WADA in another case of shooting the alleged Russian messenger

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
Serena and Venus Williams © Toby Melville
By now the pattern is not only familiar. It has become absurd. Sensitive, damning information is leaked into the Western public domain, and instead of explaining the contents – the response is: “Blame the Russians”.

This week saw the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) being embarrassed with the release of confidential medical records showing how top US athletes were permitted to take banned drugs because they were given “Therapeutic Use Exemptions” by WADA. The athletes included multi-gold medal gymnast Simone Biles and tennis legend Serena Williams.

More leaked files by the hacker group involved have now embroiled British cycling champions Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, who were also permitted to take banned chemicals through the official, but secret, designation of “exemptions”.

Thus far, some 29 athletes from eight countries have been implicated in the leaks for taking banned substances, including the US, Britain, Germany and interestingly enough one case from Russia. The latter tends to contradict Western claims that the hackers are “Russian agents”.

Without any evidence, WADA has condemned the publication of confidential medical records as an act of “revenge” by Russian state cyber agents. That charge against Russia has been dutifully amplified by the Western news media.

For example, Britain’s Independent newspaper ran the headline: “Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome among the athletes named in new attack by Russian hackers”. Note how Russian hackers are cited by the Independent as if their alleged guilt is fact. Notice too how the newspaper also shifts the focus subtly away from the two athletes’ drug use (not mentioning it in the headline) to the insinuation of Russian hacking.

Russian authorities have flatly rejected any involvement in this week’s release of WADA’s files.

The group claiming to have carried out the hack goes by the title of “Fancy Bear”. It is doubtful that such an obvious name would be used by Russian state intelligence, as is being alleged in the Western media. Their website design also has the look of the Western anarchist hacker group, Anonymous.

In any case, the focus on who actually carried out the information breach is besides the most important issue, which is the content of the disclosure. And that in turn suggests that the rush to blame “Russian agents” is an attempt to shoot the messenger in order to obscure the message.

What the public should be debating is WADA’s criteria for permitting some athletes from certain countries to avail of “exemptions” for using powerful psychotropic drugs and steroids – and, secondly, the organization’s self-designation to keep such information secret from public purview.

WADA, which has an evident Western bias from its organizational composition and governmental funding sources, was instrumental in accusing Russia of “state-sponsored doping”. Those allegations led to the banning of Russia’s field and track athletes from the Rio Olympics. WADA’s allegations also resulted in banning the entire Russian Paralympic team in subsequent games.

The anti-doping agency’s reports into Russian sports have been roundly criticized elsewhere for lack of due process and verifiable proof and for selective use of dubious sources.

The disclosure now that top American and British athletes were also using banned substances – but allowed to get away with it by WADA – only reinforces the perception that the agency is far from an objective international authority, but rather is a political tool applying double standards specifically to impede Russia.

The media reaction-for-distraction is to shoot alleged Russian messengers over what is an important disclosure about WADA’s conduct and what should be an urgent public debate over how the Rio Olympic games appear to have been hijacked by geopolitical interests to demonize Russia. Even though, there is no substantive evidence presented that Russian “messengers” were indeed behind the WADA leaks.

This same absurd reaction is observed over the earlier leak of data from the Democrat National Committee (DNC). Those published files showed how the DNC had committed to fix the US primaries in order to give Hillary Clinton the presidential nomination over her rival, self-declared socialist candidate Bernie Sanders. DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz even had to resign over the scandal, but the scandal’s full implications of how democratic principles were violated were stifled by high-flown claims that Russia was responsible for the hack. Moscow was and continues to be accused of “interfering in US elections” – despite repeated denials by the Kremlin.

A self-proclaimed US citizen group, DC Leaks, has made the claim of disseminating the Democrat party shenanigans.

Similarly, this week saw another embarrassing email hack, in the case of former US Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell, who served in the George W Bush administration, was scathing of Hillary Clinton, as well as Republican candidate Donald Trump. He labelled Clinton “greedy” and full of incompetent “hubris”, while her husband Bill is having trysts with “bimbos” when she’s away from home. On Trump, Powell dismissed him as an international “disgrace” and “pariah”.

(Powell also had choice deprecatory words for former cabinet colleagues Dick Cheney (“idiot”) and Paul Wolfowitz (“liar”) over the Iraq War debacle.)

These are damning insights from a senior US political figure on the lackluster quality of the two presidential candidates which American voters will decide on in a matter of weeks. Yet, here is the Washington Post headline: “Powell emails were leaked on a site linked to the Russian government”.

Again, who is behind the Powell hack is not clear, as with the WADA and DNC cases. It could be any number of citizen-anarchist groups who feel they are doing a public service by exposing corruption and double standards.

What is telling is the alacrity of Western politicians, organizations and media to finger Russia over alleged hacking scandals.

On Powell, the Washington Post reports: “In what seems [sic] to be a Russian push to embarrass the US body politic, a website posted emails from the retired statesman that call Donald Trump a “disgrace” and Hillary Clinton “greedy”.

The degeneration of the US body politic is the central issue here. However, the ignominy is shunted out of focus with outlandish claims against Russia. This process of denial will only mean an even more withering day of reckoning when the US media run out of scapegoats by which to distract citizens from scrutinizing the internal collapse.

WADA revelations are a classic case of double standards and denial. The 2016 Olympic Games were sabotaged out of duplicity and political scheming against Russia. The emerging files on Western athletes having been given “exemptions” for use of banned substances demonstrates this duplicity.

Whoever is behind the leaked WADA files is doing a duty for truth-telling and genuine public debate about supposed standards and adherence to drug prohibitions in sports.

That is the perspective that should prevail, as in the case of the Democratic party’s stitching up of voters’ choice in the US presidential elections. Or in the case of Colin Powell’s purported debunking of both candidates.

The focus should be on the message, that is, the content – not on the supposed messenger, who is being shot down by those implicated in wrongdoing. Smearing Russia as the messenger only shows how desperate the wrongdoers are.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.