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Volume 25 No. 27
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Reactions Pour In On IOC's Decision To Ban Russia From Pyeongchang Games For Doping

The IOC's ban of Russia from the Pyeongchang Games has drawn plenty of reaction, and USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes there has "never been a finer moment" in the long, "tangled history of the Olympics and performance-enhancing drugs" that what was announced yesterday. It is an "embarrassment for Russia" and every official who "helped deprive athletes from other nations who played by the rules out of the medals they deserved in Sochi, in Rio, in London" (USA TODAY, 12/6). In N.Y., Juliet Macur writes the IOC appears to be "taking this rules-breaking seriously for a change, and it shows in the way they are handling Russian athletes who want to prove their innocence and compete in Pyeongchang" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/6). A N.Y. POST editorial states that the IOC's ban was an "extraordinary move." The editorial: "Kudos ... at least they're sending Vladimir Putin the right message now" (N.Y. POST, 12/6). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes if you are an athlete out there who is "trying to compete clean, the IOC’s move must be welcome, because there has to be nothing like the frustration in dedicating your life to something -- and losing out to cheats." Doping "isn’t simply a Russian problem" but to "not punish a rogue national program (a host, no less) would have been a demoralizing declaration of defeat" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/6).

DEALING A BLOW: The NATIONAL POST's Scott Stinson wrote this is an "extraordinarily rare statement that is nevertheless true: the International Olympic Committee has done the right thing." The unexpected part of the IOC’s decision is that, as much as it "deals a tremendous blow to Russia, preventing it from winning medals in Pyeongchang and promising to reallocate those that it won in Sochi, it is also a massive blow to the Olympics themselves." Russia, and the former Soviet Union, have been one of the "biggest Olympic powers, both in terms of the size of their delegation and in the number of medals they typically win." Removing the country from Pyeongchang makes it an "instantly smaller Games" (NATIONAL POST, 12/5). SPORTSNET.ca's Shi Davidi wrote the IOC "delivered a targeted attack" on the system. Doping tests and sanctions "haven’t provided enough of a deterrent for those intent on cheating," so it is reasonable to wonder if yesterday's decision, "harsh as it is, will be enough" (SPORTSNET.ca, 12/5).

NOT SO FAST: In N.Y., Jere Longman writes Russia may have "gotten off fairly lightly for undermining" the Sochi Games. The punishment would have been "much harsher with a prohibition of all Russian athletes." The IOC's decision "will be seen as more than fair in the international sports world," as some of the current top Russian athletes "seem unlikely to have been involved in the doping scheme" at Sochi (N.Y. TIMES 12/6). SI.com's Tim Layden wrote it is "exceedingly tempting to celebrate this ban of the Big Bad Russians as a watershed moment in the interminable war against doping." It is "inarguably a victory in the doping wars, but it is just one victory and could be less significant than it appears." Russian athletes will compete in Pyeongchang, but the most effective statement would have been a "full ban of all Russian athletes." The presence of any Russian athletes in Pyeongchang "diminishes the jarring effect" of yesterday’s ban. It is a "half-measure." A full ban would have "sent a much more chilling message" (SI.com, 12/5). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly in a front-page piecewrites, "This ban is not actually a ban. ... It's more of a timeout. The plutocrats who rule Russia stand in the corner, their athletes compete in make-believe uniforms and then everyone rejoins the class" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/6). In DC, Sally Jenkins writes the IOC "deserves no great congratulations for what can only be termed its moral entrepreneurship in sanctioning Russia." The IOC and WADA remain a "harrumphing, selectively enforcing, self-dealing intentional failure of a bureaucracy that couldn’t even plug a mouse-hole in the Sochi drug testing lab, for the simple reason that it didn’t want to." All the IOC has really done is "ban a song and a swathe of fabric from PyeongChang, and unfairly stigmatize Russian athletes along the way" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/6).

WHO'S REALLY TO BLAME? In San Diego, Mark Zeigler writes the IOC sanctioned Russia because it "couldn’t exactly sanction itself." Russia also proved to be an "easy target." The IOC and President Thomas Bach spent yesterday "chastising Russia, banning its flag and its Olympic officials" from Pyeongchang, when really what they were doing was "incriminating themselves." Zeigler: "Blame Russia for Sochi. But blame the IOC and the international sports community for everything that came before it, for blithely ignoring the scourge of doping until it was too late, for creating a culture where athletes and sometimes entire nations feel compelled to cheat." Russia "created the mouse hole." The IOC "created the loopholes" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 12/6).

LATE-NIGHT LAUGHS: Russia's ban predictably was a topic in the late-night shows' monologues, with TBS' Conan O'Brien saying, "Don’t feel bad, Russia. Even though you won’t win any Gold Medals, you did win the U.S. presidential election” (“Conan,” TBS, 12/5). NBC’s Jimmy Fallon noted the IOC has banned Russia "because of doping violations." Fallon: "Or as Putin put it, ‘Hello, Donald, it's time to return favor.’" He added, "Athletes from Russia can still participate, but they won't get credit for winning any medals. Yeah, Olympic events that don't matter. Or as most people call it, curling” ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 12/5). CBS' Stephen Colbert: "That is shocking -- Russia was punished for interfering with the results of something?" He added, "Any athletes who can prove they never doped will be allowed to compete as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, but the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals. Well, what happens if one of the nationless athletes wins Gold? Do they just stand on the podium staring at nothing while we listen to two-and-a-half minutes of whatever's on the radio? I hope so, because I would love to see a speedskater tear up to ‘My Sharona’” (“The Late Show,” CBS, 12/5).