Dylan Cleaver: NZOC wash hands of IOC's spineless decision

IOC and its branches, including NZOC, show how to wash hands of responsibility.
Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov, left, receives the official invitation for the 2016 Olympic games from the IOC President Thomas Bach. Photo / AP
Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov, left, receives the official invitation for the 2016 Olympic games from the IOC President Thomas Bach. Photo / AP

What a craven organisation the IOC is, and what a toadying bunch of sycophants its national branches, including the NZOC, are.

Not since the days of Pontius Pilate has anybody so nakedly chosen to wash their hands of responsibility as the International Olympic Committee has done with Russia. Russia was found guilty of systemic doping of its athletes. The scope of its cheating was breathtaking, implicating hundreds of athletes across 28 sports between 2011 and 2015.

Russian anti-doping officials and intelligence operatives would work through the dead of night while there were no independent Wada observers, exchanging dirty urine samples for clean ones already procured from athletes. Once they worked out a way to circumvent the supposedly tamper-proof bottles, it proved a devastatingly effective way of ensuring their doped-to-the-eyeballs athletes would not be caught.

A few brave whistleblowers wobbled the first domino, previously complacent track and field officials and anti-doping authorities forced it to tip, now the spineless IOC has put its cloven hoof in the way to prevent them tumbling further.

Replace the word "Russia" with, say, "Angola" and ask yourself whether the IOC would have baulked at expelling it from Rio de Janeiro?

Instead the International Olympic Committee has left it up to the individual sports to decide whether to allow Russian athletes to compete in their disciplines.

"I think in this way, we have balanced on the one hand, the desire and need for collective responsibility versus the right to individual justice of every individual athlete," said IOC president Thomas Bach. "We have set the bar to the limit."

Um, no you haven't Tommy, not by a long chalk. There shouldn't be even the merest chance of a Russian flag hanging above the Olympic Village in Rio next month, or in PyeongChang in 2018 for that matter. Instead we have the unedifying sight of the International Tennis Federation clearing all seven Russian athletes to compete.

What price judo being next, given that Russian president Vladimir Putin is a practising judoka and extols the virtues of the sport at every opportunity?

Here's a clue to judo's stance. IJF president Marius Vizer put out this mealy-mouthed statement in the wake of the damning McLaren Report, which laid bare the extent of Russian doping: "We support all these clean [Russian] athletes and we hope that they will be present in the Olympic Games of Rio de Janeiro 2016. From a judo perspective, the presence of Russian athletes is very important, as the Russian Judo Federation is a prominent member of the International Judo Federation."

Yes, putting the ball in the sports' courts is really teaching Russia a lesson.

Unsurprisingly, the response to the IOC's vacillation has been damning, not least from the head of Drug Free Sport NZ Graeme Steel, who called it a "black day" for clean athletes.

"We are extremely disappointed at the IOC's failure to show adequate leadership in protecting the integrity of sport," Steel said. "The decision of the IOC to not take matters into their own hands but pass on the hot potato to international federations shows a lack of will to back the core principles of their organisation with hard decisions."

Of course he's right and it's why the NZOC, which has made a speciality of washing its hands of difficult tasks lately, should have just stayed in its corner and shut up. Instead we get these weasel words.

"The impact of the Russian state-sanctioned doping programme has been widespread and shocking and the IOC has taken the strongest possible measures."

No it hasn't.

"The NZOC is satisfied the IOC has considered the issues with the utmost care, balancing individual justice with collective responsibility."

Pass me the sick bag.

New Zealand IOC member Barbara Kendall went further, proving that she was indeed a very good boardsailor.

"For me, it's a really great decision," she said.

Everybody involved in this decision should hang their heads in shame. They have, again, let down clean sport.

History might remember them, not so much as Pilate, but more like another historical hand-washer, Lady Macbeth, who could never remove the stain of her misdeeds.

"What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account."


This, from the Guardian, will give you an excellent idea as to the issues that saw the IOC take such a snivelling approach to The Russian Issue.

On a brighter note, watch this AFL player kick his own leg and break it in two places.

Forget Bond and Murray, Sports Illustrated anoints the best team in rowing at Rio.

- NZ Herald

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