May 14th was quite a day for the empire, the shit show on full display exhibiting lots of swagger in its death throes. The people on the inside are the last to know. They don’t see it but everyone else does. The rest of the world can see the toxic death culture, they see the rationalizations for idiocy and how silly they seem. The US empire has no clothes but wears only a paper thin emotional veneer resembling a child who attempts to lie for the first time after murdering the family dog. This is the modern American mind of empire. Delusional and full of contrived pablum to excuse their wretched actions. Trump is truly the perfect man to represent this country, its true face. A huckster, a gangster, and a liar that says one thing and does the opposite. The actions and the results before us are the real values of empire and not their diseased words, which are devoid of truth.
On May 14th the empire’s best friend Israel continued to show its reverence for death while inhumanely shooting protestors on the Gaza strip. 58 lives lost and 2,700 injured are the current stats, horrors playing out that we’ll never be able to wrap our minds around, but tomorrow Palestinians will wake up and know a life that has more suffering than the day before. Many of the injured will look forward to death knowing the Israeli government lacks all basic compassion for fellow humans and the wounded know the path ahead will contain even more hardship. The implications of Israeli actions won’t make headlines for long in the US, and the externalities we’ll never see directly tied to this story will cause sadness and turmoil they will struggle to fight past for years – if Israel lets them live that long. We humans are more fragile than what is put onto our TV screens. Characters undergo one torturous event after another with little repercussions, but in reality our emotions break, especially when all community has been stripped out from under us, especially when people we love are killed or maimed for no good reason.
Six who died were under the age of 18. Does the US care? Nope, they’d sooner blame Palestinians for putting kids in the line of fire of Israeli soldiers than take responsibility for supporting a regime who sadistically fires openly into crowds of unarmed people. The corporate media have short memories, convenient memories. We forget how upset we were at the Syrian gas attack that may have claimed 40 lives and later the incident was filled with controversy over if Assad was actually responsible, I do not know the truth about this but I smell bullshit from somewhere, regardless of my bullshit sniffing abilities that number is less than the 58 killed at the protests on May the 14th. And there will be not a chirp, a squawk, a snort, or whinny of angst directed towards Israel for these actions by our overlords. In fact, quite the opposite.
The ignoble Jared Kushner said at the embassy opening that “Those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution.” referring to protestors who don’t have guns, didn’t wound one Israeli soldier, they don’t have an air force, tanks, humvees, an organized military, or any of the implements of destruction Israel does, yet Palestinians are somehow provoking violence to such an extent the bully state had to slaughter them? Ok Jared, fuck you. There is no respect for life, zero empathy, and not the smallest hint of a lingering humanity remaining in the logic of the state.
The US operates in a good ole boy league where the fellow goombahs get an automatic pass, they are made men, with made nations, they do as they please. So it would also please them on the day of May 14th to move the US embassy to Jerusalem as nothing more than a provocation to invite targets out for the racist Israeli state to gun down. The ostensible provocateurs are a battered people who are being violently edged off this planet for reasons of insanity from a bully regime and their bully death culture. The provoked are a people crying out for someone in the world to stand up to this machine. Provoked to the point they want the world to witness what those in power will do to people who are of no legitimate threat; To show how vicious and small in character those who wield power are, to show how profound their lack of wisdom. Palestinians are no more of a threat to Israel than an ant is to an elephant, yet this particular raging elephant’s sense of entitled justice is to seek out the ant population and stamp it out of existence, then boast as if they were doing a great service.
In other news occurring on the day of May 14th 2018, the supreme court of American shysterism decided to give states the power to legalize gambling. With the current predicament of the world and the myriad of issues I quite frankly get tired of speaking to…the warring, the species extinction this, the climate change that, the wealth inequal…..well, you get the point. Any logical mind might say that we shouldn’t take time to further line the pockets of the wealthy by allowing them to own these new con games. Also, it might seem a tad exploitative to further entice the poor to desperately gamble away their rapidly diminishing savings before addressing those much larger issues, but all dissent will go unheard because there’s money to be made, boys, so instead we’ll hear people say some ridiculous drivel about how this is good for economic growth, and we’ll continue to live by the obvious lies of supply side economics.
And of all the issues in the world to address, of all the ideas in dire need of review, the US government’s highest court chooses to address sports gambling and rules in favor of empowering an industry that has been synonymous with organized crime even in areas it’s legalized. From gangster Bugsy Segal who famously had a role in creating the Las Vegas strip, to Sheldon Adelson who was said to have ties to Chinese mafia, and, of course, like flies attracted to shit Donald Trump comes buzzing around the casino business with plenty of allegations mafia associations, of course, his most verifiable organized crime association being the US government itself.
Legalizing sports betting is an apropos move for an empire doing all it can to emulate the Biff Tannen universe that was widely referenced at the start of the Trump presidency. Sports are already a severely overemphasized part of American culture. The athletes are receiving salaries that rival that of some of the most abusive CEOs, but the US populace worships them, they make excuses for the rampant greed out of addictive impulse. Many of these dollars athletes and billionaire owners earn are subsidized from lower class taxpayers where they are forced to pay for stadiums and surrounding infrastructure owned by the billionaires, just so we can watch athletes whose top salaries are quickly approaching 40 million a year play for meaningless things that will quickly be forgotten in time.
The narrative from states and business interests looking to profiteer off gambling will put on their best act to pretend like the abusive capitalist activity of gambling is some form of freedom, and the narrative of Israeli slaughter of Palestinians is that peaceful protestors are a threat to a heavily armed military, and the narrative from corporate media will be that these are just things happening and not signs of empire collapsing amid the ever growing misery of a global population. And the narrative of the people in the empire who are lonely, sad, and separated from connection will tell themselves that democracy and capitalism will somehow purify to the point that they’ll really deliver on the goods this time around. That surely this twisted form of democracy installed by genocidal slavers will avert disaster in the coming elections. The idea is we wait in futility for events that have no chance of curving the murderous gangsterism inset in this disposable dung heap of a society; I don’t mean to insult dung, lots of good things grow out of dung, nothing good grows out of this disease. It must be transformed at a deep level to be fertile space again, and if we are to heal the disease we cannot continue to sow the lies of false narratives.
For behind the sense of insecurity in the face of danger, behind the sense of discouragement and depression, there always lurks the basic fear of death, a fear which undergoes most complex elaborations and manifests itself in many indirect ways….No one is free of the fear of death.
— Gregory Zilboorg, psychanalyst, as quoted in The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker
An anxiety is a lack that causes pain; a game is a lack that causes pleasure.
— John Fowles, writer, The Aristos
What we play is life.
— Louis Amstrong
In his moving essay revealing his existential anxiety and panic attack, NBA star Kevin Love has touched a nerve that underlies not just sports and male experience, but life itself. He is right to say, “This is an everyone thing.” In doing so, he has performed a public service far beyond getting men and boys to open up about their fears and feelings. He has, as befits his surname, opened many people to a consideration of the marriage of love and death, and why all efforts to divorce them result in the diminishment of life’s passion and intensity.
Commenting on the unavoidable but often denied link between love and death, the important American psychologist Rollo May said this in Love and Will:
To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive – to grief, sorrow and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before.
So it is fitting that in telling us of his conversations with a therapist, the one personal experience Kevin tells us about is the death of his Grandma Carol, who meant so much to him and was like another parent when he was growing up. Busy with his basketball career, he didn’t see her when she was dying. “I felt terrible that I hadn’t been in better touch with her in her last years,” he writes. Deeply pained at losing her and guilty about his behavior, he shared this with no one, bottling it up as he had learned since boyhood (Be strong, be a man), and like the athlete that he is, perhaps thought that if he did not dwell on this loss, the next game would be a win and he could somehow move on. But this never works for long, as Love learned when panic burst into his consciousness and took him down during a game last November. “It came out of nowhere,” he says, having learned, however, that nowhere is somewhere, even when a surprise.
Substitute sportswriter for athlete, as Richard Ford does in his dazzling novel, The Sportswriter, whose main character Frank Bascombe, a sportswriter haunted by the death of his young son from Reye’s syndrome but trying to lose himself in the ordinariness of sports-writing, says, “Since after all, it is one thing to write sports, but another thing entirely to live a life,” and we have Love’s cautionary tale.
For sports (shopping for women) is the perfect metaphor for the modern American male’s flight from authenticity. As the etymology of the word sport attests (from old French, desporter to divert, literally “to carry away”), sports are a diversion from something. Let’s call it “real life,” the place from where, as Ernest Hemingway so aptly put it in the title to his short story, “The Winner Takes Nothing.” Trophies are handed out at post-season dinners, but as the American philosopher William James said, “The skull will grin in at the banquet.”
Although sports can inspire one to think deeply, for most people, athletes and spectators alike, sports are a diversion from existential matters involving relationships, fears, deep feelings, life’s meaning, love and loss, death, etc. While surely fun, entertaining, and lucrative for professionals, sports are also absurd since they involve movements through time and space toward unnecessary and fictitious goals where someone wins (lives) and someone losses (dies) in a game of unreality. In sports we play to overcome artificial and superfluous obstacles for fun and money – and for deeper reasons we may not realize.
Take golf, for example (my apologies to golfers). Why does anyone care who can hit a little white ball with a stick in the fewest strokes down stretches of green grass into a hole in the ground? Many do. They spend enormous amounts of time and money trekking after those little white balls. They care primarily because it’s fun, and fun is good. Such fun is utterly meaningless in the larger scheme of things, but many find it relaxing from the “stress” of everyday life – a relaxing distraction. And, of course, distractions can be good in moderation. It is not sports that are the problem, but the obsession with them.
I knew a woman who felt her husband was overly obsessed with sports, and although she was wrong, she used to say to him, “With you it’s balls, balls, balls.” To which he would respond, also erroneously, “And with you it’s malls, malls, malls.” But their humorous exchange catches a widespread truth about men and women in American society where there are plenty of obsessively distracted people of both sexes.
Sports only matter because they don’t. And it is in that gap between mattering and not where panic, anxiety, and depression can appear “out of nowhere.” Another athlete, the Nobel Prize winning French author Albert Camus, a soccer goalie in his youth and a lifelong fan, phrased this experience differently when he said, “At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.”
Athletes ride intense emotional roller coasters. You win, you lose, you’re up, you’re down – like “real life,” just faster and with a much quicker turn-around time. While Kevin is right to say that “everyone is going through something that we can’t see,” athletes live at a different pace and intensity, and the resulting highs bring deep lows as well. One day you’re dead; the next day you are resurrected, as long as there is another game or season. Some days you are in purgatory and wonder if all the aches and pains you endure are worth the cost.
This is true for the spectators also, absent the physical pains. Many fans are fanatics for a reason. The intensity of sports, its unpredictability, its “never over till its over” drama makes it the perfect distraction from more important matters. It has an extraordinary power to energize and deflate, but all in a land of make-believe that often blinds its devotees from trying to understand “something that we can’t see” in their own lives.
But a fan’s life can last until actual death, while an athlete has a limited amount of time to perform. One day when your playing days are over your confrontation with “reality” happens, either consciously or out of the blue. For many former athletes, men particularly, because women have come late to the games, the rest of their lives are lived in a desperate reliving of the past among “the fraternity of missing men,” as Don DeLillo says in his incredible novel, Underworld. It is a place where “desperation” speaks.
A few years ago there was a short Grantland documentary, “The Finish Line,” about Steve Nash. An uncanny player, Nash was battling injuries and age, and the documentary shows him pondering whether or not to retire or continue his rehabilitation and attempt a comeback. In the opening scene Nash goes out with his dog into the shadowy pre-dawn where he muses on his dilemma. His words are hypnotic. “I feel,” he said, “that there’s something that I can’t quite put my finger on that – I don’t know – I feel that it’s blocking me or I can see it out of the corner of my mind’s eye, or it’s like this dark presence…. is it the truth that I’m done?”
Hobbled by a nerve injury that severely limited his movement, he played a few more games and retired within a year. He had brought an infectious joy to his playing, but he left without fulfilling his dream of winning an NBA championship. Of his retirement he said, “It’s bittersweet. I already miss the game deeply, but I’m also really excited to learn to do something else.” Unlike many athletes, Nash was moving on; his “dark presence” wasn’t a final death but a step on the road to a hard rebirth. It was a Dylanesque restless farewell: “And though the line is cut/It ain’t quite the end/I‘ll just bid farewell till we meet again.”
I think it safe to say that behind every panic attack, at the deepest level, lies what William James called “the worm at the core,” by which he meant death, the fear of it, the anxiety it engenders that rumbles beneath the placid surface of everyday life and breaks the surface here and there when least expected. Sometimes it happens during “little deaths,” what the French call La petitemort in reference to the sensation of sexual orgasm, but which happen throughout life in so many guises such as losing a game, missing a shot, or failing an exam. It can happen anywhere and any time, even in moments of great success, such as hoisting a trophy above one’s head after being named the Most Valuable Player.
A few years ago my friends and I were playing in basketball tournaments for men over fifty and we qualified for the Senior Olympics at the University of Pittsburgh. We acquired a sponsor, a local funeral home that made warm-up jerseys for us. Being used to dealing with bodies at rest, these comedians knew we were a bunch of aging hoopsters intent on keeping our bodies in motion for as long as we could. So they had shirts made with that up-beat and adolescent cliché printed on the front, “Basketball is Life.” Lest we forgot, and being in the trade of taking bodies at rest to the underworld, on the back they had printed “Leave the Rest to Us: Flynn and Dagnoli Funeral Home.”
Kevin Love’s essay, “Everybody Is Going Through Something” is like that shirt. He reminds us that at the back of everyone’s face there are matters that deserve scrutiny even when we can’t see back there.
He deserves a Most Valuable Person award for making a hole in a denial that is an “everyone thing.”
There is something very fishy about the Anti Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) pinned on the Russian curler and Russian bobsledder during the final week of the Peyongchang Winter Olympics.
It makes no logical sense that an athlete would do a one-time consumption of a chemical that is of no value in circumstances where it is almost certain to be detected with huge negative consequences.
That is precisely the situation. The Russian Mixed Curling bronze medal winner, Alexander Krushelnitsky, had to give up his medal, plus that of his partner wife, because traces of meldonium were found in his urine sample. He had previously tested clean. Meldonium is a medication which helps keep the heart healthy by increasing blood flow. That would be of no benefit in a sport like curling which requires accuracy, strategy and focus but is not taxing physically. The “sweeping” to help guide the rock down the ice lasts only 20 seconds or less. International curlers were astounded at the news and bemused at the idea of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) for curling. The skip of the Danish curling team said: ”I think most people will laugh and ask, ‘what could you possibly need doping for?”
Krushelnitsky strongly denies taking banned drugs. “I am categorically opposed to doping …. never, at any time that I have been involved in sport, have I ever used prohibited substances”.
Similar curious circumstances apply in the second ADRV. Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva had numerous negative (clean) tests before she was tested positive for banned trimetazidine. Bobsledding is another sport which requires physical and mental skill but not physical endurance.
In the February 25 IOC meeting to close the Peyongchang Winter Games, the head of the IOC Implementation Group, Nicole Hoevertz, said the Russian athletes had been tested “more than any other athletes”. She and her group were convinced that the 168 member Russian athletic team was clean. At about 82:00 in the video, she says the two Russian doping violations were “so peculiar.” She introduced the Director of the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission, Dr. Bludgett, to provide more detail. He suggested that meldonium would not be of benefit in curling. He then went further and suggested the ADRV regarding trimetazidine may be in error. He said trimetazidine “is a substance where there is a parent compound which is a common headache migraine treatment available particularly in China and Japan and if that is found then it is not considered an ADRV. And if there is a very low level, as there was in this case, that is a possibility.”
Sergeeva denies ever taking banned drugs and even went on social media with a T-shirt declaring her commitment to clean sport.
In summary, it seems highly unlikely that two different Russian athletes would intentionally take medications that have no benefit but which are almost guaranteed to be detected resulting in huge harm to them and their team.
Another possibility is that meldonium or trimetazidine powder was surreptitiously put in the food of the athletes. This one time consumption would cause a positive test.
In fact, there are forces on the international scene who are pleased that Russia has been battling defamation and charges of “state sponsored doping” for the past two years. They want the current denigration and punishments of Russia to continue, perhaps influencing Russia’s upcoming national election and undermining Russia’s hosting of the Football World Cup this summer.
One such group is the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA has a long history of big and small criminal deeds. Presumably it would not be difficult for them to infiltrate Olympic facilities or bribe a corrupt individual to put traces of meldonium or another powder in someone’s food or drink.
Those who quickly dismiss this possibility probably also thought that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in 2002. That was a false claim supported by evidence fabricated by the CIA.
It is well documented the CIA carries out murders, coups and major sabotage. The CIA has documented some of their methods in “The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception“. They don’t just carry out assassinations and coups. In the book “In Search of Enemies”, former CIA officer John Stockwell documented how the CIA created a false story about Cuban soldiers raping Angolan women to defame Cuba.
Corrupt police forces sometimes plant evidence on a suspect they wish to convict. It would be essentially the same thing to get a Russian athlete to ingest spiked food or beverage. The CIA has motive and expressed intent:
(a) In contrast with Russian leaders who call the US a “partner”, US officials increasingly call Russia an “adversary”. The latest US National Security Strategy explicitly says they intend to respond to Russia as an adversary: “The United States will respond to the growing political, economic and military competitions we face around the world. China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”
(c) Neoconservative forces openly talk about “punishing” Russia. The former Deputy Director of the CIA, Michael Morrell, said: “We need to make the Russians pay a price”. He confirmed on public television that means killing Russians (and Iranians) in Syria. This is the 33 year veteran CIA leader who publicly campaigned for Hillary Clinton.
Did the CIA plant the doping evidence? We don’t know for certain but it should not be dismissed out of hand. The CIA has the means, opportunity and above all the motive to falsely implicate Russians in new doping cases with the goal of preventing Russia from getting beyond the international sporting sanctions and punishments. They have done vastly more deceitful, manipulative, and outrageous things than this.
Unfortunately, western media will not investigate this possibility. Western media cannot even accurately report on events like the IOC meeting yesterday. The fact that the head of the IOC Implementation Group warmly praised the Russian participation at the Peyongchang Olympics is not mentioned in western media. The fact that Dr. Bludgett raised questions about the accuracy of the ADRVs against Russia is not mentioned in reports from NY Times, the UK Guardian or Inside the Games. Instead, the writer at Inside the Games once again exaggerated the voice of critics of Russia as he downplayed the voices of international athletes who want to put the doping scandal behind and move forward.
Western media have reported deceptively that the Russian athletes have “admitted” to the violations. In fact, both Russian athletes strongly deny taking banned drugs.
Western media bias is also shown in the focus on alleged Russian doping and minimization or ignoring of other possible violations. For example, the story about the Norwegian cross-country ski team and their use of banned asthmatic medications. They get around the restrictions by having their doctor claim that most of their athletes are asthmatic. This situation is a result of the inconsistent rules and regulations. A Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) can be given to any athlete designated by a doctor and in secrecy. They are not required to publicly disclose this, giving incentive to corruption and misuse.
Richard McLaren’s Bias
The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) has also been biased. Over one year ago, their investigator Richard McLaren claimed “over one thousand Russian athletes benefited” from the alleged Russian conspiracy to cheat the anti-doping system. McLaren said the proof would be provided to the various sport federations. In September 2017 it was revealed that charges had been filed against 96 athletes. Of these, WADA cleared 95 athletes of wrongdoing; only one athlete was proven to be in violation. More recently, the Court of Arbitration in Sport completely overturned the bans on 28 Russian athletes. In summary, it appears that McLaren’s accusation about “over one thousand athletes benefiting” was a huge exaggeration or fabrication.
Where Do Things Go From Here?
The IOC Executive Board has indicated they intend to lift the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee if no more “anti doping rule violations” are found in the last batch of athlete samples from the Peyongchang Olympics. The results are expected in a few days.
Another ADRV may appear. If so, that will greatly complicate the effort to reintegrate Russian athletics. Even if the final tests are all clean, those who oppose Russia will continue trying to delay or prevent the full integration of Russia within the world sporting Community.
The former Moscow Laboratory Director Grigory Rodchenkov is the primary weapon in the campaign accusing Russia of “state sponsored doping”. “Icarus” is a movie about him which has received huge funding and promotion. It is nominated for an an Oscar Academy award. This will serve the campaign well.
The Russians have been accused of trying to murder Rodchenkov But if he suddenly dies one day, it is more likely to be by the CIA. At this point, Rodchenkov has done all the damage he can to Russian sports. The only thing he could possibly do is to recant or fall apart. His handlers have prevented him from appearing before the various committees looking into the accusations. At this point, Rodchenkov could be more valuable dead than alive. His death would be a powerful weapon to disrupt the normalization of relations with Russia.
In conclusion, going back to the Peyonchang Olympics, there should be caution before assuming the guilt of the Russian athletes who received ADRVs. It makes no sense that two Russian athletes would take useless medications knowing they will be tested and found out.
The doping incident serves the interests of those in the West who seek more not less conflict and seek to weaken Russia through “hybrid” warfare. It is possible the CIA has a hand in the latest incidents, just as they have a hand in Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov. They have the means, opportunity and motive. They have the experience and history.
If this is true, it’s another example of the dangerous descent in international relations. The Olympics movement has the goal of fostering peaceful relations. The sad truth is there are forces who want to prevent that. They prefer to demonize and divide in a quest for economic and geopolitical supremacy over “adversaries”. International sports is just another arena for them.
By the time the 2018 Winter Olympic Games opened in PyeongChang last week, the masterminds behind the so-called Russian doping scandal had finally lost their control of the narrative, causing irreparable damage to the Olympic movement and to sports in general. The politically motivated actions of a tiny group of functionaries in the sports industry have discredited the very concept of the purity of athletics and have resulted in a sharp drop in the world’s interest in the Games in PyeongChang. This is evident in the disastrous attendance figures (a month before the competitions began only 60% of the tickets had been sold, and the most popular events, hockey and figure skating, had the highest number of unclaimed seats) and could also be seen in the significant drop in the IOC’s ad revenues.
The reason for this downward spiral is obvious, when some athletes are discriminated against based on their nationality while others run mad with impunity, this not only ruins the element of suspense in the competitions, it also kills off spectator interest and advertising contracts.
Let’s take a quick look back at the time line of events. After the Russian Olympians’ stunning victories in 2014, which did much to spur the success of the “Russian Spring in Crimea” three weeks after the closing ceremonies in Sochi, influential Western players began investing serious money into hyping the scandal over the so-called “Russian doping file.”
Back in December 2014, Germany’s ARD television channel produced a documentary featuring Russian track and field athlete Yuliya Stepanova and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), in which they “exposed” the system of doping in Russia. The fact that one year previously Stepanova had been disqualified in Russia, losing her eligibility for two years for doping, and that her violations had only been revealed after her husband left RUSADA in 2011, had somehow escaped the attention of the documentary’s creator Hajo Seppelt (for more information on the first round of efforts to promote the doping scandal, see our July 2016 article, “The Olympics as a Tool of the New Cold War”).
A month later WADA established a commission to investigate the alleged use of doping in Russian track and field athletics. It consisted of three people: the chairman and first president of WADA, Richard Pound (Canada), a law professor from the University of Western Ontario, Richard McLaren (Canada), and a former criminal investigator at Interpol, Günter Younger (Germany). On November 9, 2015, this commission published a report that included accusations against RUSADA. The report also stated that in December 2014, the director of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, had ordered the destruction of more than 1,400 athlete doping tests, three days before a WADA audit team was to arrive in Russia. On November 10, 2015 Rodchenkov resigned from his position and in January 2016 he emigrated to the US (for more details on this individual’s background, please see the article mentioned above, “The Olympics as a Tool of the New Cold War”).
On May 12, 2016 the New York Timespublished a media bomb based on information provided by Rodchenkov. It alleged that a special “doping program” was developed in Russia before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, involving several dozen athletes, and its “specialty” supposedly consisted of anabolic steroids that were washed down with alcohol (!). Then, in order to verify these borderline-bizarre allegations, WADA, at the IOC’s request, established yet another commission, this one headed by McLaren, which in July 2016, just a few weeks before the start of the Olympic Games in Rio, released the first (apparently urgent) section of its report that made the unsupported claim that the doping program in the world of Russian sports had the backing of the Ministry of Sports, the Sports Training Center for Russian Teams, and the Russian Federal Security Service. On the basis of this “document,” which was never subsequently deemed convincing by any judicial authority, practically all Russian track and field athletes, as well as several competitors from other events, were banned from the Games in Rio.
In November 2016 a new legislation took effect in Russia making it a criminal offense, with a punishment ranging from a fine to 3-5 years imprisonment, to induce an athlete to use doping drugs.
On December 9, 2016 the second part of the McLaren commission’s report was released. It claimed that the samples taken from 12 of the Russian medal winners at the 2014 Winter Olympics had been doctored. It also stated that more than a thousand athletes might have been involved in or benefited from manipulations to conceal positive doping tests. On the basis of this report, the IOC decided to strip the Russian national team of 13 of its medals won at the 2014 Winter Olympics. But on February 1, 2018, the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) issued its own verdict, restoring the rights of 28 of the 42 Russian Winter Olympians affected by the IOC’s actions, including all of those who had lost their medals, and this fact would seem to put into question the legality and validity, at the very least, of McLaren’s report, based on the following statement found in that verdict:
In 28 cases, the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation was committed by the athletes concerned.
Decisions about what to do with the remaining athletes were either postponed because it was no longer a pressing matter (the athlete in question had already retired) or else the plaintiffs’ appeals were partially upheld. The lifetime ban on participation in the Olympic Games was lifted from all the applicants.
Despite the fact that the court blocked the IOC’s arbitrary decision to strip the Russian athletes of the medals they had won in Sochi, there was not time to challenge another egregious verdict: suspending the Russian Olympic Committee’s membership in the IOC and forcing the Russian team to compete in PyeongChang under a neutral Olympic flag.
Before we try to get the lowdown on this story, we must emphasize once again: both of these “investigative commissions” were established in the immediate aftermath of the made-to-order and in many respects fake news reports in the Western media about “doping in Russia.” The biggest tipoff that they were fake was the fact that the main protagonists of this “investigative journalism” were individuals who had been justifiably punished or prosecuted in Russia for either using doping drugs or inducing others to use them, and under pressure from their media patron, those individuals extrapolated from their own sad experiences in front of the cameras to condemn the entire Russian sports community. The hack jobs by Hajo Seppelt and the New York Times on the subject of Russian doping are examples of fake news in its purest form.
So, to all appearances, shortly after Russia’s triumphant performance at the Sochi Olympics, a small group of predominantly Anglo-Saxon sports functionaries made the decision (at present it’s hard to say whether they did so independently or at the behest of someone higher up) to ensure that there would be no more unpleasant surprises in the future. They hired several professionals, the most publicly visible of whom were Richard McLaren and Hajo Seppelt, to help out with the media on their project and lend it an air of expertise (proof that McLaren is in no way an “independent lawyer” can be seen in his outraged reaction to the February CAS decision).
In addition to the challenging task of discrediting Russian athletics in the international media, these individuals had to conduct a backstage war with the International Olympic Committee at the same time. Far from everyone in the IOC’s leadership was delighted at the prospect of the nascent scandal and the serious damage to the Olympic movement that was being broadly predicted three years ago. This is quite evident from the copies of the email correspondence (seemingly quite genuine) between IOC officials in regard to the doping scandal that have recently appeared on the Internet.
Without question the most illustrative example of these was the exchange of harshly worded letters between McLaren and the Director General of the IOC, Christophe de Kepper, which took place in March 2017. They were prompted by de Kepper’s February 24, 2017 memo that was circulated to the members of the IOC Executive Board, the National Olympic Committees, and international sports federations, which contained criticism of McLaren. In particular, it noted that “the work of the Oswald Commission and of the IFs is not easy,” as McLaren’s mandate “did not involve any authority to bring Anti-Doping Rule Violation (‘ADRV’) cases against individual athletes.” In regard to accusations that a “state doping system” exists in Russia, de Kepper stated with bewilderment that in his reports McLaren could not even stick to a consistent terminology: in some places he speaks of a “state sponsored system” whilst in the final full report he described an “institutional conspiracy.” The main problem, as de Kepper acknowledges, is the lack of sufficient evidence to back up the accusations against the Russian athletes:
The establishment of acceptable evidence is a significant challenge, as some IFs have already experienced; where in some cases they have had to lift provisional suspensions or were not able – at least at this stage – to begin disciplinary procedures due to a lack of consistent evidence.
As can be seen both from the text of the memo and in other publicly available confidential IOC documents (for example, a stunningly open list of questions for Prof. McLaren, dated December 19, 2016 and drafted by the IOC Disciplinary Commission chaired by Samuel Schmid after examining his final report), in the first days after the report’s publication, the IOC and international federations were faced with the difficulty of digging up any shreds of evidence backing McLaren’s allegations. Questions have even been raised in regard to the accuracy of the translation of the materials found in the report (apparently translated from Russian):
At the recent meeting (21 February) held by WADA in Lausanne to “provide assistance to IFs regarding how to analyse and interpret the evidence”, it was admitted by WADA that in many cases the evidence provided may not be sufficient to bring successful cases. IFs were told by WADA to make direct contact with the IP team to try to obtain further information. WADA also explained that the translations used by the IP team were not adequate and was obtaining official translations of some of the texts.
International sports officials had a foreboding even back then that they could expect a real grilling once matters made it to the courts and arbitration tribunals:
It is already evident from the appeals filed against some International Federations provisional suspension decisions that the IOC decision will have to stand up to a strong legal challenge.
It is also interesting that in his memo de Kepper makes it clear that WADA’s flawed and one-sided efforts were much to blame for the scandal over “Russian doping”:
The IOC is also pursuing the reform of the WADA system… We are driving forward to establish an independent testing authority – independent from sports organisations and from national interests… Sanctioning should be delegated to the CAS as the IOC successfully did at the Olympic Games Rio 2016… The IOC has made proposals for more accountability, transparency and diversity [of WADA].
The Belgian lawyer and IOC Director General Christophe De Kapper was one of the few officers inside the Committee who tried to follow the rule of law during the “doping scandal”.
You are unlikely to have read Prof. McLaren’s March 2, 2017 response to this memo. But it’s quite interesting and a few passages from it deserve to be quoted here.
First of all, the professor expresses his intense dissatisfaction with the fact that he was not informed in advance about the drafting of the memo and also that the issues in dispute were never discussed with him:
It would have been helpful if you had spoken to me in advance so that I could have addressed the various issues you raise in relation to my Report.
Second, he tries to argue that he had never been tasked with searching for evidence of doping by any specific Russian athlete:
It was not my mandate to bring violations against individual athletes. I am concerned that the IOC seems to be on a quest to re-define my mandate by attempting to establish that my Reports are inadequate for a purpose for which they were never intended.
In regard to the confusion about the terminology (“state sponsored system”), McLaren acknowledges that the fantasies of those who fabricated information for him about “Russian doping programs” did not rise higher than the ministerial level (“My evidence stopped at the Ministry of Sport”).
Finally, as for the inaccuracies in the translations, it turns out that he had no intention of making those official:
The translations into English by my team… were never intended to be ‘official’. They were provided on the Evidence Disclosure Package (EDP) to assist users and not to certify the translation for some legal purpose.
Incidentally, in later comments with respect to the last passage, de Kepper’s office quite sensibly remarked:
It should be pointed out that the IOC as well as (and maybe even more so) the IFs are being asked to take some very tough decisions, with serious legal and non-legal consequences, on the basis of the Report(s).
In general, de Kepper’s team’s reaction to Prof. McLaren’s letter and their stiff response indicate that the IOC had a pretty accurate picture of both the motives driving the Canadian lawyer as well as the mandate assigned to him:
It seems that Robert (sic) McLaren’s first Report was intended to lead to the complete expulsion of the Russian team from the Rio Games, and the second – to expulse the Russian team from Pyeongchang Games, but not to deal with athletes on an individual basis. Perhaps McLaren and WADA should have thought this through in more detail prior to the Reports being made public – in particular, to themselves to have had the courtesy to discuss this matter of principle with the IOC in further detail, before WADA went down the path of using the (first) Report to try to have the Russian team excluded from the Rio Games, rather than McLaren and WADA considering to go down the path that the IOC intended to take, namely, to deal with the individual athletes on a case-by-case basis. This put the IOC and the IFs, and the Olympic movement in general, in a very difficult position.
It should be noted that the insiders at the IOC Executive Board peppered their letter from McLaren with comments that indicate that the Canadian professor is lying at every turn:
As a result, de Kepper’s response has some harsh things to say about McLaren’s claims that he supposedly always cleared his reports with the IOC in advance:
I am sorry to inform you that this has simply not been the case. We made multiple requests to be allowed to have advanced view of your documents with the promise of total confidentiality ahead of publication but sadly this was never forthcoming. Indeed, in the case of the first interim report you even told us that “this content does not primarily concern you.”
De Kepper even twice transparently drops hints to McLaren, implying that the latter, in his role as a professional lawyer, must, after all, easily be able to see for himself how decisions that will inevitably face a strong legal challenge must be drafted:
As a senior and respected international lawyer, you will certainly appreciate that the process of gathering credible evidence against individuals, sufficiently robust to ensure convictions in a manner which justice is done and seen to be done, is a long and detailed process. It was for this reason that it was felt necessary and important to send a communication to the Olympic Movement on the work by the two IOC Commissions to explain the process and describe the work that was being done. Indeed, it was the very fact that your mandate did not extend to individual cases that impelled us to explain to our stakeholders the process that is underway to complete this work.
This may well be the case – but as a law professor I hope you will agree that this is another instance where the standard of evidence we will need to successfully prosecute cases is higher than the evidence you have provided.
In general, de Kepper’s letter in many places deserves to be quoted verbatim:
As for the matter of you changing your description of the affair from a ‘State sponsored’ system to an “institutional conspiracy” this does seem to mark a change in attitude on your part. However, whatever your final conclusions, whilst your report does indeed uncover a conspiracy there is precious little evidence as to who would be involved in such a conspiracy. Would this again be a case that ‘goes beyond your mandate” or would you be able to indicate and provide evidence of who exactly may have been involved in this conspiracy. At present you have left us with good evidence that a crime has been committed but little evidence of those who were responsible.
Let us both agree that cooperation has not always been what it should have been between the IP team [Independent Person – a sleek euphemism, used by Prof. McLaren to indicate himself in his reports – OR] and the Olympic Movement. You have brought to our attention the limits of your mandate. However, please note that, in view of these limits, the IOC and, in particular, the IFs have ended up bearing a huge and very difficult burden in trying to convert the material/information referred to in your Report into Anti-Doping Rule Violations against individual athletes. A further problem was created by your Report (and the previous Report regarding this subject) seemingly being used to try and justify a total ban of the complete Russian Olympic team from the Rio Games and the Pyeongchang Games when, in fact, the IOC and the IFs are/were simply not of the view that a collective punishment should be, or should have been, imposed upon all Russian athletes [all emphasizes done by OR].
It is clear that such cooperation [between the IOC and IP team – OR] is now needed if we are to do our job and to turn your general conclusions about an ‘institutional conspiracy’ into concrete findings against individuals and organizations and also if we are to successfully prosecute individual cases with at least a chance of success at CAS. WADA has said that International Federations need to contact your team directly to receive materials. It would be good to receive your cast iron agreement that your team will offer this full cooperation and allow us to go beyond your mandate and prosecute successful cases against individuals and organizations based on evidence that will stand up in a court of law.
It is interesting that during those same few days when de Kepper was working with his staff to draft the letter answering McLaren, de Kepper was also corresponding with the chief executive officer of the US Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun.
That correspondence was in reference to the statement from the US Olympic Committee, circulated on March 10, 2017 by the leading global news agencies, that it was preparing some kind of “position paper” in advance of the March 11-12 World Anti-Doping Agency Symposium in Lausanne (Switzerland), which would include American proposals for reforming WADA, specifically stipulating that “there must also be a clearly independent anti-doping body with overriding global authority of those national anti-doping organization (NADO) programs, with the responsibility to test, investigate, and sanction when necessary – ensuring consistency across countries and sports.” This was undoubtedly an attempt by the US to head off the initiative announced by de Kepper in his February 23 memo about needing reform and better balance from WADA. De Kepper’s urgent email to Blackmun leaves no doubt that the USOC statement was entirely unexpected for him:
In his reply, Blackmun feigns surprised innocence:
The IOC’s position could not be clearer, based on the following correspondence:
My point is rather that USOC had an opportunity also to show unity with the rest of the Olympic movement by openly supporting the IOC/OM positions on reforms and in particular the ITA [Independent Testing Authority – OR].
And the essential:
There is however one problematic point and this is a fundamental one. USOC is pleading for WADA to have sanctioning powers and we strongly disagree with this. The same organisation cannot be legislator, police and judge at the same time. Recent history has shown where this can lead even more so if it is a political body with only limited cultural and geographical diversity in its boards.
During those same few days (March 11-12, 2017), battles were raging even at the level of the Athlete Commissions (AC) between WADA and the IOC about the future of the anti-doping system. Judging by mails coming from the same source, at the March 12 WADA AC meeting, an attempt was made to remove that body from the orbit of the IOC, and the meeting apparently became very heated. The sponsor of the scandalous initiative was WADA’s Director General Olivier Niggli, and it was prompted by WADA’s dissatisfaction with the IOC’s position on the work of the McLaren commission:
Those who want to get a better feel for the nuances of the disputes between WADA and the IOC regarding the work of the world anti-doping agencies can study the draft presentation paper, which the Athlete Commission of the IOC drafted in the wake of Olivier Niggli’s maneuver. In our opinion, the main correction introduced into the text that day was the recommendation that WADA AC be composed with a majority of elected members and that its Chair should sit on the WADA Executive Committee as a full member:
Perhaps sports-industry insiders will be able to glean other interesting nuggets from this document.
Craig Reedie (right), president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, and Olivier Niggli, its director-general
Here is the picture that is emerging based on the material available to us: There is indeed a conspiracy at the heart of the “Russian doping” scandal, but it’s quite a different one than what the global media has so fervidly described so far. This conspiracy involves WADA bureaucrats and a few national Olympic committees (the USOC is among them for certain), and their goal is to establish complete control over the system of regulating doping in sports, independent of the IOC. They need that control, on one hand, to prevent any PR damage from the systematic use of doping by Western athletes, and on the other – to acquire some effective leverage in the form of political and propaganda pressure that can be used on any sport nation they think needs to be hog-tied.
Even more condemning conclusions over the doping deadlock the WADA is leading the international top sport into, were articulated by the late honorary member of the IOC Hein Verbruggen in his letter to Thomas Bach on October 13, 2016. If you haven’t read it yet, we strongly recommend to do it now.
A couple of key quotations:
The dramatic events of the last months in anti-doping have made us all think about WADA’s role and responsibilities. I think we have suddenly all realized that this organisation has in fact during 17 years been in the hands of four people: Mr Pound, Mr Howman, Mr Reedie and Mr Niggli. I left out Mr Fahey who unexpectedly was put into the WADA chair without having any experience in anti-doping (which was perhaps convenient for those who wanted to retain the power but definitely not good for WADA).
With all respect for President Reedie, I think nobody familiar with WADA will contest that Mr Pound still has a dominant position within that organization.
The current WADA has to a large extent failed to be a viable and universally trusted and respected anti-doping organization, because – as well as for genuine anti-doping – it has from the beginning (17 years ago) also been used for politics. We all know – but we usually do not dare to say – that there exists a sound anti-IOC and anti-Europe attitude at the level of the WADA leadership. This WADA-leadership (appointed by the IOC, which is the cynical part of the story) usually teams up with a small group of (mainly) Anglo-Saxon NADO’s (USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and Norway/Scandinavia on the sideline) and this has created a division that has allowed the same people to stay at the helm for a way too long period. This “coalition” can also be seen from the composition of the WADA committees (including panels and expert groups)…
We have to face up to the inconvenient fact that many within the Olympic Movement are afraid of criticism by WADA and Mr Pound in the sensitive and mediatic field of anti-doping. This fear explains in my view why Mr Pound and friends do not seem to worry about not being nominated anymore and why they have been able to maintain their WADA positions for 17 years, as if there were no other competent people and good governance would not recommend a change from time to time. But of course Mr Pound sees that fear also and it explains why he feels so strong in his lecturing (and in my opinion: even insulting, see e.g. his “redemption” article) the IOC.
Even recognizing the work that WADA and its leadership have done for the fight against doping, that does not allow to turn a blind eye on what went wrong. This has recently culminated in WADA arrogating a public call on the IOC to impose a last minute ban on all Russian athletes from the 2016 Olympic Games, whereas it was precisely WADA that largely contributed to this very problematic situation by not following up promptly and adequately the information it had received since 2010.
My battle was, and still is, also for what I consider to be WADA’s genuine mission in an effective fight to protect clean sport, and in support of the IOC that has the moral leadership of the fight against doping and was and still is repeatedly chafed by the WADA leadership.
As we know, despite the desperate struggle for legitimacy in sports, at least by the Director General of the IOC Christophe de Kepper, the International Olympic Committee was eventually forced to yield to the pressure of the international doping lobby. The question as to what types of leverage were being used in mid and late 2017 might be the topic of a separate investigation. It is obvious, for example, that McDonalds’ June 2017 decision to terminate its sponsorship contact with the IOC ahead of schedule, after a 40-year partnership, did not happen in a vacuum, but was instead part of a campaign to exert pressure on the IOC leadership.
It is also symptomatic that in January 2018, United States prosecutors issued grand jury subpoenas against the biggest sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee, on “racketeering, money laundering, and fraud charges related to various elite competitions.” An additional juicy detail is that the New York Timesstory on this subject not only came out within mere hours of the CAS’s verdict exonerating the Russian athletes, but also was written by the same Rebecca Ruiz, who in May 2016 was ordered to draft the fake article that triggered McLaren’s “investigation.”