Few want to be realistic about performance-enhancing drugs

Putin’s case against the ban on Russian athletes at the Olympic Games has some merit. He says: “If some members of a family are guilty, it is unfair to punish all the members.” Where his case falls down is that the ‘family’ in this case is very much a state affair and it would be impossible for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) to know exactly which officials have been responsible for the systematic drugging of many, if not most, Russian athletes.

Once the IAAF had decided, then the International Olympics Committee (IOC) had no other course but to reject the Russian athletes. But at the side of the IAAF there is the independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which actually carries out the tests. And WADA is now saying that most or all the non-track event athletes attending the Olympic Games — such as weightlifters, swimmers, etc — are likely to be on banned drugs also. Will the IOC have the courage to ban all the Russians?

It’s likely, however, that many other participants in the Brazil Olympics, besides Russians, will also be taking performance-enhancing drugs under the supervision of their coach — though without official sanction. If all participants were to give a sample between now and August, how many would be shown to be drug-free? It might be a small number indeed. Frighteningly small or realistically small — to which eye you raised your telescope.

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