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The Olympics as a Tool of the New Cold War

The allegations of systematic state organised doping by the Russian authorities are founded on the evidence of three compromised individuals and have been presented in a way that denies Russian athletes their fundamental rights.

Andrey Fomin

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This article first appeared and was submitted by Oriental Review with the agreement of the author.

The 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism (non-discrimination of any kind, including nationality and political opinion) seems to be forgotten long ago.  In ancient Greece the competition of best athletes was able to halt a war and serve as a bridge of understanding between two recent foes.  But in the twentieth century the Olympics have become a political weapon.  Back in 1980 the US and its allies boycotted the games in Moscow as a protest against the Soviet troops that entered Afghanistan at the request of that country’s legitimate government (in contrast, the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany were held as usual, to the applause of the “civilised” world).

On May 8, 2016 the CBS program 60 Minutes aired a broadcast about doping in Russia.  The interviews featured recorded conversations between a former staffer with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), Vitaly Stepanov, and the ex-director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, Grigory Rodchenkov.  That program was just the fourth instalment in a lengthy series about the alleged existence of a system to support doping in Russian sports.

A few days later the New York Times published an interview with Rodchenkov.  There that former official claims that a state-supported doping program was active at the Sochi Olympics, and that the orders for that program had come almost directly from the Russian president.

One important fact that escaped most international observers was that a media campaign, which had begun shortly after the 2014 deep freeze in Russian-Western relations, was constructed around the “testimonies” of three Russian citizens who were all interconnected and complicit in a string of doping scandals, and who later left Russia and are trying to make new lives in the West.

Yulia Stepanova née Rusanova

A 29-year-old middle-distance runner, Yulia Stepanova, can be seen as the instigator of this scandal. This young athlete’s personal best in global competition was a bronze medal at the European Athletics Indoor Championship in 2011.  At the World Championships that same year she placed eighth. 

Stepanova’s career went off the rails in 2013, when the Russian Athletic Federation’s Anti-Doping Commission disqualified her for two years based on “blood fluctuations in her Athlete Biological Passport.” Such fluctuations are considered evidence of doping.  All of Stepanova’s results since 2011 have been invalidated.  In addition, she had to return the prize money she had won running in professional races in 2011-2012. 

Stepanova, who had been suspended for doping, acted as the primary informant for ARD journalist Hajo Seppelt, who had begun filming a documentary about misconduct in Russian sports.  After the release of ARD’s first documentary in December 2014, Stepanova left Russia along with her husband and son.  In 2015 she requested political asylum in Canada.  Even after her suspension ended in 2015, Stepanova told the WADA Commission (p.142 of the November 2015 WADA Report) that she had tested positive for doping during the Russian Track and Field Championships in Saransk in July 2010 and paid 30,000 rubles (approximately $1,000 USD at that time) to the director of the Russian anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, Gregory Rodchenkov, in exchange for concealing those test results.

Vitaly Stepanov

Yulia Stepanova’s husband is Vitaly Stepanov, a former staffer at RUSADA.  He had lived and studied in the US since he was 15, but later decided to return to Russia.  In 2008, Vitaly Stepanov began working for RUSADA as a doping-control officer.  Vitaly met Yulia Rusanova in 2009 at the Russian national championships in Cheboksary. 

Stepanov now claims that he sent a letter to WADA detailing his revelations back in 2010, but never received an answer.  In 2011 Stepanov left RUSADA. One fact that deserves attention is that Vitaly has confessed that he was fully aware that his wife was taking banned substances, both while he worked for RUSADA as well as after he left that organisation. Take note that Stepanova’s blood tests went positive starting in 2011 – i.e., from the time that her husband, an anti-doping officer, left RUSADA.

With a clear conscience, the Stepanovs, now married, accepted prize money from professional races until Yulia was disqualified.  Then they no longer had a source of income and the prize money suddenly had to be returned, at which point Vitaly Stepanov sought recourse in foreign journalists, offering to tell them the “truth about Russian sports.”  In early June he admitted that WADA had not only helped his family move to America, but had also provided them with $30,000 in financial assistance.

Gregory Rodchenkov

And finally, the third figure in the campaign to expose doping in Russian sports – the former head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, Gregory Rodchenkov. 

According to Vitaly Stepanov, he was the man who sold performance-enhancing drugs while helping to hide their traces, and had also come up with the idea of “doped Chivas mouth swishing” (page 50), a technique that transforms men into Olympic champions.

This 57-year-old native of Moscow is acknowledged to be the best at what he does.  He graduated from Moscow State University with a Ph.D. in chemistry and began working at the Moscow anti-doping lab as early as 1985.  He later worked in Canada and for Russian petrochemical companies, and in 2005 he became the director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory in Moscow. 

In 2013 Marina Rodchenkova – Gregory Rodchenkov’s sister – was found guilty and received a sentence for selling anabolic steroids to athletes.  Her brother was also the subject of a criminal investigation into charges that he supplied banned drugs.  Threatened with prosecution, Gregory Rodchenkov began to behave oddly and was repeatedly hospitalized and “subjected to a forensic psychiatric examination.”  A finding was later submitted to the court, claiming that Rodchenkov suffered from “schizotypal personality disorder,” exacerbated by stress.  As a result, all the charges against Rodchenkov were dropped. 

But the most surprising thing was that someone with a “schizotypal personality disorder” and a sister convicted of trafficking in performance-enhancing drugs continued as the director of Russia’s only WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratory.  In fact, he held this job during the 2014 Olympics.  Rodchenkov was not dismissed until the fall of 2015, after the eruption of the scandal that had been instigated by the broadcaster ARD and the Stepanovs. 

In September 2015 the WADA Commission accused Rodchenkov of intentionally destroying over a thousand samples in order to conceal doping by Russian athletes.  He personally denied all the charges, but then resigned and left for the US where he was warmly embraced by filmmaker Bryan Fogel, who was shooting yet another made-to-order documentary about doping in Russia.

Professor Richard H. McLaren

As this article is being written, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is studying a report  from an “independent Person,” the Canadian professor Richard H. McLaren, who has accused the entire Russian Federation, not just individual athletes, of complicity in the use of performance-enhancing drugs. 

McLaren was quickly summoned to speak with WADA shortly after the NYT published interview with Rodchenkov.  The goal was clear: to concoct a “scientific report” by mid-July that would provide the IOC with grounds to ban the Russian team from the Rio Olympics. 

At a press conference on July 18 McLaren himself acknowledged that with a timeline of only 57 days he was unable “to identify any athlete that might have benefited from such manipulation to conceal positive doping tests.” 

WADA’s logic here is clear – they need to avoid any accusations of bias, unprofessionalism, embellishment of facts, or political partisanship.  No matter what duplicity and lies are found in the report – it was drafted by an “independent person,” period. 

However, McLaren does not try to hide the fact that the entire report is based on the testimony of a single person – Rodchenkov himself, who is repeatedly presented as a “credible and truthful” source.  Of course that man is accused by WADA itself of destroying 1,417 doping tests and faces deportation to Russia for doping-linked crimes, but he saw an opportunity to become a “valuable witness” and “prisoner of conscience” who is being persecuted by the “totalitarian regime” in Russia.

The advantage enjoyed by this “independent commission” – on the basis of whose report the IOC is deciding the fate of Russia’s Olympic hopefuls – is that its accusations will not be examined in court, nor can the body of evidence be challenged by the lawyers for the accused.  Nor is the customary legal presumption of innocence anywhere in evidence.

It appears from Professor McLaren’s statement that no charges will be brought against any specific Russian athletes.  Moreover, they can all compete if they refuse to represent Russia at the Olympics. 

There are obvious reasons for this selectivity.  A law professor and longstanding member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Professor McClaren knows very well that any charges against specific individuals that are made publicly and result in “legally significant acts” (such as a ban on Olympic participation) can and will be challenged in court, in accordance with international law and on the basis of the presumption of innocence.  All the evidence to be used by the prosecution is subject to challenge, and if some fact included in those charges can be interpreted to the defendant’s advantage, then the court is obliged to exclude that fact from the materials at the disposal of the prosecution.

As a lawyer, McLaren understands all this very well.  Hundreds of lawsuits filed by Russian athletes resulting in an unambiguous outcome would not only destroy his reputation and ruin him professionally – they could form the basis of a criminal investigation with obvious grounds for accusing him of intentionally distorting a few facts, which in his eyes can be summarised as follows:

During the Sochi Olympics, an FSB officer named Evgeny Blokhin switched the doping tests taken from Russian athletes, exchanging them for “clean” urine samples.  This agent is said to have possessed a plumbing contractor’s security clearance, allowing him to enter the laboratory.  In addition, there are reports that Evgeny Kurdyatsev, – the head of the Registration and Biological Sample Accounting Department – switched the doping tests at night, through a “mouse hole” in the wall (!).  Awaiting them in the adjacent building was the man who is now providing  “credible evidence” – Gregory Rodchenkov – and some other unnamed individuals, who passed Blokhin the athletes’ clean doping tests to be used to replace the original samples.  If the specific gravity of the clean urine did not match the original profile, it was “adapted” using table salt or distilled water. 

But of course the DNA was incompatible!  And all of this was going on in the only official, WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratory in Russia!

How would something like that sound in any court?  We have witnesses, but the defence team cannot subject them to cross-examination.  We cannot prove that Blokhin is an FSB agent, but we believe it.  We do not possess any of the original documents – not a single photograph or affidavit from the official examination – but we have sufficient evidence from a single criminal who has already confessed to his crime.  We did not submit the emails provided by Rodchenkov to any experts to be examined, but we assert that the emails are genuine, that all the facts they contain are accurate, and that the names of the senders are correct.  We cannot accuse the athletes, so we will accuse and punish the state!

To be honest, we still do not believe that the Olympic movement has sunk so low as to deprive billions of people of the pleasure of watching the competitions, forgetting about politics and politicians.  That would mean waving goodbye to the reputations of the WADA and the IOC and to the global system of sports as a whole. 

Perhaps a solution to the colossal problem of doping is long overdue, but is that answer to be found within the boundaries of only one country, even a great country like Russia?  Should we take a moment here and now to dwell upon the multi-volume history of doping scandals in every single country in the world?  And in view of these facts that have come to light, is not WADA itself the cornerstone of the existing and far-reaching system to support and cover up athletic doping all over the world?

In conclusion, we cite below the complete translation of the Russian Olympic Committee’s statement in response to the WADA report:

“The accusations against Russian sports found in the report by Richard McLaren are so serious that a full investigation is needed, with input from all parties.  The Russian Olympic Committee has a policy of zero tolerance and supports the fight against doping.  It is ready to provide its full assistance and work together, as needed, with any international organisation.

We wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. McLaren’s view that the possible banning of hundreds of clean Russian athletes from competition in the Olympic Games is an acceptable ‘unpleasant consequence’ of the charges contained in his report.

The charges being made are primarily based on statements by Grigory Rodchenkov.  This is solely based on testimony from someone who is at the epi-centre of this criminal scheme, which is a blow not only to the careers and fates of a great many clean athletes, but also to the integrity of the entire international Olympic movement.

Russia has fought against doping and will continue to fight at the state level, steadily stiffening the penalties for any illegal activity of this type and enforcing a precept of inevitable punishment.

The Russian Olympic Committee fully supports the harshest possible penalties against anyone who either uses banned drugs or encourages their use.

At the same time, the ROC – acting in full compliance with the Olympic Charter – will always protect the rights of clean athletes.  Those who throughout their careers – thanks to relentless training, talent, and willpower – strive to realise their Olympic dreams should not have their futures determined by the unfounded, unsubstantiated accusations and criminal acts of certain individuals.  For us this is a matter of principle.”

 

The author is the Editor of Oriental Review.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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