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17 Feb, 2022 12:43

Western media preys on Russia while US ignores cheats, Olympic expert tells RT

The US is guilty of 'sanctimonious hypocrisy' over anti-doping cases, the American says – adding that punishing figure skater Kamila Valieva prematurely would 'advance American interests at the expense of Russia'
Western media preys on Russia while US ignores cheats, Olympic expert tells RT

Western media treatment of Russia in Kamila Valieva's anti-doping case at the Beijing Games is linked to geopolitical events, an Olympic expert has warned while claiming that the US turns a blind eye to cheating by athletes.

Award-winning sports writer and author Alan Abrahamson has seen Russian figure skating sensation Valieva's ordeal unfold while covering his 12th Olympic Games, watching US reports display what he describes as a "very short memory" over a litany of previous doping debacles involving American athletes.

The self-declared "proud and privileged" American, who is a professor at the University of Southern California and says he went to the same law school as US president Joe Biden's deputy, Kamala Harris, believes people in the US carry an "amazing amount" of "sometimes righteous and sanctimonious hypocrisy" about doping.

The continued participation of gold medal favorite Valieva, 15, has been widely pilloried after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) allowed her to proceed to compete in the singles competition in Beijing.

News of Valieva's positive test for a non-performance enhancing heart drug which is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) emerged a day after she had helped the Russian Olympic Committee to win figure skating team gold.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Skating Union (ISU) wanted CAS to overturn the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) decision to let Valieva skate on following her appeal against a temporary suspension.

That has resulted in a torrent of hand-wringing among the coverage of the Games, with the IOC calling off the medal ceremony for the team competition and announcing that no awards will be presented if Valieva achieves a podium place in the singles showpiece, which ends on Thursday.

"None of our major leagues are signers to the World Anti-Doping Code, some of our biggest baseball stars have tested positive... and here we are yelling about a 15-year-old girl," Abrahamson told RT, pointing to US cycling superstar Lance Armstrong's notorious doping transgressions.

"[Cyclist] Tyler Hamilton, who won gold at the Athens time trial in 2004, claimed that he had a vanishing twin when he was in his mother’s womb – that, of course, was complete bullsh*t.

"[Cyclist] Floyd Landis tested positive at the 2006 Tour de France. [Track and field athlete] Marion Jones, she was the star of the Sydney Games and was proved to have doped… I could go on and on and on.

"But somehow, we in the United States manage to have a very short memory about these other things. We in the United States manage to have a willful blindness, a willful ignorance when it comes to American athletes who cheat.

"One of the main issues is that we in the United States don’t have a state ministry of sport. There’s no federal ministry. So people say, ‘well, we can’t cheat the way Russia might' – or name another country.

"But that’s because we cheat capitalistically. We find very clever, amazing corporate ways to cheat.

"I guarantee you that if we had a state ministry of sport, it would be the best, most financed and most amazing way to cheat ever. I guarantee you."

Russia continues to be the subject of long-term sporting sanctions as a result of WADA rulings, including competing under the neutral banner of the Russian Olympic Committee.

Some of the reports on Valieva's case, which will be resolved after the Games, have been accused of being biased against Russia.

"Part of the problem, of course – or you could use a neutral word like ‘challenge’ – is that words like ‘Russia’, ‘doping’, ‘scandal’ are red meat for the Western press," said Abrahamson, who is considered an authority on the Olympics in his role with Wire Sports.

"All this is running into all the other geopolitical events which are happening in the world.

"But in our world, every single person deserves to have their case treated on the merits, and I say this about everybody.

"If it was an American 15-year-old in the dock, she would want all the process that was due to her, and Americans would be screaming to the heavens to have all the process that was afforded.

"This just happens to be a Russian teenager, so people are screaming like crazy. We have a history of going back to witch trials.

"It’s the Puritan nature of our country to have mobs and pitchforks, and you can see this playing out all over."

Valieva's positive test was announced less than a week before the singles competition was due to start, leaving her with no time to put together a full legal defense.

There is also confusion over how the result from the sample, taken at the Russian championships on December 25, took more than six weeks to return from a lab accredited by WADA in Stockholm.

"First of all, we need to see how the B sample turns out," urged Abrahamson. "Let’s just say for the sake of argument that the B Sample shows the presence of TMZ [heart medicine trimetazidine] as well.

"Because she is a protected person [under WADA rules about minors], the evidentiary standards and the burden that she has to prove will be different.

"Think about the 15-year-old girls that you know. Do you think they have the agency to say to their coach, their doctor, their trainer, their physio, ‘no, I’m not going to take this’, or ‘no, I’m not going to do that’? The answer is probably no.

"She probably doesn’t have significant fault for whatever’s in her system. That’s very different than someone who’s 18, or 21, or 24.

"Then I think the focus should shift rightly – and I want to stress rightly – to the adults in her circle.

"I think this could be and should be a very significant global test case for the entourage around Kamila Valieva."

WADA is obliged to investigate Valieva's team as part of its anti-doping rules. Any fault among members of the European champion's group could be more harshly punished because of her age.

“There’s zero to be gained [from calls for an early suspension]," Abrahamson said of the claims that Valieva should have been ousted from the Games once the result was announced.

"It’s just political points. There’s zero to be gained by screaming for punishment before all the facts are in.

"That’s putting the cart before the horse; it’s trying to advance American interests at the expense of Russia. 

"It’s very easy to score political points and be sanctimonious and righteous and judgmental.

"There’s zero point in our world in being judgmental before you have the facts. If the situation was reversed, would you want to be reversed? It would be outrageous."

After what Valieva described as a seven-hour hearing with almost no breaks on Sunday, CAS ruled that it would cause "irreparable harm" to her if she was suspended and later found innocent.

"We need to wait for the facts but one of the big questions is why the sample which was sent to the Stockholm lab on December 25 was not returned until February 8," added Abrahamson.

"Nobody is saying there’s a conspiracy if, because of the pandemic, staffing levels were cut back because of Covid. OK, that’s a fair answer – but we need to know the answers to these things."

The Games continue until February 20 2022.