By Paul Goble
If as a result of the dopining scandal, the International Olympic Committee votes to prevent Russian athletes from taking part in the Rio Games, then FIFA, the international football association which is obligated to follow IOC decisions, would likely strip Russia of its right to host the 2018 World Cup, two Moscow analysts say.
That would constitute a major public relations disaster for Vladimir Putin who has made the hosting of this competition the most important follow-on event to the 2014 Sochi Olympiad, and it would also eliminate one of the major channels through which he has corruptly purchased the support of key Russian elites.
Consequently, the IOC decision, which a drumbeat of recent events suggests will go against Moscow, could cast a far larger shadow than many now think and have serious repercussions in Russian politics, repercussions far larger if as yet less attended to than a ban on Russian athletes at the upcoming Olympiad.
Writing on the “Profile” portal, Dmitry Dedashin and Viktor Khrushchev argues that “the doping scandal which broke out last fall … has gone to a new level,” one in which Russia may become the first country in history to be stripped of the right to send all its athletes to an Olympiad (profile.ru/obshchestvo/sport/item/106843-sport-vysokikh-napryazhenij).
That prospect has become possible since it now appears, on the basis of statements by Vitaly Stepanov and Georgy Rodchenkov, two former Russian officials in a position to know, that the Russian sports authorities and Russian government engaged in mass deceptions about the use of drugs by its athletes at the Sochi Games, according to IOC President Thomas Bach.
Moscow’s reaction to this has been to denounce the reporting in the Western media as an anti-Russian “spectacle” and “invention.” But that has not stopped WADA expanding its investigation and the FBI getting involved as well, steps that are likely to keep this issue in the public eye and raise more questions about Russian behavior.