Carl von Clausewitz, the 19th century German soldier and military strategist, famously remarked that war is the continuation of policy (politics) by other means.
By war, von Clausewitz meant the old-fashioned idea of running people through or making them run away, so they give up their territory, treasure, and women. By war these days there are fresh ways of running people through and grabbing treasure and women. There’s cyber warfare, which strikes at the enemy’s minds, not their bodies; sanctions, which are the modern form of siege warfare, starving the enemy of cash for food; and sports warfare, which means killing the most popular entertainment in the world. Olympic Games and World Cup football have replaced rape and rapine of olden times, at least in countries which regard themselves as civilized.
Since the US has been at war with Russia from 2014, the military junta in Washington has lost its campaign on the Syrian front. On the Ukraine front it has been so bogged down that Kiev has lost more treasure than it can hope to recover in a generation, or two. The US is also losing its military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. The escalation of military operations and sanctions war on the Korean front has achieved no American policy goals. Quite the opposite.
The first US sports war targeted the Sochi Winter Olympics in February 2014 – and that failed. The second sports war will be to disrupt the World Cup football, due in Russia between June 14 and July 15. The third offensive is the ban on the Russian team participating under their national flag at the Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang (pronounce "pong-chung”), South Korea. This ban, which also excludes officials of the state sports administration, was announced by the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on December 5.
Since the Korean Winter Games are scheduled for February 9 to 25 next, the political impact in Russia will come before the World Cup. It will also come before the Russian presidential election, due on March 18. The Russian evidence indicates the IOC ban will backfire. The only Russian opinion poll to have been reported so far – a nationwide survey done on November 25-26, just before the IOC announcement — found that more half the population believes there has been a state programme for doping in sports; roughly equal numbers believe the government has done enough to stop it as believe that not enough has been done. But the popular Russian reaction to the IOC ban is as political as the ban itself. Almost 60% of Russians say they think Russian athletes should not compete without the Russian flag. For a summary, read this. For the detailed questions and answers, click.
Russian public opinion, like the views reported in the press from Russian Olympic athletes, believes that Russia has been singled out by the US and its European allies. They believe state doping programmes are conducted by other governments, including China. In the US Russians think that government support for sports is paid through universities, working hand in hand with the big corporations and media networks which pay for programmes of performance enhancement.
The IOC claims that it "is a not-for-profit independent international organisation made up of volunteers, which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of 3.4 million US dollars goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.”
In fact, and in the belief of most Russians, the IOC directs a multi-billion dollar business whose management is dominated by Americans and Europeans. That management operates in secret. So when the IOC board voted for the Russian ban at Pyeongchang, the discussion of the evidence, and of fitting the punishment to the crime, was conducted behind closed doors. The voting has been concealed.
Putin’s reaction to the Tuesday announcement from the IOC was to turn von Clausewitz on his head by playing politics as the continuation of war by other means.
Left: President Putin speaking on December 6 to workers at GAZ, a property owned by Oleg Deripaska. Right, General von Clausewitz.
Speaking to a meeting of autoworkers at their factory in Nizhny Novgorod, Putin said of the IOC ban: "All of this looks like an absolutely staged and politically motivated decision. We can see it, and for me there is no doubt about it. We will certainly not declare any boycott. We will not prevent our Olympians from competing if they want to take part as individuals.” He means the Russian television audience will be able to watch the traditional Russian dominance of winter sports minus the national anthem and the flag.
The South Korean Government also issued a statement yesterday to mitigate the impact of the IOC decision by inviting Russian athletes to participate. "South Korea has called on Russian athletes to participate in the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang under a neutral flag,” the state media reported from an announcement by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Seoul. The Ministry added that the Games should "be a good opportunity to further strengthen the traditional friendly relations between South Korea and Russia…We urge to take an active part [in the Games] athletes in winter sports from all over the world, including the Russian athletes.”
The IOC has also been re-examining doping control tests of Russian medal winners at Sochi. The focus has been less on finding evidence of banned performance-enhancing substances as evidence of tampering with doping control tests. The offences alleged against the Russians include raising salt levels to alter urine composition results, and scratches on the inside of urine sample bottles to indicate tampering. Through last month, a total of 11 Russian medals have been cancelled and their winners banned from future competitions. In the original Sochi results table, Russia ranked fourth after Norway, Canada and the US. Following the latest IOC disqualifications, Russia has dropped to seventh, equal with Switzerland.
The IOC’s proposal that Russians can still compete at the Korean games is a qualified one. According to the IOC announcement, "the IOC, at its absolute discretion, will ultimately determine the athletes to be invited from the list.” Exclusion of individual Russian athletes from the invitation list will not be explained, nor will those excluded have the right to examine the evidence against them, test it in court, or appeal.
The IOC Executive Board reported its decision against Russia here. The organization does not report how the members present at the December 5 session voted.
The 14 members of the IOC Executive Board are listed here. There are two Americans; five representing NATO member states, six if the Aruba member is regarded as a substitute for The Netherlands, the former colonial ruler of the Caribbean island. Counting the representatives from Singapore, Guatemala and Ukraine as members of US military defence and arms supply pacts, and the two Swiss and one Swede as representing countries taking Kiev’s side in the present war against Moscow, the IOC board is stacked 12 to 2 against Russia – 12 to 1 if Fiji follows US direction, as it usually does.
MEMBERS OF THE EXECUTIVE BOARD OF THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE
The board members are also not obliged to pass bodily samples into sealed bottles in order be tested for political prejudice. Instead, they announced that they voted in reliance on a report by former Swiss President Samuel Schmid. Schmid makes the claim that his investigation of the Russians provided the athletes and state officials with "due process”. In fact, he concedes "it was decided to reverse the rule of ‘presumption of innocence’ for the Russian athletes.” That meant they were obliged to prove to the IOC they were not guilty of doping or tampering offences.
The evidence accepted by the IOC included computer simulations of sample tampering, as well as hearsay reported in the press. The report of one of the IOC’s expert consultants, Richard McLaren, was qualified in the Schmid report as not "evidence of a level [of] being able to stand legal challenges in Court.”
Left, Samuel Schmid; right, Richard McClaren.
According to Schmid, his group "has no investigation power similar to the one of the Law Enforcement Agencies. Thus it is dependent on the information available in the public domain, the elements published by the IP [Independent Person appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Richard McClaren] and the information shared voluntarily by the persons concerned.”
The most important of these "persons concerned” was Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of a Moscow testing laboratory, who defected to the US in November 2015, and has been testifying as a salaried US Government source in a witness protection programme operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Most of the email evidence on which Schmid relied for substantiating Russian government participation in the doping programmes came from emails Rodchenkov provided from his computer.
Rodchenkov’s importance was identified by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report issued in November 2015. Repeated in the Schmid report, when it was handed to the IOC Executive Board this month, WADA said "one of the major actors identified was Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, director of the Moscow Laboratory; he was at the heart of doping activities and of the positive drug tests cover-up; he had direct access within the Ministry of Sport to request funds for the laboratory equipment. The [WADA] Report showed that in his position he was not only accepting but also requesting money in order to execute the concealment of positive tests of Russian athletics athletes.”
A year after he became a US Government informant, Rodchenkov was reported in the New York Times as making detailed allegations of doping and doping concealment by the Russian government.
Grigory Rodchenkov in the New York Times, May 12, 2016:https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/sports/russia-doping-sochi-olympics-2014.html
The newspaper reported that after Rodchenkov had been named as culpable in doping by the WADA report of November 2015, "Russian officials forced him to resign. Fearing for his safety, he moved to Los Angeles…In his six months in Los Angeles, Dr. Rodchenkov has taken on a more active role in that documentary, ‘Icarus,’ to be released in September. He has otherwise spent his time gardening, making borscht and writing in his diary. Reflecting on his career, he said he was unapologetic about his role in Russia’s doping program, considering it a condition of his employment. To receive funding and support for his lab, he said, he had to do the Kremlin’s bidding.”
There was no reference by the New York Times to US Government payments to Rodchenkov, or to his place in the FBI’s witness protection programme.
According to the Schmid report, on May 19, 2016, WADA appointed "Prof Richard McClaren as an Independent Person (IP) to analyse these new [New York Times] allegations, as well as the evidence provided by Dr Grigory Rodchenkov.” McClaren is a Canadian law professor. Russian prosecutors later reported their investigations did not substantiate McClaren’s and Rodchenkov’s claims.
The Schmid report quoted Putin as saying in March of this year: "In Russia there has never been, and, I hope, will never be a State-doping support system. On the contrary, there will only be anti-doping actions.” Schmid reported that Putin had also said "our anti-doping system failed, it is our fault, and we should admit it.” Schmid conceded that his recommendations to the IOC board followed after the Kremlin-ordered clean-up of the state sports administration was well under way.
The IOC has acted several times in the past to ban countries from sending teams to the Olympic Games; for this history, click to read. The extent to which Russia has been the target of anti-doping investigations in the past three years is unprecedented, however. No other country has been investigated to the same extent, and no other country charged with state-supported doping violations and manipulation of test results. Without the defection of Rodchenkov to the US, this would not have been possible. No comparable defector from another country has turned up.
"We must come right out and say that we’re partly to blame here, because we gave them the pretext for this,” Putin admitted this week, addressing the IOC ban. But the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, he added. The IOC had "used this pretext in not the most honest way [because] no legal system in the world practices collective punishment.” In the State Duma, a Communist Party deputy announced that he has filed suit in a Moscow court charging Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Sports, Vitaly Mutko (right), for failing in his duties.
Russian analysis of corruption in sports has followed western investigations of the ballooning of costs for the Olympic Games, the largest of which, so far, has been the Sochi Winter Games of February 2014.
According to the Russian interpretations, and also to reports from Greece, the financial incentives driving the selection of Olympics Games sites and the doping programmes to assure victory in events started with the US Government’s efforts to assure that Atlanta won the Summer Games of 1996. The money spent on the Atlanta bid, led by the Coca Cola corporation, prevented Greece from hosting the centennial Olympic Games, as it had the first Games in 1896. At the time of the contest for IOC votes, the US Government was also aiming to topple the Greek government of Andreas Papandreou.
For more discussion of the politics behind the IOC ban, listen to today’s interview on Gorilla Radio from Victoria, British Columbia, here.
Gorilla Radio is broadcast every Thursday by Chris Cook on CFUV 101.9 FM from the University of Victoria, British Columbia. The radio station can be heard here. The Gorilla Radio transcripts are also published by the Pacific Free Press. For Chris Cook’s broadcast archive, click to open.