Is Russia ‘too big to ban’? June 17, The Day That Changed The Olympic Movement

The moment when Michael Phelps stopped the clock 0.01sec ahead of Milorad Cavic at Beijing 2008 - as captured by Patrick B. Kraemer, who along with Heinz Kluetmeier and others caught a series of iconic and prize-winning images of the historic moment when a hope of eight golds lived to fight another day

“Is Russia ‘too big to ban?’ If so, the argument is over. Doping is accepted by the IOC – and though they will continue the language of ‘zero tolerance’, it shall be without meaning or sincerity. The loss might be final.” – John Leonard to members of the world coaching community

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“Is Russia ‘too big to ban?’ If so, the argument is over. Doping is accepted by the IOC – and though they will continue the language of ‘zero tolerance’, it shall be without meaning or sincerity. The loss might be final.” – John Leonard to members of the world coaching community


Lanfranco badia

I have read this raving editorial but you domando:okay we expel the russia from the games but because’ we don’t expel the so many athletes dopati made USA That To Rio there will Be With The Approval Of Their Sponsors.THE USUAL FALSE STRUGGLE AGAINST THE DOPING DI YOU AMERICAN OUT RUSSIA MA INSIDE THE DOPATIS USA AND KENIANI QUESTO AND’ A BEHAVIOR MAFIOSO MISTER LEONARD

Craig Lord

Lanfranco, that’s just too easy an argument. The thrust of this is very much what Travis Tygart is saying – you know, the man who brought down Lance and would do the same to other Americans where he could where there’s a problem. It is not a false struggle. Here is a chance to stop the rot. The IOC, the IAAF etc should seize the day and get the job done in the interests of the clean athletes and programs they claim to represent. As for ‘raving’, what word, lanfranco would you use for these people: shadow laboratories, tampering by state intelligence officers and swapped samples in labortaories, even while the Olympic flame burned and the world was watching… what words of criticism have you got for them, Lanfranco? You’re clearly moved by this – so move your energy in the direction required if clean sport is what you want. This website couldn’t care less where it comes from – doping and corrupt practice and turning a blind eye have got nothing to do with thrilling sport and human achievement of the kind we can all celebrate.

kim Nielsen

Russia pulled the u18 ishockey team few days before the start uf U18 VC. Why? Be cause the WHOLE team had meldonium in their blood.

It is without doubt that Russia have not played fair within a number of sports durring several years. WADA and IOC needs to make more than just give them a slap. It have to have consequences, No more…….


I’m predicting that Russia is too big and powerful to ban.
Much easier to ban Ethiopia or Kenya or Srikanka.

Craig Lord

Yes, of course, but they won’t do that either, asf, and will lock themselves out of ever doing so with credibility if they now fall shy of imposing a penalty that reflects the severity and depth of wrong-doing. Russia’s clean athletes and programs need to turn not on those pressing to keep their nation out but on those standing beside them who were (and some continue to be) behind the rotten system that has tainted them and their nation and the sports they compete in. I hope those Russians who stand for doing the right things prevail and win the day. Some of the arguments run deep – worth reading this on “The New Russia” by former pres. Gorbachev (and more so the actual book, of course)


Arguably Russia should be suspended but Meldonium isn’t going to be the ‘smoking gun”. WADA has seen to that with their ineptitude.

They jumped the gun, arguably for political purposes, without having their science fully together and have been forced into some embarrassing back-tracking.

Real-politik says that most international sporting officials will be loathe to go the whole hog. Quite simply on the score of self-preservation; less so for most personally but rather for the survival of the organisations they represent.

How many are already on the ropes with corruption/financial impropriety and/or their own doping issues ? How many major sporting nations have their own significant skeletons in their closets on these scores ?

Yes, the whole edifice of international & Olympic sport may very probably be brought down if everything gets aired. There is certainly an argument to be made that this may not be a bad thing.

However, is it a foregone conclusion that international sports/Olympics etc can be rebuilt from this potential implosion ? Whilst I can see certain sports rebuilding and professional competition surviving; for others and for many Olympic sports that may be less certain.

The appetite for public expenditure for sports/major events calling for public $$$ has fallen through the floor in many countries in recent years ……. especially when put against public health/education/infrastructure. TBH, the “care factor” from the average punter just may not be there any longer.

Felix Sanchez

Craig, part of me worries that Russia is too big to ban – only from the perspective of banning a whole major nation from the biggest sport pushes us back in the direction of the Olympics being used as a platform for national ambition rather than individual competition. And unfortunately, with it being Russia, however strong the case for a ban, politics is likely to interfere. (Please no one take this last sentence as an argument against banning, just a sad observation).

Of course, at the same time, it’s pretty foolish of me make the case for the idea of individuals, rather than nations competing when individuals from some nations will have been tested thoroughly, and others…

That however does raise another worry. It is far too lazy to turn round – as some inevitably do – and point the finger of cynicism at everyone else: there’ll be American cheats, etc. But I’m genuinely uncertain that Russia is unique or even the worst. It emerged a couple of years ago that Jamaica had basically no out of competition testing. That was against the backdrop of all but one (one very notable exception) of their biggest stars having doping violations in recent years, and followed by the public vilification of the whistleblower. Without having any faith in Russian athletics, it is easy to see how political motivations could be perceived to be playing some role. Not opinions, just thoughts.

And Craig, given that you have touched on other issues here, may I just say that I’ve always admired your incisive journalism against the malignancy of opaque and unrepresentative decision making in major organisations, and the corrupt self-perpetuating self-interest of multi-layered bureaucracy – especially those remote from the interests they are supposed to serve. May you always be guided by your conscience.


If I was Empress of Sport:

In the name of not punishing the poor ping pong team that was considered to be too unimportant to dope, and in the belief that punishment is more effective when it has a route to rehabilitation-

1. Because of chronic and systematic doping problems over the past decade, including bribery of the international governing body and blatant disregard for doping suspensions, the Russian athletics/track & field shall remain suspended, with the ban on international competition to be lifted not earlier than October 1, 2019.

2. The Russian Olympic federation shall pay a sum of $50 million USD (or equivalent in Swiss francs) to WADA in each of the next four years. Because they have shown they cannot be trusted to run their own drug testing, international monitors and labs will run their anti-doping program for them. The money shall cover this anti-doping program.

3. Four doping positives in a year in a sport will trigger a two year ban for that sport from international competition. All positives, whether foreign or domestic competition or out of competition count toward the four.

4. Any attempt to harass, subvert, or interfere with international anti-doping control efforts shall count as a strike against a federation.

5. An athlete registered in two sports who is given a doping positive shall count against both those sports (ie. no counting the track & field athletes against the bobsleigh numbers because of athlete cross-registrations)

6. Any money from the Russian fine not spent on Russian monitoring shall be spent on drug testing research or increasing the robustness of anti-doping efforts in other countries of concern.

7. At the end of four years, WADA shall review the program and may extend it for another four years at full Russian expense if it feels that circumstances warrant.


Remember the 1984 US Olympic track and field trials. One of the biggest cover ups in history. Half the team tested positive. All the big teams have bad history.


And 100% of the East Germans were doping in 1984 according to well-kept Stasi records. We can also probably drag up some iffy stuff from the 1950s and 60s that went undetected. Truth be told, track & field in the 80s was such a mess with all athletes from all the serious countries that finding clean in that mess either involves letting stuff roll down to a ‘universality’ athlete from Papua New Guinea or going the Tour de France route and simply declaring ‘no winner’ for everything between about 1978 and 1994.

But that’s not the topic here- it’s about recent history and a system that paid off the sport’s international governing body to suppress positive test results.


A compromise can be made:
Russian track and field Federation is still banned form the Olympics but their clean athletes can compete under IAAF flag, just like the case with Mexico and FINA.
I’ll let others to work out how it works 🙂

Craig Lord

That would be nice: they could invite Arkady V to join them then 🙂

Craig Lord

Indeed, beachmouse. For some of us that was ‘in our time’… for all of us here now it is ‘in our time’ … and with the bad history and lack of consequence in thought, time to take a different route.


How about the number of positive test results are tied to the amount which that country pays for the TV rights?
One violation by a Russian athlete and their broadcaster pays $10m, 2 and it’s $20m on top of their standard contracted amount.
This would bring a commercial imperative to ensuring clean sports, and it would not only be in the IOC’s interest to find every single drug cheat, but it would also fund the hunt for a while. 🙂

Craig Lord

Yes, JA, good idea 🙂 … though not just the broadcaster: the state should pay a heavy fine directly into the fun for research, testing, education etc…

Craig Lord

All sounds pretty reasonable under the circumstances, beachmouse. I like the idea of nations who have dopers paying a fine for those people. An incentive to clean up and get the culture, ethical outlook and education right.

Craig Lord

Thanks for your last note, Felix. On the rest, I think your points are good and that which notes Russia as not being alone or even, in some respects, the worst, is a valid one. There are aspects of the Russian case that may well be ‘worst’ (we can only hope so) and are disturbing because they stretch to deep-seated cultural – in sport – issues and abuse of young athletes; and while there will be some aspects of the story that are fairly or singularly unique to Russia and speak to its political lines of reference, wider world to sport inclusive, there are parallels in other parts of the world. The emphasis on Russia (and I’m nor advocating leniency) is a comfortable haven for certain other players right now.


The idea of national federations for whatever sports placing a sum in “escrow” with a nominated body, be it WADA or some other org, is probably worth pursuing.

Should it be ALL participating federations in that sport; with sums on a sliding scale according to numbers of competitors; or just those with recorded doping violations ?

Whilst the former is probably the fairer overall; there would need to realism with regards to the sum lodged so a sliding scale would need to be in place based on number of intl competitors per country and the financial capacity of the federation.

How you would operate it could be open to question. Do you add an additional lodgement (say equivalent to the initial amount) for every new infraction until they reach the agreed point at which national suspension is triggered where they “lose their deposit” ?

A mechanism would need to be agreed but the base principle has a lot going for it.

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