As soon as a coin in the coffer rings…

The 131st Session of the IOC in Lima, Peru, is over. Of course, the big issue of these days has been the host city elec…, sorry, affirmation for 2024 and 2028. I’ve already taken a rather cautious stance towards the procedure used this time and voiced my concerns and regrets regarding the drop-outs in this race (see Double, double, toil and troubleViszontlátásra Budapest! and Causa Finita) One of them, my hometown of Hamburg, was actually the primary reason for me to begin this blog in the first place. During the next weeks I will take a look ahead at what awaits us in Paris and Los Angeles. But right now, let’s talk about something different: Doping.

Yes, doping again!

First, let’s go back in history. We are now 500 years after Martin Luther published his 95 theses, protesting, among other things, against the widespread practise of selling indulgences to believers who were fearful of the time they would have to endure in purgatory for their sins. ‘As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.’, was a famous saying from that time, attributed to the Dominican preacher Johann Tetzel. While the Roman Catholic Church outlawed the selling of indulgences in 1567 and the IOC, for obvious reasons, wasn’t involved at that time, it almost seems like the Commitee wants to somehow ‘celebrate’ the occasion…

The IOC has decided to expand the possibilities for sanctioning both individual athletes, as well as National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Federations (IFs) for Anti-Doping violations. Additional to the already existing sanctioning scheme (disqualification and ineligibility for athletes; warning, suspension and exclusion for NOCs/IFs) both groups now face the possibility of a fine being imposed against them, as the only sanction or in combination with another. Sounds good, doesn’t it? An additional option for the sanctioning bodies gives them more flexibility and more room to set up an effective Anti-Doping programme.

Oh, it could be that way. But that depends on the people implementing the new rules. And right now, I’m not essentially optimistic when it comes to that…

In fact, as it seems right now, the rule change will not support but dangerously obstruct the fight against doping. The most immediate effect appears to be rather obvious: Russia has now secured its participation in next year’s Winter Olympics. The IOC doesn’t even have to think about potentially suspending Russia’s NOC or only accepting athletes as neutral participants. All they need to do is impose a (significant) fine and tell all critics: ‘Oh, yes, we are taking this issue veeeery seriously. Look at how huge our fine is. It’s so great. Believe me.’

All of that is just absolutely ridiculous. Russia potentially wouldn’t even have to pay the fine. What would the IOC do, if Russia refused to pay and instead took the case to the CAS in Lausanne? That would again take some time and in the meantime the IOC surely wouldn’t suspend Russia’s NOC. And afterwards, well, then it would be such a long time after the ‘scandal’ that a more ‘cordial solution’ would surely be a better way to resolve the issue.

Speaking more generally, the fine is discriminatory and certainly not deterring anybody. Athletes facing a several year-long suspension already have significant financial consequences. An additional fine wouldn’t really make sense. While imposing only a fine wouldn’t be enough in regular doping cases, beyond, let’s say, a snowboarder testing positive for marihuana. It would be the exact opposite of the so often emphasized ‘zero-tolerance-policy’ of the IOC.

And it is discriminatory because only athletes (and NOCs) able to pay such a fine can now avoid a ban. Individual athletes with limited resources, using doping substances on their own would still face suspensions. Those with an elaborate (state-run!) doping system supporting them could at least hope to evade such dire consequences and instead do nothing else but buying indulgences…

And while I’m writing this, several National Anti Doping Agencies, voicing their opposition against the participation of Russian athletes in Pyeongchang are still being criticized very harshly by both the IOC and WADA for making their valid(!) concerns public.

As an Olympic fan, it’s hard not to despair in times like these. I think I’m gonna take another look at the so outstandignly beautiful Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 presentations again to get in a better mood…

And I’m certainly gonna write about both of them soon…

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