Various sports have been deeply tarnished by the corruption of leading guardians in recent times, but not even their graft was quite as devastating as the International Olympic Committee's decision yesterday not to banish the Russian Federation from Rio.
The IOC had been presented with a report that concluded the use of drugs in Russia's Olympic sports was not only directed by the Russian state but that its state agencies went to elaborate lengths to foil and falsify drug testing results. The IOC needed to demonstrate to Russia and the world that it cared for the integrity of the Olympics as the highest expression of sporting ideals.
It has failed to do so. It has quailed at the prospect of banning a country that has always featured high on the medal tally. It decided a blanket ban would be unfair to individuals or teams from Russia that might be innocent. Yet if there were Russian athletes in that position, they would know who to blame. Their Ministry of Sport, their anti-doping agency and the state security service, successor to the KGB of the Soviet era, were all implicated in the scams exposed by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren's report for the World Anti-Doping Association.
No self-respecting athlete should want to be wearing the colours of the Russian Federation at the Olympic Games or anywhere else until Russian sport is cleaned up.
That might not be possible under Russia's current government, but it will never happen so long as the international Olympic movement shrinks from enforcing fair and decent sporting standards. Russia might not be the only country whose competitors have been permitted, and probably encouraged, to use performance-enhancing drugs, but the other leading suspects are mainly Russia's near neighbours in the former Eastern bloc.
Unless an example is made of one offending country, this sort of state-sanctioned doping will go on. It is hard to think of a more deserving example than Russia.
How sad that the New Zealand Olympic Committee lamely supported the decision of the IOC. Olympic sports in this country receive a great deal of taxpayers' money. In fact success at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games has been the basis of allocating high performance funds the Government puts at the disposal of its sport and recreation agency. The money, if truth be known, is the main reason sports want to get into the Games. The NZOC ought to be telling its parent body clearly and publicly that this decision threatens to undermine the credibility and funding of Olympic sports in New Zealand.
If the NZOC will not say this, the Government should. All governments that parcel out public funds to sport should tell their Olympic committees they will not continue to finance sports in which national competitors are at risk of defeat by drug cheats.
The IOC has passed the buck to its constituent sports bodies to decide whether Russian entries will be accepted at Rio but they have too little time to check every entrant.
We are going to see Russians winning medals and an Olympic movement in disgrace.