I’ve had a series of informal exchanges over Richard McLaren’s second report on doping in Russian sports. What follows is a fine tuned version of my impression of that subject. It’s in line with the December 10 Duran article “Professor McLaren Again Attacks Russian Sport“.
Among the major Western news media venues, the BBC has a well deserved enough reputation for being the most objective. That observation is relative to the competition and doesn’t mean that everything at the Beeb is always kosher.
The December 9, BBC piece “Russian Doping: McLaren Report Says More Than 1,000 Athletes Implicated“, is much like the same day televised BBC coverage aired in the US. In each instance, the opening starts out with words like “according and “claims”, regarding McLaren’s latest report. Thereafter, BBC reporters erroneously present McLaren’s observations as facts.
Lacking verifiable specifics, McLaren asserts that more than 1,000 Russian athletes are linked to a state sponsored doping program. The combined total of Russian Summer and Winter Olympic athletes is less than 1,000. The overwhelming majority of these athletes haven’t been found guilty of doping.
Two unnamed Russian women ice hockey players (highlighted by McLaren and the BBC), along with some other anecdotes are a far cry from conclusively proving an unethically vast state sponsored doping regimen. At the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, the heavily booed Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, was clearly not involved in an illicit state orchestrated doping campaign. The booing of Efimova and other Russian athletes at Rio were the result of misinformed individuals (many from English speaking countries), who’ve readily accepted the suspect claims stated in the media they rely on.
Efimova’s first offence involved using an over the counter supplement legally bought in the US (where she has lived and trained), which has some matter banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the sports federations affiliated with it. Her second infraction concerned a drug (Meldonium), that had only recently been banned. Before a panel of non-Russians, Efimova made the case that her use of Meldonium was before it became banned. (Testing can find traces of that drug in a person’s body for months after its use has ended.)
Grigory Rodchenkov, the so-called “whistleblower” (who was fired from his Russian sports medicine position for taking bribes to cover up positive tests) hasn’t been made available for follow-up questioning. Upon his disgraced dismissal in Russia, Rodchenkov turned up in the US, where he made sensationalistic claims, utilized by McLaren.
After the release of McLaren’s second report, the IOC announced a retesting of Russian blood samples from the 2012 London Summer Olympics and 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. As time passes, the testing methodology improves. Hence, a retested negative sample from 2012 could turn up positive years later. If there’s a sincere effort to clean up doping in the Olympics, there should be an across the board retesting that includes non-Russian athletes. Any reluctance to do so suggests an insincere effort.
The drive to isolate Russia is factually challenged, if not bigoted. It’s fair to believe that North American legal politicos Travis Tygart and Dick Pound wouldn’t favor a collective ban if the tables went against their respective nation with the same level of “evidence”. An underlying current of arrogance, ignorance and hypocrisy relates to the incessant Russia bashing which has been evident.
Last week, the comparatively more open minded John Batchelor, had two segments concerning anti-Jewish instances in the US. When it comes to the American academic, mass media and political establishments, anti-Russian sentiment is the greater reality. This point doesn’t deny the anti-Jewish manner existing within some extreme elements outside the aforementioned grouping.
I note this as someone of Jewish and Russian Orthodox Christian backgrounds. In US mass media, some establishment journos periodically note their roots to the former USSR, in a way that suggests having some greater insight. These particular folks tend to slant in the direction of the predominating mass media preferences.
Meantime, there’re people with that former Soviet familial background in the West (that takes varying ethno-religious forms) with different views. The perspectives from these individuals are under-represented. The level of anti-Russian bigotry is something that a good number of the JRL (Johnson’s Russia List) court appointed Russia friendly regulars aren’t as well versed on, when compared to some of those who regularly get censored.
During the Cold War, people of White Russian background (whose families opposed the Communists, while being quite proud of their Russian background) experienced being called Commies because of their stated Russian heritage. On the left, some have blamed the Russian character for perverting an otherwise noble ideology (at least as perceived by some). I sense that this left grouping includes some PC types who talk about being tolerant towards others – Russians excluded.
All this meshes with the flawed mindset of the Cold War era created National Captive Nations Committee (NCNC), that influenced the US government to approve Captive Nations Week (CNW). With a heavy nationalist western Ukrainian diaspora influence, the NCNC/CNW project took to recognizing Nazi advocated states like “Cossackia” as captive nations, with Russia and Russians portrayed as benefactors of Communism at the unfair expense of others.
Quite rightly, there’d be an outcry if Jews were put in place of that thought. (That idea periodically crops up among some fringe circles.) Therein lies the kind of selective sensitivity that’s out there. In reality, the Soviet Union had multiethnic supporters and detractors in varied proportions.
(An aside regarding Cossackia: with some exceptions, most Cossacks appear to have a positive affinity for Russia. As is true with the NCNC/CNW agenda, the Nazi support for Cossackia was premised on a divisive front against Russia. Cossackia also challenged the Communist drawn boundaries of Ukraine – something that the Cold War period nationalist western Ukrainian influenced NCNC didn’t seem to actively confront. For the most part, anti-Communist Ukrainian nationalists appear to favor Ukraine’s Communist drawn boundaries.)
Prior articles of mine on (among other things) the issue of doping in Russian sports:
“Russians Held To Different Standards“, August 24, 2016
Russian Track And Field Athletes Face An Ongoing Ordeal“, July 12, 2016
“Enhanced Russia Bashing At The New York Times“, June 6, 2016<
“Russian Athletics Punishment To Hopefully End By Next Olympics“, January 25, 2016
Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. A related version of this article appeared under the title of “More Russia Bashing On Sports Doping Claim” at the Strategic Culture Foundation on December 15.