Andy Kirkaldy: Failure to ban Russia shows money talking

“Follow the money.”
– Advice from the then anonymous Deep Throat source advising Washington Postreporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during the 1970s Watergate Scandal
“It is increasingly difficult to comprehend why the IOC, WADA, the IAAF and other major bodies opted to ignore evidence of systematic wrong-doing. Alternatively it is easy to comprehend, if you conclude that actually they don’t really care about doping as long as the dollars continue to flow.”
– Journalist Nick Harris, who supplied convincing proof of systematic illegal Russian athletes’ use of performance-enhancing drugs to those agencies
A piece Harris wrote on Monday about that issue and world athletic agencies’ failures may be found here. Harris and Martha Kelner, a colleague of his at the British newspaper The Mail on Sunday, had gathered “tens of thousands of words of testimony” from multiple sources inside the scheme and backed it up with a huge cache of documents.
In the above quote from the piece Harris referred to two things:
•  The decision of the International Olympic Committee not to ban all Russian athletes from the upcoming Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
•  The initial refusal of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to act in 2013 when he and Kelner provided them proof of widespread Russian cheating.
When a subsequent German investigation corroborated their results, the IOC finally banned the Russian track and field team from Rio, but on Sunday refused to extend the ban to all Russian athletes, even though the cheating covered all of their teams.
There is no proof the IOC members received bribes, or whether it was just a cozy financial relationship between the IOC and the Russian athletic federation that did the trick. But it is certainly a cozy little circle.
For example, in April 2015 The Mail on Sunday published an email that WADA President Craig Reedie sent to Russian anti-doping official Natalya Zhelanova. The Mail described it as “comforting.”
“I wish to make it clear to you and to the Minister that there is no action being taken by WADA that is critical of the efforts which I know have been made, and are being made, to improve anti-doping efforts in Russia,” Reedie wrote in part.
Now, according to the Associated Press, Reedie apparently knows Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah of Kuwait, described by the AP as “one of the world’s most significant sports power brokers” and a man who “got Thomas Bach elected as IOC president in 2013.”
It was Bach who announced the IOC decision, and according to the AP Bach and Al-Sabah are also buddies of Vladimir Putin. Al-Sabah also pulls strings with world soccer governing body FIFA, which surprisingly (or not) awarded Russia the 2018 soccer World Cup.
Five FIFA executive committee members were expelled due to bribery for the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and all five and many others under suspicion for Qatar also sat in on the 2018 decision, per The Guardian newspaper.
OK, still no direct evidence of IOC bribery, but there is this: In November 2015 Lamine Diack, then the IAAF president, was arrested in France, according to AP, on “suspicion of taking more than $1 million in bribes from Russia to cover up positive doping tests” related to 2011 track meets and the 2012 London Olympics.
“They decided not to act and now we understand why. It was in exchange for money,” said French prosecutor Jean-Yves Lourgouilloux, alleging that yes, Russia handed out bribes related to its cheating program.
Then there are the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Several sources note the $51 billion final construction price tag and the $17 billion estimate and note the difference has never been fully accounted for, some allege about a third was skimmed off the top by Putin cronies.
Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny noted, among other things, in a report he released in January 2014 that three Putin friends were awarded contracts worth $15 billion, and another $2.5 billion in deals went to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s ski instructor.
Before then, ABC News reported that alleged international heroin kingpin Gafur Rakhimov might have bribed Asian members of the IOC to vote for Sochi in the first place, quoting Russian investigative journalist Sergei Kanev as saying members of Rakhimov’s inner circle boasted that “bags of cash” were used to buy the votes.
Really, the sole reason the Olympics move from country to country rather than have a permanent home is to allow these kinds of shenanigans. IOC members get bribes, connected contractors are awarded bids and taxpayers get the tab.
That’s why Boston thankfully said no to an Olympic bid, and why Norway last year joined the ranks of nations pulling out of the Olympic business.
Well, that and an insane list of perks demanded by IOC members, like doves being released in their path at the opening ceremonies; fancy hotels with extra security, hot breakfasts, a members lounge and 24-hour room service; venues designed to segregate them from the media; private cars; and volunteer drivers who speak English or French and are willing to work 60-hour weeks.
I guess it’s good to be an IOC member.
Unless you get caught, and I’m guessing for some of them it’s only a matter of time.

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