It’s the worst-case scenario for the IOC, WADA and the fight against Doping in general, or in Thomas Bach’s terminology: a lose-lose-lose situation. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has reinstated 28 Russian athletes whose results from Sochi 2014 had been annulled due to their alleged involvement in the Russian Doping scandal. In 11 more cases the disqualifications were upheld but lifetime bans from future Olympic Games overturned.
The first official reactions from the IOC and WADA leadership were full of words like ‘deep concern’, ‘set back’, ‘regrettable’, etc. IBSF, the governing body for Bobsleigh and Skeleton, notably reacted by not reacting, instead just quoting the IOC’s press release and refusing to make any further comments, but, yea, why should they say anything? OK, the fact that among the athletes involved in the CAS-case were nine bobsledders and five Skeleton athletes might give a hint… might…
What came to my mind when I first heard the news of the CAS decision was this thought: Thomas Bach is a lawyer. Craig Reedie, head of WADA, is a lawyer. Denis Oswald, head of one of the two IOC-commissions investigating the Russian Doping scandal, is a lawyer. Many of the other high-ranking IOC-, WADA-, IF-officials who participated in the decisions that lead to these court proceedings are lawyers. How could they not, anyone of them, have foreseen this?
I’m afraid the answer might be all too simple: They knew it!
They knew it all along. The IOC Executive Board and Thomas Bach in particular never expected their unusually tough decisions to survive a serious legal challenge. All they wanted to do is lure the media, the general public, but also NOCs and individual athletes into believing that the Committee is now taking its responsibilities seriously, that they are finally taking a strong stance against Doping cheats. And to some extent they succeeded in that. And wasn’t it kind of strange from the beginning that an organization that over and over again has been emphasizing the need for concrete evidence, ‘due process’ and ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ now could not or would not provide substantiated reasoned decisions for the individual cases together with the original decision? I’ve been to a number of courtrooms, in Germany and abroad, and I have yet to find a court that would accept reasonings as flawed and incomplete as these. I’m not saying that the IOC didn’t have enough evidence. I’m actually quite sure they had it. But they didn’t publish it, they didn’t refer to it in their decisions, and quite likely they didn’t send it to CAS to support their case.
I personally have no first-hand insight into the proceedings of the IOC, its Executive Board or Commissions. The current policy concerning transparency under Bach’s leadership also is not really helpful in that regard. But I have eyes to see and ears to listen. And I don’t believe it when an IOC president or anybody else wants to tell me that one plus one equals three. I don’t know who is involved in this, and I don’t believe, as mentioned before, that ‘all of them’ are. But this issue, this scandal, this life-threatening situation for the Olympic Movement is deteriorating day by day.
And now it’s getting even more absurd: the IOC is considering to appeal the CAS decision at the Swiss Federal Court. After all those years of maintaining the importance of autonomous sports organizations, after setting up a tribunal to protect and enable exactly that autonomy, they are now challenging that tribunal’s autonomous decision in a national court…?
Three days, actually only a little more than two by now, ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, you may ask how could I still be looking forward to these Games? Well, it seems strange, but I believe as well as being the toughest time in history to be an Olympic fan, this is also the best time. Because right now it’s not about who will host the next Olympics or how much will the IOC earn with the latest TV-rights deal. The core values of Olympism are at stake, the existence of the Games. It’s a time to ask ourselves how much we really care about the Games, about these values. For myself, I have found an answer to that. And as much as I think that the current IOC leadership is leading the Movement towards an abyss, I still believe in the Olympic values. I still believe in the strength of this idea. I believe that sport can be a powerful force for peace, development, education, human rights, for rehabilitation and reconciliation. And I believe that the Olympic Games are so much more than just an over-commercialized sports event.
And actually I do have quite a number of reasons to be looking forward to these 16 Olympic days. Their names are Tina Weirather, Lindsey Vonn, Noriaki Kasai, Kamil Stoch, Laura Dahlmeier, Martin Fourcade, Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, Anna Seidel, Akwasi Frimpong, the Jamaican Bobsleigh-Team, …