If the Olympic ideals and principles of fair competition are to mean anything, athletes can’t be juiced on performance-enhancing drugs.
To its shame, the International Olympic Committee passed the buck on whether to ban Russia from the Rio Olympics, after a detailed report said the sports superpower has a state-sponsored doping system.
Anti-doping leaders from 14 nations, including the U.S., Germany and Japan, called for the blanket ban. Instead, the IOC decided Sunday to let the 27 international sports federations decide whether 387 Russian athletes can compete, though any with previous doping violations aren’t allowed.
It’s possible that some will follow the lead of the track and field federation, which barred 68 Russians. The swimming federation barred seven. But other federations may not be as steadfast, and they don’t have much time to decide, with the Summer Games starting Aug. 5.
A complete ban would have been unprecedented and highly controversial. The IOC has never banned an entire nation for doping. Russia hasn’t missed an Olympics since its boycott of the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles in retaliation for the U.S. no-show at the 1980 Moscow games to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
But the punishment would have fit the crime, based on the report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. It accused Russia’s sports ministry of running a doping system that covered 28 summer and winter Olympic sports that also involved intelligence officers and that included swapping of doping samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
A suggested compromise would have been fairer. If Russian athletes could prove they’re clean, they would be allowed to compete, but under the Olympic flag, not Russia’s. It’s Vladimir Putin’s regime that should be punished for cheating, not innocent athletes.
The doping scandal is only the latest black eye for the Rio games. The venues for several water sports are polluted. Some high-profile athletes have bailed to avoid mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. Brazil is mired in a deep recession, while its president is under impeachment. It’s no wonder that half of those polled recently say they now oppose the games.
The best hope to rescue the Rio Olympics is to have heartwarming and inspiring stories of athletes winning medals. With its cowardice, the IOC clouded the competitors – and the games – in suspicion.