Two things stand out about the International Paralympic Committee’s decision Sunday to ban Russia from competing in Rio de Janeiro.
One, it did what the gutless International Olympic Committee failed to do in the face of overwhelming evidence that the country had sponsored a doping program for its athletes.
Two … wait, Russia, you even cheat at the Paralympics?
In answer to that last question, Russia not only has cheated, it has cheated exuberantly, swapping dirty urine samples with clean ones to avoid positive drug tests, according to an investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Russia used the same methods with its able-bodied competitors.
The result, according to the McLaren Report, could be seen at the Sochi Paralympics, in which Russia won 30 of 72 available gold medals. Of the 216 medals overall, Russia took home 80.
If there is any event that exemplifies the human spirit, that shows us what is possible, it’s the Paralympics. To cheat at that is so low, so despicable that it almost defies belief. Almost.
“I can’t tell you how sad we were to discover that the state-sponsored doping program extends to Russia para-sports as well,’’ IPC president Sir Philip Craven said. “Our decision is driven on the need to hold our members accountable.
“(Russia) has shown it is unable to comply with our doping code within its jurisdiction. It can’t fulfill its fundamental obligations as an IPC member. We resolved to suspend Russia with immediate effect.”
We spend a lot of time talking about the cheating aspect of performance-enhancing drugs. We don’t spend enough time and energy talking about the health risks. Heart disease, cancer and liver damage are just a few of the issues associated with steroids and other PEDs. To tack that on to people who already have physical challenges is repulsive.
Maybe we should be celebrating. Maybe it’s another indication of the acceptance that the physically challenged feel now. Russia hands them drugs in the same way it hands drugs to the able-bodied. Somehow, I don’t think many of us are in a celebratory mood.