "I just kept telling myself, just run as hard as you can."

Mary Cain, the 17-year-old from Bronxville, N.Y., finished 10th, in 4:07.19.

She said, "I think later tonight I'm going to be really, really angry in a good way, and I think I'm going to be really motivated. I think you guys are probably a little scared. Normally you see me like, 'Oh, ducks, puddles,' but I'm going to go home and I'm going to get into this. I think this is going to motivate me so much for next year.

"Next year there are no worlds. It's just me and learning how to race."

 

Not yet a 'pregnant penguin'

MOSCOW -- The clock said it was a couple minutes past 10 in the evening. All the action on the track was over. The only matter left to be decided was at the pole vault, and there was only one jumper left. Yelena Isinbayeva had all of Luzhniki Stadium to herself. Just the way she likes it.

The greatest female pole vaulter in history, the first-ever in history to clear five meters, won the third world title of her incredible career, the only one in Tuesday's field to clear 4.89 meters, or 16 feet and exactly one-half of an inch.

The world record is 5.07, or 16-7 1/2. Isinbayeva made three tries as the clock ticked past 10. None were really close. No matter. The crowd came to see the Pole Vault Diva, Isinbayeva. They were thrilled, roaring at her every attempt, at what -- for the first time -- felt like a real world championships here at Luzhniki.

"I am so happy the era of Isinbayeva is back again," she said at a news conference that stretched into early Wednesday. "It was never finished."

14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 - Day Four

Perhaps this is the last of Isinbayeva's world titles. Or not. She says now she is going to take what she called a "small woman's break," intending to have a baby next year. She is due to be the honorary mayor of the athlete's village at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games and said she intends to be walking around -- she really said this -- like a "pregnant penguin" offering the world's skiers and skaters "the traditional bread and salt" like a good Russian host.

The world has never seen anyone quite like Yelena Isinbayeva. And the scene at the pole vault runway -- Isinbayeva's catwalk -- capped a fantastic night of track and field, one that saw the U.S. team win four medals: one gold, three silver.

LaShawn Merritt simply blew away all comers, including London 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James, to win the men's 400 meters, in 43.74 seconds, 2013's best time. Fellow American Tony McQuay took silver, in a personal-best 44.40.

Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic -- 19 years old -- finished third, in 44.52.

James? An improbable seventh, in 44.99.

On his way out, James told Universal Sports, "I just died. I don't know what happened."

For Merritt, the 2008 Olympic champion, this marked redemption, and in a big way. He has overcome injury and the embarrassment of a ban relating to the purchase of a male-enhancement product at a convenience store and weathered it all with dignity. McQuay was far from alone when he said at a late Tuesday news conference that he considered Merritt a "great role model."

Merritt said winning Tuesday was a "sweet moment." He also said, "I guess you could call it a comeback. But I don't feel like I ever left. I always continued to work hard and keep faith in my ability -- spiritually, physically and mentally. To come here … I was ready for it."

In the men's 800, Nick Symmonds took silver, in 1:43.55, the best-ever finish in the event by an American and the first medal for a U.S. man since Rich Kenah's bronze in 1997.

Ethiopia's Mohamed Aman won, in 1:43.31 -- the 2012 world indoor champ adding the 2013 outdoor title to his collection. He is just 19. Djibouti's Ayanleh Souleiman took third, in 1:43.76, the first medal for his country since Ahmed Salah won silver in the marathon at the Tokyo worlds in 1991. Souleiman is just 20.

Well before anyone even got to Moscow, the 800 was going to be a wide-open affair. Not one of the three medalists from the 2012 Olympics was here. Gold medalist David Rudisha of Kenya, who set a world-record 1:40.91 in London, was hurt. So was silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana. Timothy Kitum didn't make the team Kenya sent to Moscow.

No one in the world had run under 1:43 this year.

In the heats and semifinals, astonishingly, all the Kenyans were eliminated. That meant that -- for the first time in the 30-year history of the world championships -- the men's 800 final would be Kenyan-free.

Symmonds had finished fifth in London; fifth at the worlds in Daegu in 2011; sixth at the Berlin worlds in 2009. He is 29. He had blogged before coming here about how significant it would mean to him personally and professionally to leave Moscow with what he called a "shiny medal" around his neck.

Coming down the stretch, it looked like it might be gold. But with about 20 meters to go, Aman proved just too strong.

"Nothing is impossible," Aman said. "You have to believe in yourself and train."

Echoed Symmonds, "To be a medalist takes a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of luck as well. A lot of experience. At the age of 29 ... it feels like all the hard work and the sacrifice has paid off."

All of that set the stage for the pole-vault drama.

There are three superb female pole-vaulters right now in the world. The American Jenn Suhr won Olympic gold, the Cuban Yarisley Silva silver in London. And then, of course, there is Isinbayeva -- the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion who won bronze in London.

Isinbayeva is also the 2005 and 2007 world champion. But in Berlin in 2009, she no-heighted. In Daegu in 2011, she took sixth.

Last year in London, she was back to her old ways -- with that third. But for her, third is not -- well, first. And, as she acknowledged after the jumps were all over Tuesday, referring to the last few years, "Sometimes I was desperate … sometimes I thought I should quit."

When all three cleared 4.82, or 15-9 3/4, it marked the first time since 2007 that three women had cleared that height in the same competition. This was, in every way, world-class stuff.

Plus, the crowd was totally into it. The runway and pit were set up in what, in an American stadium, would be a football end zone. The stadium was not filled -- not quite -- but attendance was, because of Isinbayeva, eminently decent. Plus, because of Luzhniki's overhanging roof, the crowd noise was loud, indeed.

Isinbayeva would later say it was the best crowd support she had received. Ever.

"Yes," she said, through a translator in Russian, "that was the best-ever. It was my home crowd. I felt like I was at home. What can you say? Being at home helps you. If we had the Olympics in Moscow [instead of London], the results would be different.

"I've gotten support in other countries. But tonight I knew. Tonight, everyone was behind me. I felt all my emotions. I absorbed it. The support was just colossal."

To have the stadium all to herself? She smiled. In English, she said that was "nice feelings."

Suhr held the lead until she missed her first try at 4.89. Then the pressure was on.

Isinbayeva cleared.

Game over, pretty much -- though the other two women tried to clear, it was not their night.

Suhr took silver, Silva bronze.

Suhr called it a "great competition," adding, "If I was a spectator, that's exactly what I would want to see."

She also said, "When I think of where pole vaulting was and where it is now, you have to thank Yelena for getting us there. making the spotlight, making it one of the premier events to watch. Look at today. Every event was over but everyone stayed to watch it. We have to thank her for really paving the road for that."

People, the era of Isinbayeva is back again. For emphasis, it was never finished.