Knighthood for anti-Russia crusader? WADA chief should decline queen’s award on principle

Robert Bridge
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. Former Editor-in-Chief of The Moscow News, he is author of the book, 'Midnight in the American Empire,' released in 2013.
Knighthood for anti-Russia crusader? WADA chief should decline queen’s award on principle
Despite – or because of – glaring mistakes committed by the World Anti-Drug Agency at the expense of wrongly-disqualified Russian Olympic athletes, its president is the recipient of a prestigious award by order of Queen Elizabeth.

This month, WADA President Sir Craig Reedie was awarded the prestigious Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) for his services to sport, and particularly his “fight against doping… and in protecting clean athletes against cheats.”

For anyone who endured the trials and tribulations of the WADA drug probe, through its numerous pitfalls and rabbit holes, you already understand that “cheats” here is code word for ‘Russian athletes.’

In response to the news of the royal edict, Sir Craig was quoted as saying: “This award is a vote of confidence for everyone within the anti-doping movement, a reminder that our efforts are appreciated and valued by the wider world and that our mission is an important one for society as a whole.

WADA Director General Olivier Niggli politely applauded his colleague, saying:

Never one to back down from a challenge, Sir Craig has navigated the Agency through the turbulence of the Russian doping scandal and put measures in place, including funding, to ensure that the Agency is … able to protect the rights of clean athletes worldwide.”

While the award sounds very smart and serious, with its archaic allusions to the now-defunct British Empire, a shiny medal – even one bestowed on behalf of the queen – does not automatically excuse Sir Craig and his anti-drug crusade from grievous errors committed at the expense of Russian athletes in the course of its investigation. Indeed, many of the ‘mistakes’ made by WADA were so obvious that some have suggested an anti-Russia bias guided the organization’s decision-making process.

It is difficult to fathom how WADA could have placed so much of its ‘evidence’ against Russia on the testimony of one person, Grigory Rodchenkov, whose reputation as a man of dubious principles was already well established.

Having fled his native Russia for the United States in 2015, Rodchenkov faces charges in absentia of abusing his authority, as well as trafficking illicit drugs in his home country. In other words, Rodchenkov was certainly not the most reliable witness against Russia, that is, unless sabotaging Russian athletes whatever the cost was the desirable outcome. Reedie, as WADA president, should have been aware of Rodchenkov's dubious past.

According to Rodchenkov, Russia was involved in a ‘sample-swapping’ scheme during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, operating by the cover of night to switch tainted drug samples from Russian athletes for clean ones. That claim was rejected outright by the Russia Investigative Committee, which demonstrated that all of the drug-testing kits were stored in a laboratory for a brief period of time, not overnight, as Rodchenkov claimed.

The doping probes of the Russian athletes were delivered to the laboratory in Sochi in the daytime, and were registered within time-varying intervals which took from 30 minutes up to two hours before being sent to further examination,” the Investigative Committee said.

Why didn’t Reedie and his team of investigators give more credence to the Russian version of events?

The highly dubious nature of the WADA probe, made all the more suspicious by the wave of anti-Russia hysteria sweeping much of the Western world at the same time, was fully revealed in February as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the highest governing authority in such cases, shocked WADA by reversing the life bans of 28 Russian athletes and reinstated their medals, many of them from the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

This stunning reversal barely registered a blip on the Western media radar.

As Rick Sterling wrote on these pages: "When McLaren falsely claimed that "More than 1,000 Russian athletes were complicit in doping," it was front-page news in Western media. Now that Russian athletes are being acquitted of doping violations, and relatively few are found guilty, the Western media is silent."

Moreover, despite these findings, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused a request by the Russian Olympic Committee to allow 13 of the cleared athletes to participate in the Winter Games in South Korea.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev blasted the IOC decision in a Facebook post: “All this has nothing to do with doping. The situation is almost laughable.

“We could at least understand a politically-motivated doping investigation against one country only, Russia. But the Commission’s refusal to honor the CAS ruling is beyond understanding. The result of this will be very far-reaching.

In fact, the CAS seems to have caught the IOC off guard by the decision: “We would never have expected this,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in February, describing the CAS ruling as “disappointing and surprising.”

One month after the bombshell ruling, WADA President Reedie seemed unwilling to view the situation from a more unbiased position.

We want to welcome an independent and efficient RUSADA [Russian Anti-Doping Agency] back in from the cold – it’s just a pity that progress is so slow from the Russian authorities,” Reedie said. “We have been trying to persuade them to recognize and accept as true the systemic doping as revealed by the investigations…”

Although there were many actors – both noble and ignoble – in this sporting scandal of Olympian proportions, Reedie, as president of WADA, stands out as an individual who was in the official position to provide a more transparent and unbiased approach to the McLaren Report. The fact that he seems to have failed on that score – even after the release of the explosive CAS ruling – may be construed as an effort on the part of yet another Western institution to sabotage Russia on the global stage. It is an unfortunate conclusion, of course, but the facts as they present themselves do seem to point in that direction.  

In light of the available information, Sir Craig should do the honorable thing and refuse the honor bestowed upon him by the queen of England, which appears to be more of an award for supporting anti-Russia mischief than any discernible method for improving the state of modern sport.

@Robert_Bridge

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