‘Russia demonized’ by doping scandal, journalist who wrote open letter to WADA tells RT
“I follow international relations and I was concerned about the demonization of Russia in the media in the West. So when these accusations of state-sponsored doping among athletes in Russia came out, I just had to look into it to see what the evidence was,” Sterling, who primarily writes about Syria, explained to RT in an interview by video link.
Sterling says he spent “100-150 hours” sifting through evidence before composing his 10-point letter to the World Anti-Doping Commission and International Olympic Committee, whose findings resulted in the ban of several Russian Olympic teams, as well as the entirety of the Paralympic team, from the Rio Games in 2016.
Among his main objections to the two-part report written by former WADA chief Richard McLaren, which lay at the heart of the allegations against Russia, is a poor standard of evidence, a lack of interest in obtaining testimony from the Russian side, and a campaign to smear innocent athletes, along with those genuinely guilty.
“The McLaren Report investigation is really biased. So I think it is important to have other investigations to determine what is true and what is not,” explains Sterling.
“Certainly there are some real problems that need to be looked at and handled, not just about Russia but internationally – there are problems in this area. But it is really evident to me that the issue has been really politicized,” he said.
While Sterling does not expect his investigation to shift the stance of WADA or the IOC, he believes that public opinion can still be affected, particularly if he can break through the dominance of mainstream media coverage.
“The media in the West, not just the sports media but the media generally, accept conclusions very readily when it comes to this issue. They automatically accept the accusations without looking at the evidence or looking at it objectively. There is a similarity today to the accusations about chemical weapon usage in Syria. The West automatically assumes it is right,” says Sterling, an American who had a long career as an aerospace engineer before becoming an independent journalist.
Russia’s drug-testing program remains suspended, as it is being reformed, while several of its teams – notably track & field athletes – remain barred from international competitions. There is even a possibility that the country won’t be given access to the Winter Olympics next year.
However, Sterling says it is the international sporting bodies themselves, such as WADA, that need to be rebuilt from the ground up – and given more responsibility – if doping is to be rooted out.
“It is apparent to me that the monitoring, the control, the testing needs to be done by an impartial objective body. It just can’t be done by each country on its own. It would result in a lot more fair and transparent process to have it done by the international body that is heavily scrutinized to both, make it fair, and also to get away from the false accusations that are happening,” he said.