‘Horrendous & terribly unfair ban of Russian Paralympians based on politicized report’
RT: What's your reaction to the blanket ban?
Rick Sterling: I thought it was a horrendous decision, completely unfair and unjust. I’ve written a fairly detailed critique of the McLaren report which led to the abandoning of all track and field athletes, and now even the Paralympic athletes. It is a terribly unfair decision based on a completely biased McLaren report.
RT:Why do you think his report was biased?
RS: There were a couple of points where he was inaccurate or not very truthful writing what he said there. He said that the Russians did not seem interested in talking and yet in his own report he says: “I've also received unsolicited and extensive narrative with attachments from one important government representative described in this report.” And then he goes on, “it was simply not practical to look at that or interview the Russians.” So it is a completely one-sided report where he basically relied on one witness who was the chief culprit, Grigory Rodchenkov, who now, of course, is in the US.
Another inaccuracy that I would like to point out is that McLaren is now saying the goal was never to identify specific individuals. That is not correct. His specific mandate was “to identify any athlete that might have benefited from those alleged manipulations to conceal positive doping tests.”
So this is one of the big travesties here that McLaren had the mandate to investigate this, find out who is guilty, and do some appropriate punishment. Instead, he’s cast suspicion on the entire Russian Olympic team and now the Paralympic team, instead of doing what he was supposed to do.
We are all for fairness – fairness in sport, fairness in life – and what he has done is pretty much the opposite. There are many many hundreds of athletes who have been working their tails off for years now preparing for the Olympics and they have been denied the opportunity to attend because of this very biased, one-sided and – looks very political to me also – report.
RT:What did you make of the evidence McLaren provided from his investigation. Did you find that that was sufficient evidence, and by his own admission he actually said that he held back a lot of the evidence?
RS: Well, that is the problem. He says he has the evidence. Well, show us the evidence. He says he has electronic data. It does not get much more vague than that. I mean we need to see the emails. We see the emails from the Hilary Clinton and the DNC and you can read them and you can do your own interpretation. Well if McLaren has the email which implicate the deputy minister of the Ministry of Sports he needs to show that. Otherwise, he is just making accusations without evidence. He seems to think that it is okay to just say I have the evidence and now believe me.
RT:I think he said, in his defense, that he fears for incrimination against those who’ve blown whistles or provided evidence. But don’t the other victims, the athletes that weren't doped, don't they have the right to see the evidence that supposedly incriminates them?
RS: Well, this is a bigger part of the picture. The Olympics was founded to promote certain values and to reduce conflict in the world, to promote peace. And one of the Olympic charter standards is against discrimination. And here we got a case where the IAAF has directly discriminated against all Russian athletes. If there are some athletes there who have been doping, it is the job of WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] to identify them and remove them. That is what they do all the tests for. But instead, they’ve done a blanket punishment of the entire team which is a violation of the Olympic charter.
RT:So who do they deal with the situation like that? Do they punish the government and not the athletes, do they punish the athletes, not the government? What could they do in this scenario?
RS: Well, what they do is step up the testing, they increase the testing. And in fact, that is what has been going on all year long. After the independent commission report last November 2015, one of their decisions was to basically mandate that all Russian athletes had to have their tests, their urine, and their blood tests, evaluated, analyzed by an outside laboratory that is certified. And that has been going on. So if there were violations, I mean that is the job and they have been going to the UK for analysis.
So you’ve got a real problem here. There is another thing, sometimes if a lie is repeated enough times everybody starts to believe it. So this accusation that it is all state-sponsored – let’s see the evidence of that. Because identifying some people who were cheating or identifying some government officials who got a kickback or some coaches who were banned but are still kind of fictitiously doing some coaching – that proves some violations of policies, that does not prove a state-sponsored violation or state-sponsored open rejection of WADA.
So they’ve gone way-way overboard and it went back to the independent commission report where instead of saying they have found examples of doping, they found examples of corruption… These things, of course, go on all over the world in many countries. You’ve got tens of thousands of Russian athletes, of course, some are going to be doping. That happens in every country, every large country of course…
But the question is to go from that to making the accusation that they made in this horrible independent commission report, a culture of cheating, that kind of set the tone, unfortunately – a very political, a very biased, very inaccurate, very imprecise kind of message that in fact, I think, was political and was really a disservice.
So I think WADA needs to get back on track. They need to be impartial. The double standards need to end, the demonization of Russia which of course is very much promoted in the West. WADA should not be any part of that and that sort of political bias is as I've said is a violation of the Olympic charter.
So I think it is important that there be testing. All of the track and field athletes all year long, the ones who are banned from the Olympics, they have been competing and testing with all of the testing being done by the international laboratory, not Russian laboratory. So we are seeing a grotesque distortion of things. The Olympics, of course, is taking place in Brazil and we saw a similar kind of distortion of the reality where the president Dilma Rousseff, the elected president, was impeached even though there are no credible accusations of corruption on her. She is out of power and the new acting president, Michel Temer, there all sorts of credible accusations of corruption against him.
So white is black, black is white. We need to really be careful about inaccurate, distorted media and in this case WADA becoming politicized in a way that is a disservice to the Olympics.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.