The echo from history stood out in twitterdom for the clarion call it was:
@_king_lil you are #MAKINGWAVES and we love it! Go girl- you are what the world – and ESPECIALLY what the Olympics need right now. #HONESTY – Shirley Babashoff
And here was another slice of history: FINA Bureau member and Russian swim federation boss Vladimir Salnikov, twice an Olympic 1500m freestyle champion for the Soviet Union (1980 and 1988) and a contemporary of Babashoff’s at the 1976 Olympics, today said that the atmosphere surrounding his team in Rio reminded him of the Cold War.
He criticised American 100m breatsstroke champion Lilly King for “attacking the integrity of her Russian rival”, apparently having forgotten the 2013 positive steroid test for which Yuliya Efimova* was banned.
Efimova has been booed and jeered every time she rise to her blocks and Salnikov tells Reuters, the news agancy: “I think the whole atmosphere is very strange.”
He is out of step with history in the making, however. The message is getting through. After Michael Phelps said he was “pissed” that convicted dopers were allowed to compete, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that its president Thomas Bach backed lifetime suspensions from the Games.
As Babashoff notes how the state’s involvement in doping in Russia as reminiscent of the GDR’s State Plan 14:25 and all the pain that hurt, the wounds still open all these years on, as the book of Olympic results testifies to, Salnikov leaps the other way.
The atmosphere at the Rio Aquatics Centre reminded him of “when we had the situation with the Cold War and everything was like Russia (versus) America and a lot of people were putting oil on the flame to make it higher. This is another round, but I think we will survive it.”
In what shape, is the question. And what of the two missing EPO tests and the athletss whose names Salnikov knows, along with that of the doctor who supplied the EPO. Where are those and why were they not reported to WADA: that is another question for Salnikov.
Salnikov said King was was entitled to her opinion but noted that Efimova had legal backing of CAS.
- “Does she consider the CAS decision is wrong?” he asked.
- Well, yes, of course she does, for that is the point: and Thomas Bach and others who now support lifetime bans agree, bans that would make Efimova not only unwelcome at the Olympics but not even a oart of them.
Salnikov (right) is not quite up to speed, saying: “She has a long road to go in sport, I hope, and I think in the end she will understand there are certain rules, there’s a procedure that regulates the participation of athletes. Of course she has the right to her opinion, but you need to be objective and you need to be honourable.”
And then came the sympathy not for the athlete defeated by another who fell foul of rules but for the rule-breaker instead: “Efimova has been through a very severe ordeal, and in an atmosphere of distrust and uncertainty I think she showed very strong character – resilience and focus – and so I think she deserved her medal. She has come through very tough times and I’m sure she will cope.”
How to shift that cultural stance, ask critics of the softness that such attitudes imply? How to rid Russia of its problems if those in charge do not stand by the IOC’s and FINA’s mantra of zero-tolerant? How to change things when it is a FINA member who stands in sympathy not with the athlete denied but with the athlete who denied others?
The hug from Cornel Marculescu for Sun Yang* on the Olympic deck yesterday and the subsequent comments from Sun that the FINA director was “like a grandfather” to him and a “great friend of Chinese swimming” has sparked calls for the resignantion of Marculescu, who is coming under pressure to respond.
World Swimming Coaches Association director John Leonard, made his twelth demand in the past year for the FINA boss to fall on his sword, dating back to the moment at World Championships a year ago when Marculescu said: “You can’t condemn the stars for a minor doping offence.” Said Leonard:
“A hug for a convicted doper? Really? Disgraceful. Resign, your time is up,” said Leonard, addressing Marculescu directly. “You have failed the world of clean athletes and the coaches and administrators who support them. You have given succor and hope to the dopers and the coaches, administrators and governments who support them. Time to leave. And in disgrace. This is so symbolic. FINA hugging up to where the money is, including China’s hosting of events. This would be outrageous in any context. In the present climate, its just toxic. Cornel would be even more effusive if Mr. Putin was on deck.”
Camille Lacourt added to the fight back among those who say “I worked clean – but I don’t believe they did” after the 100m backstroke final. After soaking up the Mack Horton row with Sun Yang and watching Sun take 200m freestyle gold, Lacourt told French media:
“It makes me sick. It would pain me to be beaten by someone like that. It makes me really sad to see my sport like this. It feels like athletics, with two or three doped swimmers in every final.
“I hope FINA reacts swiftly and halts the massacre. I never took a banned substance. Dopers have no place in this sport. They should form their own federation and race each other. I hate to see dopers on the podium.”
The jury is out on whether these are these are the most hopelessly compromised modern Olympics or the Games that saved the Movement.
And so we’re back to Making Waves: Shirley Babashoff. Clobbered in the pool by State Plan 14:25 and thumped in the media for speaking out when she mentioned the muscles, the moustaches and the burley maidens in the next lane, reached out to Lilly King with a message that reminds us why the IOC is so wrong to appeal for calm and respect for “fellow competitors” even when they tested positive and showed absolutely no respect for themselves and those they compete against.
The “natural rights of the individual” was a term bandied about by the IOC and others when the decision was taken to let all Russians back in barring those that would be cut out but then let back in anyway (as far as swimming goes).
Babashoff reminds us how perverse that stance is: ask Renate Vogel or Rica Reinisch if they felt their individual rights have been abused by a single critic of State Plan 14:25 and all it stood and stands for and they are most likely to remind you that their rights were taken aeay by the home plan itself.
Babashoff calls for honesty and King delivered that not only to Yuliya Efimova* yesterday but to Justin Gatlin and every other who fell from grace with a glug of doping. Honesty is something some on the Russia team in Rio are struggling to come to terms with, a siege mentality of ‘us against the world’ having set rather than an admission that their country has some very serious and deeply rooted problems to deal with, including a cultural; shift in which bureacrats jump to the right side of history and see their role as freezing out those who dope rather than making them all feel far too comfortable and accepted.
Russia is not alone in suffering the “What, Moi?” syndrome. The United States Olympic Committee folk – and the few media apologists for the line built to defend the bid to have it all shifted to Los Angeles come 2024 – thought it best to stick with the IOC and keep Russia in and who feel that pressing for Osaka Mark II has been too difficult a stretch these past several years since the Court of Arbitration ruled, for whatever legal and technical reaosns, in favour of dopers not victims.
Today, there were signs of the blazers coming to their senses on Osaka, with a promise to push for life bans in support of such calls far and wide. Osaka was the rule that was thrown out by the Court of Arbitration because it represented ‘double jeopardy’.
It was deemed that dopers were being punished twice if they received a year-long suspension, for example, served that, made their return to sport but then found themselves blocked from the Games and slapped a second time.
At the time of kicking Osaka into touch, the CAS made it clear to the IOC that they would need to rework the rule to accomplish an Olympic ban as part of one penalty clause, not as an add-on punishment.
The news that Olympic bosses are indeed now seeking a way of rewriting ‘Osaka’ that keeps dopers out of the Games for life follows an evening of unpredented drama in the pool.
There have been press conferences galore in the past quarter of a century at which athletes, coaches and others have kicked off on doping and times when media scrums have sent members of the public, chidren and all, flying across airport floors as they chase down the likes of Yuan Yuan and the 13 vials of HgH for Chinese might that poured posion in the pool back at Perth 1998 world titles.
There have been times when the media has doorstepped FINA en masse to demand response and action.
In Rio, all of that is coming to a head once more – and the IOC appears to be sitting up and paying attention, with the ever-present fear factor of “gosh, this will be hard to do”, when actually setting club rules requires careful thought, legal and other planning and the determination to follow through on issues that have been of this world for decades. Plenty of time for Olympic bosses and their lawyers to have come up with a plan that works but has not worked during the Olympic lifetime of Michel Phelps, the swimmer has noted.
Fraught with legal diffuculties. That’s the IOC view on lifetime bans. IOC spokesman Mark Adams added:
“The president said that for serious doping issues, he would still really like to see a life ban. There are a number of options we can look at that would certainly I would imagine be one of them but this is all very much within a very difficult legal framework. It is something that the president is very keen on and it appears that the public is very keen on it is just a matter of finding a way that is legally sound.”