Olympic Athletes From Russia

If you are as fond of looking at the medal table for the Olympics as I am [1], you will notice a strange country appearing there:  Olympic Athletes From Russia.  You may ask yourself why Russia appears this way.  We do not, after all, see a listing for Olympic athletes from the United States, or Jamaica, or Fiji, or any other such land.  Why does this listing appear for Russia?  As it happens, the IOC banned Russia’s team from participating in the Winter Olympics this year as a result of a massive doping scandal in 2014.  Russia, of course, denies that it flagrantly cheats worthy of being made an example of, and a sizable amount of Russian athletes were permitted to be part of a rather interim team to participate in the Olympics under the moniker OAR, or Olympic Athlete from Russia.

My thoughts about this are somewhat varied.  When I first heard of OAR relating to the Olympics, I wondered like many people, for example, if the Olympics were suddenly as fond of obscure alternative rock bands as I am.  For example, I am a fan of the band O.A.R., which is short for Of A Revolution, which is a strikingly ironic name for a band whose music is not particularly revolutionary at least as far as I have heard of it.  Instead, their music is rather solid meat-and-potatoes rock as far as I am concerned.  They received a mild amount of success, most notably in that their albums consistently debut close to the top 10 every few years, and they are a one-hit wonder on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the top 40 hit “Shattered (Turn The Car Around),” along with a trio of other songs that fell a bit short of the Hot 100 and work on the theme songs for Extreme Home Makeover and other related projects.  Alas, though, it turns out that the Olympics are not fond of fluke rock one hit wonder bands as I am and were merely inventing a politically correct way for Russians to participate in the Olympics even if their nation is banned from participating.

It must be readily admitted that the Olympic ban on Russia is weaksauce.  While it remains to be seen whether or not Russia competing under another name will be as successful as they usually are, it seems pretty likely that this will be the case.  The absence of NHL players makes Russia, I mean, OAR, a particularly strong contender for the gold medal in ice hockey, for example.  Russia still sent more than 150 athletes under that other name, and the sanctions include such delicate slaps on the wrist as having the Olympic theme rather than the Russian national anthem played when Russian athletes or teams medal, and forbidding Russian athletes from engaging in social media conversation while in the Olympics.  These are not impressive sanctions, not least because Russian athletes are likely to be as patriotic as they would otherwise be regardless of what the IOC says.  And banning a team should mean banning a nation’s athletes from competing, not providing some sort of politically correct fig leaf for a nation to participate by stealth, as it were, rather than openly.  It is not likely that Russian athletes will be any more keen on obeying the additional rules and sanctions applied on them for their ersatz national team than they were at obeying the normal rules for Olympic teams that other nations are subject to.  It is their refusal to play by the rules, after all, that got them in this mess.  More rules without enforcement is not going to do anything to improve their obedience to global norms and standards for athletics.

What this does is demonstrate, if it had not already been demonstrated before, that the IOC, like many other international sporting organizations, is powerless to enforce its standards in the face of powerful violators.  Sure, it may trumpet making an example of a team as corrupt as Russia, but when push comes to shove it cannot enforce its standards and cannot ensure compliance on large and powerful nations that flout its standards.  To be sure, if a nation like Andorra had a massive doping regime in order to increase its medal count at the Winter Olympics, it would be pretty easily for such an Olympic team to be crushed.  But although Russia is big enough and an obvious enough superpower when it comes to Winter Olympic sports given its large and mostly cold land area and its longstanding passion for athletic excellence not to need to cheat and lie as maniacally as a Bond villain, the fact that it chooses consistently to do so and has for decades means that they serve as a fit demonstration example of the weakness of the IOC when it comes to enforcing their own standards.  No one is going to care what name Russian athletes compete under or what music is played when they medal as some inevitably will if their feet are not held to the fire when it comes to enforcing standards on fair play and the avoidance of doping.  A nation or institution that cannot enforce its standards and laws and regulations in the face of disobedience is one that will be held in derision and contempt as a weak and cowardly paper tiger, whose rules are not worthy of being obeyed and whose writ inspires no fear among those powerful enough to resist it.

[1] See, for example:









About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings, Sports and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Olympic Athletes From Russia

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Cultures Of The World: Andorra | Edge Induced Cohesion

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