Olympic Games in Crisis: Double Standards

There can be little doubt that the fundamental principle of fair game is violated with regard to the preparation and performance of leading athletes hailing from world athletic-cum-political powers.

In the past month we witnessed the West and Russia trading accusations and recriminations regarding each other’s doping and anti-doping practices.

Prior to the launch of the Rio Olympics the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) oscillated between a blanket ban or selective punishment of Russian athletes registered to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games. WADA, cautiously went for the second option barring Russian athletes, who according to their records, used illegal substances in the run-up to the Games. However, rather abruptly, the WADA changed tune imposing a total ban on Russian athletes set to compete in the ensuing Rio Paralympics 2016. This last severe action of this world body against Russian athletes with special needs is increasingly perceived not only by the leadership in Moscow but importantly by the wider Russian public as well, as a Western conspiracy to discredit and demean their country.

Then, Fancy Bear, a hacking group, Western media identifies with Russia – because of grammatical mistakes in their online English texts – snatched the files of top US athletes who were allowed to compete and win medals in the Rio Olympics, revealing that they also consumed banned substances. What ensued is a total focus of the Western press on the illegality of the hacking while the substance of these serious revelations that point directly to double standards by WADA is completely ignored.

However, some European press representatives have taken the courage to expose WADA’s double standards. For example, Marcello Foa, an Italian sports correspondent, pointed out in a recent interview: Yes, the American athletes have been treated differently. What is surprising is that if some athletes have been authorized to take these substances, they should have been made public as soon as it was decided by WADA. And this didn’t happen. Why didn’t they tell that Serena Williams or Simone Biles took some drugs under medical permission? What strikes very much is the silence about this topic which now allows everybody to think whether the victories or the sports performance have been really clean or not. But of course, there are double standards: the Russians are all bad guys and we see that at the Paralympics Games they all had been banned and other athletes they have a sort of very light comprehensive attitude from WADA, which is not fair.

Incidentally, the Italian attitude, at least at the eternal city’s leadership level, to the value of holding the Olympic Games, has become all the more questioning, if not outright rejectionist: this week Virginia Raggi, Rome’s new mayor, pulled the rug below Renzi’s feet regarding his drive to have Rome bid to host the 2024 Olympics. Signora Raggi is very blunt about it: she would not allow her city to be ‘buried under mountains of debt and tonnes of cement’ for the sake of a short lived Olympics fiesta.

It seems like it is high time the world sports community reconsidered in a profound manner the whole affair of the Olympic Games …