27 Jul

Dopey Decision On Russia

Mariya SavinovaReally? No Russian ban? What exactly does a country have to do to be banned from the Olympics? The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision this week not to enforce a blanket ban on the nation from the Rio Games has been met with disbelief and despair. Both from competitors and national governing bodies, writes Chris Broadbent 

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had urged the IOC to act after they unearthed state-sponsored doping in Russia and revealed that cheating was rife amongst host nation athletes and officials at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

Yet, still the IOC has chosen to pass the buck to International Federations to make their own decisions at a time when they could have shown real leadership. I am someone who has worked closely with elite athletics at the Olympics and World Championships and I know how high the stakes are for athletes.

I am not talking financially either. I am talking emotionally. Athletes spend years and years preparing for this one moment. For many, it means parents driving for hours every weekend to competitions during childhood, sacrificing the typical student lifestyle, dealing with body-wrecking injuries and most of all training. Pure and simple training.

The cold nights and the early mornings, training sessions seemingly designed to make your lungs catch fire and your heart burst. All in the pursuit of precious seconds. Day in day out, week in week out, year in year out.

Then your greatest hopes vanish as some cheating Russian emerges from nowhere and steals your moment. Harsh? It's happened. Regularly. Jo Pavey (10,000m), Goldie Sayers (javelin) and Kelly Sotherton (heptathlon) are just three recent British athletes who have all missed out on Olympic or World medals to athletes subsequently proven to be cheats. They may yet get their medal. But they will never get their moment. That’s gone forever.

It’s hard to understand if the IOC really understand how much the Olympic Games means to athletes, their families, their supporters, the coaches, the young athletes of the future and indeed the regular plodders like myself inspired by the deeds of great Olympians.

As guardians of sport’s most powerful event, you would assume they do. Sadly, I now know they don’t.

Image courtesy Wikipedia