Recent events and the tense atmosphere that has formed around international sport and the Olympic movement involuntarily recall the situation in the early 1980s. Back then, many Western countries, citing the deployment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Four years later, the Soviet Union retaliated by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics, using the pretext of an allegedly insufficient level of security for the Soviet team. The result was that many Soviet and American athletes and athletes from other countries were caught up in this campaign of reciprocal boycotts and lost the chance to add their names to world sporting history. Their years of long and hard effort and training were in vain. 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.
Today, so-called ‘doping scandals’ are the method used, attempts to apply sanctions for detected cases of doping to all athletes, including those who are ‘clean’, supposedly to protect their interests. But unlike in the 1980s, athletes undergo very strict and comprehensive anti-doping tests during competition and during the entire training process. Over the last 6 months, all Russian athletes have undergone anti-doping tests on WADA’s recommendations, with the tests overseen by the UK Anti-Doping Agency and other anti-doping laboratories abroad.
The accusations against Russia’s athletes are based on information given by one single person, an individual with a notorious reputation. Criminal charges were opened against him in 2012 for violating anti-doping laws, but there was not enough evidence against him at that moment and the case was dropped. On June 17 this year, following his allegations of involvement in using banned substances and information from Russian athletes concerning extortion, a criminal case was reopened against him in connection with the new circumstances that had come to light. One of his close relatives, who used to work under his direction, has already been convicted in Russia for illegal trade in anabolic steroids. The question arises as to how much trust we can place in arguments based solely on the allegations of people of this kind, and how much weight can such allegations have.
The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and several anti-doping agencies in other countries, without waiting for the official publication of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s commission, have hastened to demand that the entire Russian team be banned from taking part in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
What is behind this haste? Is it an attempt to create the needed media atmosphere and apply pressure? We have the impression that the USADA experts had access to what is an unpublished report at the very least, and have set its tone and even its content themselves. If this is the case, one country’s national organisation is again trying to dictate its will to the entire world sports community.
The officials named in the commission’s report as directly involved will be temporarily removed from their posts until a full investigation is complete. But to be able to make a final decision on these officials’ responsibility, we ask the WADA commission to provide fuller and more objective fact-based information so that Russia’s law enforcement and investigative agencies can use it in their investigation. We can guarantee that their work will be seen through to its conclusion and that all subsequent measures will be taken in full to prevent violation of Russian law and ensure that our country fulfils its international obligations.
We have always taken the clear position that there is no place for doping in sport. It endangers athletes’ health and lives and discredits fair sporting competition. We are consistent in eliminating this scourge, improve our national laws in this area, and cooperate openly with the relevant international organisations and the International Olympic Committee. We are unfailing in meeting our obligations.
Russia is well aware of the Olympic movement’s immense significance and constructive force, and shares in full the Olympic movement’s values of mutual respect, solidarity, fairness, and the spirit of friendship and cooperation.
This is the only way to preserve the Olympic family’s unity and ensure international sport’s development in the interest of bringing peoples and cultures closer together. Russia is open to cooperation on achieving these noble goals.