Liar, liar, pants on fire…
In an era of stress and anxiety, when the present seems unstable and the future unlikely, the natural response is to retreat and withdraw from reality, taking recourse either in fantasies of the future or in modified visions of a half-imagined past.
Alan Moore, from “Watchmen”
Unless you were catatonic this past couple of weeks, dead drunk from Sunday to Saturday, suffered a debilitating brain injury or were living in Bognor Regis where the internet cannot reach, you heard about the west slapping a four-year Olympic ban on Russia. Because it could, it did. And not really for any other reason, despite the indignation and manufactured outrage. It’s a pity – now that I come to think on it – that you can’t use outrage to power a vehicle, fill a sandwich or knit into socks: because the west has a bottomless supply, and it’s just about as renewable a resource as you could envision.
As I have reiterated elsewhere and often, the United States of America is the cheatingest nation on the planet where professional sports is concerned, because winning matters to Americans like nowhere else. Successful Olympic medal-winners and iconic sports figures in the USA are feted like victorious battlefield generals, because the sports arena is just another battlefield to the United States, and there’s no it’s-not-whether-you-win-or-lose-it’s-how-you-play-the-game in wartime. Successful American sports figures foster an appreciation of American culture and lifestyle, and promote an image of America as a purposeful and powerful nation. Successful sports figures anywhere, really; not so very long ago Olympic gold medalists were merely given an appreciative parade by a grateful nation, and featured in lucrative advertising contracts if they were photogenic. More recently, some nations have simply paid athletes by the medal for winning. This includes most nations, with the notable exceptions of the UK, Norway and Sweden. So the pressure is on to win, win, win, by whatever means are necessary.
Since Russia is in second place only to Germany for all-time medal rankings in the Olympics, and since Russia eventually made it back up to Public Enemy Number One in the USA – after a brief hiatus during which it looked like a combination of Boris Yeltsyn and teams of Harvard economists were going to make a respectful pauper of it while it became a paradise for international investors – the USA spares no effort to beat Russia at everything. On occasions where it is not particularly successful, as it was not in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, it has turned to other methods – screaming that the Russians are all dopers who benefit from a state-sponsored doping scheme, and implementing bans to prevent as many Russian athletes as possible from competing.
And that’s my principal objection. In media matters in the world of sports, just as in other political venues, the USA relies on a combination of lying and relentless repetition to drive its points home. Thus it is that the English-speaking world still believes Russia was convicted of having had a state-sponsored doping plan, found guilty and justly sentenced upon the discovery of mountains of evidence, its accusers vindicated and its dissident whistleblowers heroes to a grateful world. Huzzah!!
Examples abound – here’s a random one from the BBC:
“Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme for four years across the “vast majority” of summer and winter Olympic sports, claims a new report.
It was “planned and operated” from late 2011 – including the build-up to London 2012 – and continued through the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics until August 2015.”
The BBC is Britain’s state-funded broadcaster, financed by the British government, and the British government is second only to the United States in its virulent hatred of Russia and Russians. But that was back then, when the ‘doping scheme’ was newly ‘discovered’, and all the western reporters and government figures were nearly wetting their pants with excitement. What about now?
Essentially, nothing has changed. TIME Magazine:
“It’s the latest twist in a long-running saga of investigations into widespread, state-sponsored doping by the Kremlin.”
My soul, if it isn’t the USA’s star witness, Doctor Grigory Rodchenkov, in AFP;
“Doped athletes do not work alone. There are medical doctors, coaches and managers who provided substances, advised and protected them. In Russia’s state-sponsored doping scheme, there is also a state-sponsored defense of many cheaters including state officials, witnesses and apparatchiks who are lying under oath and have falsified evidence. These individuals are clearly criminals,” he said.
More about him later; for now, suffice it to say the western media still finds him a credible and compelling witness.
The Canadian Globe & Mail:
“In 2016, independent investigations confirmed that Russian officials had run a massive state‑sponsored doping system during the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, which fed illicit performance-enhancing drugs to hundreds of athletes and took outlandish measures to pervert national drug-testing mechanisms.
The evidence was incontrovertible.”
I was going to go on, listing examples in the popular press from around the world, published since the latest ban was announced, all claiming investigation had proved the Russians had a massive state-sponsored doping scheme in place which let them cheat their way to the podium. But I think you get the picture, and that last lead-in was my cue; it was just too good to pass up.
Independent investigations confirmed. The evidence was incontrovertible.
Well, let’s take a look at that. Incontrovertible evidence ought to be able to withstand a bit of prying, what? When the evidence of something being so is both massive and incontrovertible, beyond question and the result of proof beyond a doubt, then that thing IS. Therefore, the western press is proceeding on the assumption that western investigations proved the Russians had a doping program in which all or most Russian athletes took prohibited performance-enhancing drugs, at the instruction of sports-organization officials, who were in turn directed by state officials to use such methods to permit Russian athletes to win where they would otherwise likely not have been capable of a winning performance. And there were such allegations by western figures and officials, together with assurances that there was so much evidence that…well, frankly, it was embarrassing. But the western media and western sports organizations and officials apparently do not understand what ‘evidence’ is.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), established in 1984 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and headquartered at Lausanne, Switzerland, is recognized by all Olympic international organizations as the highest authority for sports-related legal issues. An Investigative Commission consisting of Dr. Richard McLaren (Chair), Dick Pound and Gunter Younger was appointed to look into allegations of widespread and state-supported doping of athletes of the Russian Olympic team for the 2016 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia. The Commission’s star witness was Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former head of the Moscow laboratory. According to what became known as the McLaren Report, more than 1000 Russian athletes across 30 sports were involved in or benefited from “an institutional conspiracy” of doping. The Investigative Commission settled on sanctioning 35 Olympic athletes with Anti-Doping Rules Violations (ARDV), and they were banned from further international sports competitions; those who had won medals had them confiscated. Nearly all the sanctioned athletes appealed their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Sorry to keep hopping back and forth, but I’m trying to stay with two major themes at the same time for the moment – the accusations against the Russian Olympic athletes, which were entirely based on the revelations of the ‘doping mastermind’, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, and Dr. Rodchenkov himself. Western organizations and media were bowled over by the affable Rodchenkov, and eager to accept his jaw-dropping revelations about widespread doping in Russian sport. Sites specializing in sports doping with steroids feted him as the brilliant mind behind not only doping Russian athletes, but devising a test for common steroids which increased their detection window from only days to in excess of months. This enabled the retesting of previously-stored samples from international athletes which had already passed as clean. I suspect not a lot of followers of the Russian doping scandal are aware of that, and any such results should be viewed with the utmost suspicion in light of what a colossal fraud he turned out to be. I’d like you to just keep that in mind as we go further. Dr. Rodchenkov also claimed to be behind the brilliant – everything he does is brilliant – formulation of the now-notorious and, at the time of its alleged widespread use, top-secret “Duchess Cocktail”, a steroid-stacker mixed with alcohol which made the presence of the steroids undetectable. Remember that word; undetectable, because we’ll come back to it. Additionally, please keep in mind that Dr. Rodchenkov’s unique testing method was the one used to re-test stored samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics.
So, back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 39 Russian athletes who had been accused of doping in the McLaren Report appealed their sentences of lifetime Olympic bans and forfeiture of medals won.
Of those 39 appeals, 28 of the appeals were completely upheld, the judgments against the athletes reversed, and any medals forfeited were reinstated. A further 11 appeals were partially upheld, but the lifetime bans were reduced to have effect only for the upcoming Olympic Games at Peyongchang, Korea. That makes 39 of 39. Not a single athlete accused was found to have participated in a state-sponsored doping program administered by Russian sports officials acting under orders of the Russian government. The appeals of a further 3 Russian athletes were not heard by the date of release of the statement, and were stayed until a later date.
It is important to note, and was specifically addressed in the release, that the CAS did not examine the matter of whether there was or was not a state-sponsored or controlled doping program; that was not within the Court’s mandate. So for evidence of evidence, I guess you might say, and for an overall feel for the credibility of the witness whose revelations underpinned the entirety of the McLaren Report, we turn to Dr. Rodchenkov’s testimony before the CAS.
As we examine his performance on that occasion, I’d like to point out that this likely represents the first time Rodchenkov was cross-examined by and on behalf of individuals who were not necessarily delighted to believe everything he said without questioning it further, as the McLaren Commission apparently was. Because his story fell apart, often in ways that would have been amusing in anything other than the serious setting which prevailed. That’s Rodchenkov in the balaclava, which his handlers evidently thought necessary to conceal his appearance. Perhaps he’s had extensive cosmetic surgery, because his face was all over the news before that – he is in the US Witness Protection Program, after all. In my opinion, it only lent to the overall sense of unreality, but to each his own. I’ll also be jumping back and forth between what Rodchenkov or his backers confidently claimed prior to the hearing, and during testimony, when I think it is important to highlight manifest…umm…inconsistencies. Ready? Let’s do it.
Pre-CAS hearing: “The latest WADA report suggests that Rodchenkov helped as many as 1,000 Russian athletes get away with doping. Hundreds of those athletes were able to get away with the use of the “Duchess steroid cocktail” while avoiding detection.”
During testimony and under questioning by counsel for the defendants, Rodchenkov admitted (a) that he had never personally distributed the ‘Duchess cocktail’ to any Russian athlete, (b) that he had never personally seen any Russian athlete take the mixture known as the Duchess cocktail, (c) that he had never personally witnessed any Russian athlete being directed by a coach to take the Duchess cocktail, or any coach being directed by any Russian state official to distribute it to his athletes, and (d) that he had never personally seen any Russian athlete tamper with a doping sample.
Forgive me if I jump to the conclusion that the foregoing rules out a state-sponsored doping program insofar as it was ever witnessed by the McLaren Report’s star and principal witness; McLaren did not interview any other Russian officials, he claimed he didn’t have time.
But it gets better. Or worse, if you are Rodchenkov, or one of those who gleefully relied on his testimony to put those filthy Russians away forever.
Pre-CAS hearing: “In 2016, independent investigations confirmed that Russian officials had run a massive state‑sponsored doping system during the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, which fed illicit performance-enhancing drugs to hundreds of athletes and took outlandish measures to pervert national drug-testing mechanisms…The evidence was incontrovertible.”
When examined on his statements that he had swapped samples of positive-test athletes urine after 1:00 AM, passing them through a ‘mousehole’ in the laboratory wall to FSB agents outside and exchanging them for clean samples, in light of the fact that his meticulously-maintained daily diary recorded him as being at home in bed by midnight, he claimed he had lied in his diary. What a clever intelligence asset, to have anticipated questioning years in advance, and added an extra layer of obfuscation! It was not specifically addressed in testimony to my knowledge, but I would like to highlight here that Dr. Rodchenkov was allegedly alone at the lab at these alleged times – except, of course, for the secret agents waiting outside the mousehole – and could have driven a gurney with a squeaky wheel loaded with conspiratorial piss samples out into the parking lot, and loaded it into the trunk of his car with nobody the wiser: why all the John le Carré espionagery through the wall? Comes to that, why would you contaminate a sample with salt, coffee granules and hilarious incompetence like accidentally getting male DNA in female samples, when the doping compound only you knew was in the samples was undetectable by anyone else, because you had specifically engineered it that way?
McLaren claimed in his report that he had seen a method demonstrated, which he presumed was the method used by the FSB to open the sealed sample bottles and replace the sample inside with clean urine. He further claimed that scratches found on the glass bottles were proof of tampering. Other analysts suggested the scratches were probably made when the sample bottle was sealed in accordance with the instructions for its proper use, and the manufacturer claimed the bottle had never successfully been opened, once sealed, without breaking the cap, which is by design an indication of potential tampering. The alleged secret method of successfully doing it was never demonstrated by McLaren or any of his operatives for independent verification. For Rodchenkov’s part, he claimed it had been done by ‘magicians’, and offered no clue as to the alleged method, and it seems clear to me that McLaren simply proceeded with Rodchenkov’s hearsay assurances that it had been accomplished.
The controversial and pivotal claim by McLaren that Russian Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko, “directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athlete’s [sic] analytical results or sample swapping” was not supported by anything other than Rodchenkov’s diary. You remember – the one he admitted to having embellished with lies so that stories he told years later would make sense. This is absolutely critical, because the claim to have proven the existence of a state-sponsored doping program rests only on this – Rodchenkov has admitted he never personally saw any Russian state official give orders to coaches or athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs. McLaren’s bombshell allegation appears to have been extracted from the diary of a proven and admitted liar, and is supported by no other evidence. Yet the western press still maintains there was a Russian state-sponsored doping program, administered with the knowledge and facilitation of the state government, and that this was proven. Rodchenkov is still accorded the respect of a credible witness. Rodchenkov is still speaking authoritatively about the nature of cheating, and – astoundingly – describing those who have lied under oath and falsified evidence as criminals, just as if he had not done both himself. It is as if the CAS hearings which exonerated the majority of the accused Russian athletes, and sharply reduced the punishments of the rest, had never happened. For all the mainstream media coverage the event received, it might not have.
Before the CAS hearing, WADA and the IOC regularly dangled reinstatement of the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) in exchange for the Russian government openly and completely accepting the conclusions of the McLaren Report, officially admitting to having cheated on a massive scale and with the full knowledge and support of serving government officials. It never did. The Russian state acknowledged it has a doping problem, and it has – some athletes were found guilty of having taken banned substances, and there are a few every Olympic competition. But Moscow has never accepted the conclusions of the McLaren Report. And after the CAS Appeals decision, RUSADA was reinstated anyway.
Which brings us to here; now. The entire focus of the McLaren Report and the bullying by the IOC was directed toward making Russia admit it was guilty of organized doping, with the drive for momentum seeking a ban on further competition. Since it never did, the alternative was to prove it without an admission, so that no doubt existed. Exonerating the few athletes ever charged among the thousand or so said to be guilty looks like a hell of a funny way of doing that. The McLaren Team’s star and main witness fell apart on the stand and admitted he had either lied about everything or simply made it up. There is no reason at all – outside stubborn western prejudice – to imagine Russian athletes are doping any more than any other national teams.
But then, hackers – Russians, of course, it goes without saying – calling themselves “Fancy Bear” and “Cozy Bear” (hint to Russians, do not call yourself “anything Bear” – the Bear is synonymous with Russia. Call yourself “Elon Tesla” or “Mo Money”) began to publish stolen medical data revealing the scope of western athletes who had been granted permission to use banned performance-enhancing drugs by their Olympic Associations, for perceived medical reasons, through the TUE – the Therapeutic Use Exemption. The western sports industry was outraged – that information was private, God damn it – and it was just grotesque that the cheating Russians would have the gall to allege western athletes were cheaters. But after it had time to calm down, and after some revelations proved hard to defend, the industry had to grudgingly admit the TUE was a problem.
Iconic American cyclist Lance Armstrong doped for years, but was revered by an entire generation of American kids and sports fans as the finest example of a stoic and selfless sportsman the human race could provide. Teammates and his sports doctor helped him avoid tests, and in one instance he dropped out of a race after receiving a text message from a teammate that testers were waiting for him. When he actually tested positive for corticosteroid use in the 1999 Tour de France, his doctors claimed he had received the steroid in a cream used to treat a saddle sore, and a back-dated prescription was provided.
Retroactive TUE’s sound phony right out of the gate, and consequently their use is supposed to be very rare, since the immediate perception is that the exemption was issued to protect the athlete from the fallout of a positive test; what could be simpler? Just issue them a prescription to take a banned substance, because they really, really needed it. Most of the TUE’s issued to tennis world champion Serena Williams were retroactive, in some cases going back two weeks or more. A TUE issued during a period that an athlete has withdrawn from competition sounds understandable, because they cannot be using it to enhance their career or win medals. A retroactive TUE issued during competition that allows an athlete to use a stimulant which increases drive, or a painkiller which lets them power through without the limb failing, is hard to see as anything other than a cheat issued to protect a national sports asset.
TUE’s are the vehicle of choice in professional cycling, with both British cyclists who won the Tour de France – Scott Froome and Bradley Wiggins – revealed to have secured TUE’s allowing them to take steroids during the competitions. They claimed to be suffering from ‘sport-induced asthma’, which is apparently a documented condition when you try to make your body process air faster or more efficiently than it is capable of handling. USADA head Travis Tygart, who is withering in his contempt of and hatred for Russia, loses no opportunity to defend the integrity of American athletes who are allowed to dope because they have a form that says they need to. I find it hard to believe Russian athletes who secured a TUE allowing them to take a performance-enhancer during competition would meet with such hearty approval from him. It’s because Americans are inherently honest and are genetically incapable of cheating, while Russians are just natural-born cheats.
American gymnastics champion Simone Biles quickly became the national face of ADHD by proactively defending her need for a banned substance. Tygart and American Olympics officials were maudlin in her defense, like everyone is just picking on a little girl and trying to rob her of hard-earned success. What effect does her permitted drug have? It permits an enhanced level of concentration and focus, so that no energy is lost to distractions such a a shouting crowd, bright colours and rapid movements, and she sees nothing but the target of her efforts. Is that helpful? What do you think?
The jury seems to be out on whether corticosteroids would help Biles focus on her routines, although there seems to be a fairly well-established body of evidence that these are not anabolic steroids, and do not increase muscle mass – that’s all her. But the zeal with which WADA went after meldonium – just because, apparently, eastern-European athletes used it extensively, although it has never been demonstrated to enhance performance – speaks volumes about the western bias in favour of therapeutic use of drugs by the Good Guys. They’re just looking after their health. Russians are cheating. How did WADA find out about meldonium? I’m glad you asked – USADA received a ‘confidential tip’ that east-European athletes were using it to enhance performance. Despite expert advice that there is no evidence at all that it enhances performance, WADA banned it. Because, you know, east-European athletes might think it helps them, and if they think that, then it is.
Just like Simone Biles and her TUE. But that’s not only allowed, she’s a hero for being so open about her ADHD.
In the USA, cheating seems to be focused on Track and Field, because that’s where the USA wins a lot of its medals. Hence the effort to minimize the Russian participation, and thus cut down the opposition.
“The United States in fact has a lengthy history of doping at the Olympic Games and other international events, and of turning a blind eye to its own cheating. That’s especially true in track and field, the front porch of the U.S. Olympic program because of track’s ability to drive American medal supremacy.
Nike’s track-and-field training program, for example, has been dogged by doping allegations since at least the 1970s, when its top officials were allegedly aware that athletes used steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. Since the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, every single U.S. Summer Olympic team has included at least one sprinter who either had previously failed a drug test or would later do so. And that’s to say nothing of athletes in the other disciplines.
American drug cheats include some of the country’s most notable Olympians. Carl Lewis admitted in 2003 that he had failed three drug tests prior to the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but avoided a ban with the help of the U.S. Olympic Committee and won two golds and a silver instead. Justin Gatlin won the 100-meter dash at the 2004 Athens Games before later failing a drug test. Tyson Gay, the world’s fastest man entering the 2008 Beijing Games, later failed a drug test too. Gay and Gatlin nevertheless formed half of the American men’s 4×100 relay team in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.“
American athletes routinely fail drug tests, but are waved ahead to compete anyway. “Eighty-four American Olympians failed drug tests in the year prior to the 1984 Los Angeles Games but went on to compete anyway, according to author Mark Johnson. Carl Lewis claimed that “hundreds” of Americans failed tests while remaining eligible to compete, with the assistance of the U.S. Olympic Committee, in Seoul. The USOC faced allegations ahead the 2000 Sydney Games that it had withheld information on 15 positive tests from international officials; by 2003, it had been accused of covering up at least 114 positives between 1988 and 2000.”
Curiously, the latest Russia ban is attributed to allegations that Russia fiddled with the athletes database it provided to WADA, covering up positive drug tests. But it appears the United States has a well-known history of fudging and obscuring positive drug-test results, refusing to reveal them to regulatory bodies, and pushing its doper athletes into international competition. Yet the United States has a loudly self-awarded reputation as the Defender Of Clean Sport.
Russia’s position is that the ubiquitous Grigory Rodchenkov – a proven and self-confessed liar, remember, who claimed to have lied in his diary where he was supposedly only talking to himself – modified the database from abroad, after he fled to the United States and made such a Godsend of himself in America’s drive to move up the medal rankings. He apparently retained administrator rights on the database, which was accessible online, even after fleeing from Russia. His lawyer’s defense, curiously, is that he did not and, significantly, ‘could not’ access the database. To me, that sounds like he’s going out a little bit on a limb – all the Russian side needs to do is prove that he could have to discredit Rodchenkov’s story. It looks like it is headed back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the spring – the same venue which exonerated the Russian athletes after Rodchenkov’s previous epic thundering-in on full afterburner. Will it happen again? We’ll see. Until then the western press appears not to have noticed that Rodchenov lied his charming face off last time. And still is, through his shyster lawyer – “If WADA or any other agency needs Grigory to testify, Grigory will uphold his promise to co-operate fully to help atone for his role,” Walden said. You know – the role he admitted he never played, in that he never saw any Russian athlete take the Duchess Cocktail he claimed to have devised to make doping undetectable, never heard any Russian sports official order his players to take it, and in fact could not remember exactly what was in it.
Stay tuned – this should be interesting. Count on the Americans to press to the end for a full and lasting ban, probably for life.