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IPC Bans Paralympic Athletes to Bash Russia

By Rick Sterling

It seems the Russian Paralympic athletes are being collectively punished as a means of punishing the Russian government.

The International Paralympic Committee announced on August 7 that it had decided to ban the entire Russian team from the upcoming Paralympics to be held in Rio in September. Thus, 267 mentally or physically disabled Russians who have been preparing for the Rio Paralympics for years are now banned from competing.

The IPC explanation of why they banned the entire 267 team members boiled down to the accusation that “the State-sponsored doping programme that exists within Russian sport regrettably extends to Russian Para sport as well.”

These are strong accusations, not against the athletes, but against the Russian government. It seems the Russian Paralympic athletes are being collectively punished as a means of punishing the Russian government.

But what are the facts? First, it’s true some Russian athletes have used prohibited steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. The documentaries by Hajo Seppelt expose examples of Russian athletes admitting to taking PEDs, a banned coach clandestinely continuing to coach and another banned coach dealing in prohibited drugs.

 Another fact is that this problem exists in many, if not all countries, especially since professional athletics is big business. WADA data shows that many countries have significant numbers of doping violations.

It is claimed that doping by elite athletes is pervasive in Russia but is this true? To answer that accurately would require an objective examination. In the current controversy the accusations and assumptions rely substantially on individual anecdotes and testimony which has been publicized through media reports with very little scrutiny. In contrast with the accusations, the scientific data prepared by WADA indicates that Russian athletes have a fairly low incidence of positive drug tests in international certified laboratories.

The biggest question is whether the Russian government has been “sponsoring” or somehow supervising prohibited doping. This has been repeated many times and is now widely assumed to be true. However the evidence is far from compelling. The accusations are based primarily on the testimony of three people—Grigory Rodchenkov, who extorted athletes, and “whistle-blowers” Vitaliy and Yuliya Stepanov.

The Stepanovs were the star witnesses in the 60 Minutes feature on this topic. The report was factually flawed: it mistakenly reports that Vitaliy had a “low level job at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency RUSADA.” Actually he was adviser to the director general, close to the minister of sports and a trainer of doping-control officers.

The 60 Minutes story also failed to include the important fact that Vitaliy was directly involved in his wife’s doping. In “The Secrets of Doping,” a documentary by Seppelt, it states, “First, Vitaliy even helps his wife with doping, procures the drugs, leads a kind of double life.”

Adding to the argument that there may be a political bias in these accusations, all three witnesses now live in the U.S.

The “proof” of Russian state-sponsored doping rests on remarkably little solid evidence. The principal assertion is that the deputy minister of sports issued email directives to eliminate positive tests of “protected” athletes. Richard H. McLaren, of the McLaren Report, claims to have “electronic data” and emails proving this.

However he has not revealed the emails. If the emails are authentic, that would be damning. How would the ministry of sports officials explain it? Do they have any alternative explanation of the curious directives to “quarantine” or “save” doping test samples? Astoundingly, McLaren decided not to ask them and he still has not shown the evidence he has.

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