They did it. Stunningly, the members of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board did it. They just kicked the bums out.
Russia has been suspended from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The most diabolical state-sponsored doping machine of our time, and the worst since East Germany a generation ago, has finally received the punishment it deserves.
Only those athletes who can prove they have not been cheating by being cleared by a panel that appears to be independent and in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency, the world’s doping police, will be allowed in Pyeongchang. And even then, they will not be able to wear Russian uniforms or compete under the Russian flag or listen to the Russian anthem should they win a gold medal.
In the long, tangled history of the Olympics and performance-enhancing drugs, there has never been a finer moment.
How significant is this? Picture a medal ceremony two months into the future. Say it’s figure skating. Two-time defending world champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia, who is injured at the moment, comes back to win the gold. She climbs to the top rung of the medal stand, wearing a neutral warmup (reportedly made by Nike, who else?) with the words “Olympic Athlete from Russia.” No Russian blue, red and white. No Russian sponsors over her heart.
The medal is put around her neck. The silver and bronze medalists receive their medals. It’s now time for the Russian national anthem, but there is no Russian national anthem. The Olympic Anthem will be played instead.
And look at the flags. There’s the flag of the silver medalist and the bronze (if they aren’t Russian). But for Medvedeva in this scenario? The white Olympic flag with its five colored rings.
No uniform. No flag. No anthem. Over and over again, for every Russian who can prove they are innocent and goes on to win a gold medal. Or even a silver or bronze – except for the anthem.
What a visual display this will be. What an embarrassment for Russia, for every single official who helped deprive athletes from other nations who played by the rules out of the medals they deserved in Sochi, in Rio, in London.
And, what a wonderful comeuppance this is for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Incredibly, the IOC, the oldest of the world’s old boys clubs, turned its back on one of its own. It told Putin, the man who spent $51 billion to give the IOC a grand if sterile Winter Olympics in Sochi just four years ago, to get lost.
Putin must have thought his $51 billion had guaranteed him a lifetime of free passes from the IOC. He must have thought there was no way the IOC would kick out one of the great Olympic super powers of the past 60 years. He must have figured he could wiggle his way out of this one with threats and denials, just as he did a year and a half ago in Rio, when Russia avoided the punishment it deserved then.
Putin was wrong. The IOC majestically stood up to him, and defied him. I’ve covered the Olympics since 1984. I never thought I’d see this.
There are many twists and turns left in this saga as individual Russian athletes will now try to petition their way into the Games, but the fact remains, Russia as a nation is out of the upcoming Olympic Games. Russia has been punished severely. Russia is now cloaked in international disgrace.
The bad guys just lost, big time.
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