IT IS TIME TO TAKE A STAND ON THE DOPING ISSUE

Courtesy: Yelena Isinbayeva

Let me get this straight – the total ban on Russian track and field athletes enforced by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) is a strong stand taken by an International Federation in the recent times. Tipped by the whistle blower Yuliya Stepanova, an 800m runner along with her husband Vitaly, exposed the state-sponsored doping activities through a documentary. Since then, she has been cleared by the IAAF to compete at the Rio Olympics. However, the International Olympic Committee has rejected her participation stating she was previously banned for testing positive.

Which makes me ask a question – if not for the whistle-blower, how would IOC, WADA or IAAF be made aware of Russia’s doping activities?

Following up, what is the motivation of a whistle blower in the future, if the IOC doesn’t empathise with the risks she had to take to expose the wrongdoings?

For others, such as Yelena Isinbayeva, it looks like curtains as IAAF is no mood to review the Russian track and field athletes in spite of no proof against specific athletes.

What will happen to the ‘innocence until proven guilty’?

As far as Russian track and field athletes go, only the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina has been cleared to compete as a ‘neutral’ athlete at the Rio Olympics. This was possible because of a loophole in IAAF’s regulations. Since Darya trains with the IMG Academy in the United States, hence she is not under the purview of the Russian Anti-doping agencies.

The IAAF is adamant and with Court of Arbitration (CAS) supporting IAAF’s move to ban the Russian athletics contingent, it can be safely said that the greatest female pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva will not be taking the field. She is 34 years and it is unlikely for the two-time Olympic gold medallist to be part of the 2020 edition.

“Rio is over,” said the three-time world champion Yelena when her appeal to take part as a neutral athlete was rejected. “No chance for me to stand up on the highest step at the Olympics. No Russian anthem to be played in my honour. God, I am so upset because this is unfair.”

The phrase ‘lack of clarity’ pretty much sums up the whole mess the world of sports has gotten into.

On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) took a neutral path and made a safe choice of rejecting the proposal of blanket ban on the Russian Olympic Committee. The Lausanne-based organisation further emphasised that all the Russian athletes’ eligibilities are with the respective International Federations. IOC has safely distanced away from any controversy, thereby creating a controversy of its own with two weeks to go for the start of the Rio Olympics.

The Sunday’s decision by IOC clearly reflects that, the Olympic guardians are not the leaders when it comes to taking a stand. They thread along a neutral path and wouldn’t put themselves in a position where it is either black or white. If doping is an offence, why take the diplomatic path?

The IOC ruling implies, the individual international federations are the rule makers. A question arises, what is the actual role of the International Olympic Committee and its comrades comprising of several National Olympic Committees?

What would IOC do if there wouldn’t be any Olympic Games in the future? How relevant would this organisation be?

Coming back to the doping scandals, there is no doubt about the crisis that exists in the way anti-doping activities are being carried out. So far, the defense of the various accused Russian sports authorities have been weak. It is not proven all of the Russian athletes are guilty, in such a scenario, the majority wins aren’t the way to go about while handing out bans (IAAF). The rules must be such that, the one innocent among the hundred others implicated should receive justice.

Call it Karma or work in progress, I hope the laws become fairer and clearer from here, so that you don’t have an athlete such as Yelena Isinbayeva robbed of an opportunity after all the hard work she has put in her career.

Now, what if tomorrow the Monaco-based pole vault champion is proven guilty of a previous offence? It would be devastating, but, as it stands, that’s not the case and there isn’t an iota of evidence of Yelena taking part in a state sponsored doping activity. So, she stands innocent, until she is proven guilty, right?

The IAAF doesn’t look that way. It remains to be seen what would be the outcome of Yelena’s appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. That seems to be the final hope as she continues to train as though she is preparing for the event.

The IOC also stated any Russian athlete who previously served bans or implicated for doping would not be allowed to participate at the Rio Olympics.

On an end note, Tyson Gay, the American track and field sprinter was stripped of his silver medal he won at the 2012 Summer Olympics, as a result of having tested positive for a banned substance in 2013.

Tyson would turn 34 during the Rio Olympics and he would be part of the United States track and field relay team in spite of being banned previously.

Now this is unfair, to say the least.

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