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Professor McLaren again attacks Russian sport

The latest McLaren report into the allegations of doping in Russian sport is a predictable sequel to the report Professor McLaren published last summer. Whilst there is obviously a serious case to answer, Professor McLaren’s allegation of a gigantic state sponsored conspiracy to dope Russian athletes is nowhere near proved.

Alexander Mercouris

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On 9th December 2016 Canadian law Professor McLaren issued the second part of his report into the Russian Doping Scandal.  Its full text can be found here.

In this report Professor McLaren sets out in some detail what he claims was a state sponsored conspiracy to dope Russian athletes in preparation for the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

The first point to make about this latest report is that there should never have been more than one report.  As Professor McLaren admits, he has only just finished processing the evidence now, which is why he has presented his final report now.

What that means is that Professor McLaren should have delayed publishing his report until now.  Instead, rather than wait until he had completed processing the evidence, Professor McLaren published an incomplete report last summer as part of his campaign to ban all Russian athletes from competing in this year’s summer Olympic Games in Rio.

As I have repeatedly said this was wrong.  Using an incomplete report to try to ban athletes against whom no finding of wrongdoing had been made by imposing on them a blanket ban based on their nationality was grossly unfair and discriminatory, whilst denying them the presumption of innocence – as Professor McLaren demanded – was a gross violation of their rights and of due process.

The International Olympic Committee was of the same view, which is why Professor McLaren’s campaign to get all Russian athletes banned from the Olympic Games in Rio in the end failed, though he did succeed in getting Russian athletes banned from the Paralympic Games, which took place shortly after.

I have also pointed out what the proper course of action which should have been followed should have been.  This was to set up a full and open inquiry whilst taking proper precautions in the meantime – as was in fact done – to ensure that cheating by Russian athletes at the summer games in Rio was impossible.

This was not the course of action Professor McLaren chose to take, though I would have thought that as a lawyer it was the obvious one for him to take.  As a result he politicised the whole investigation – turning a doping inquiry into a witch-hunt – doing in the process massive damage to his own credibility and to that of his inquiry, and losing for himself the goodwill not just of the Russians but also of many others in the international sporting community especially outside the West.

That Professor McLaren himself seems to have gradually become aware of this is shown by his much more measured comments today, which contrast with those he made last summer. 

Thus on being asked whether Russia should have the 2018 World Cup taken away from it and should be banned from the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in South Korea, he is reported to have said the following

“My function was to be an investigator and to investigate facts.  It is up to the different parties, like the International Olympic Committee, to make their decision.”

That is of course true, but it is also the diametric opposite of what Professor McLaren was saying and doing last summer, when he was trying to get Russian athletes banned from the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  It is in fact an implicit admission that his conduct then was wrong.

One consequence of the politicisation of this affair is that it has detracted from the allegations themselves.  What more in light of Professor McLaren’s latest report can be said about them?

Firstly, as to Professor McLaren’s latest report, like his earlier report it has to be treated more as a statement of the prosecutor’s case rather than as a final judgment in this matter.

Secondly, though Professor McLaren claims to be providing much more evidence to support his claims in his new report than he did in his first report, I have to say that on my reading of his new report there is actually little in it that is really new.  At the time of the publication of his first report Professor McLaren gave the impression that there was a vast mountain of evidence which proved his case but which for various reasons he was not at that time able to disclose.  Now that he has made what he says is a full disclosure of his evidence, I have to say that it does not seem to me to amount to much more than what he disclosed last summer.

All this is not however to say that there is not a serious case to answer.

Whilst one can take issue with many of Professor McLaren’s claims – as I do – there is no doubt doping did occur in the Russian Olympic teams and that Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov – the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory and Professor McLaren’s star witness – played a major role in it.  It would be perverse to argue otherwise since the Russian authorities have themselves admitted it.

However that does not mean all of Professor McLaren’s claims are true. 

His final report, like his first report, depends heavily – in my opinion excessively – on the evidence of a single witness: Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov. 

Personally I would be far more uneasy about accepting the truth of what Dr. Rodchenkov has to say than Professor McLaren appears to be, given Dr. Rodchenkov’s own admitted role in the doping scandal, and the fact that he is on the run from the Russian police. 

Both of these facts seem to me to give Dr. Rodchenkov an obvious motive to implicate the Russian authorities in his own admitted misdeeds, both in order to exculpate himself in the scandal, and to secure his claim for asylum in the West. 

That fact never seems to worry Professor McLaren or indeed anyone else in the West, where Dr. Rodchenkov is constantly hailed as a whistleblower rather than as a fugitive from justice, even though I would have thought the point was obvious.

As for the forensic evidence Professor McLaren talks so much about, and which he provides to support the testimony of Dr. Rodchenkov, much of this evidence looks to me questionable if only because it turns out to be deductive or inferential rather than factual.

For example, on the crucial question of the illicit opening of the sample bottles, Professor McLaren admits that he has no witness – significantly not even Dr. Rodchenkov – who claims to have seen it done, and therefore has no evidence for how it was supposedly done.  The forensic evidence upon which he relies is purely inferential: the opinion of a single expert as to how it might have been done (not how it was done) based on an already pre-existing assumption that it was done.  

As for the scratch marks on the bottles, to my mind they do not prove anything until it is shown that they can have no other cause than the illicit opening of the bottles.  That is something that requires far more forensic testing than Professor McLaren has had done, and is an issue about which the opinion of more than one expert is required, and concerning which the opinion of the Swiss manufacturer certainly needs to be sought.

Of course none of this means that what Professor McLaren and the expert allege was done to the bottles didn’t happen, or that the bottles weren’t opened as they say they were.   However it does leave their claims open to challenge, and the case nowhere near proved.

It is however in Professor McLaren’s allegation of a gigantic state sponsored conspiracy where he seems to me to be on shakiest ground. 

Not only does the whole case for this conspiracy rest excessively on the testimony of Dr. Rodchenkov, but the supporting evidence to prove the existence of this conspiracy looks to me threadbare. 

The emails Professor McLaren cites in support of his claim for the existence of this conspiracy in my opinion come nowhere close to doing so, whilst the statistical evidence he uses to prove the conspiracy in my opinion does no such thing.  The emails seem to me to contain no ‘smoking gun’ and to be capable of various interpretations, whilst it is notoriously easy to organise random pieces of information to form a statistical pattern, and some of the statistical evidence Professor McLaren produces looks to me suspiciously like that.  

To be clear, the fact that some or even many Russian athletes may have been doping does not mean they were doing it as part of a centralised state sponsored conspiracy, and it certainly does not prove that such a centralised state sponsored conspiracy actually existed.

It should be stressed that just as was the case with Professor McLaren’s first report last summer, this report is empty of contrary evidence and contains practically no testimony from the Russians, whose evidence and arguments Professor McLaren in his report disregards and barely mentions.

It is as if having heard what Dr. Rodchenkov had to say Professor McLaren simply assumed its truth, and then assembled whatever evidence he could in order to corroborate it, whilst ignoring or discounting anything that might contradict it. 

Whilst that is what many prosecutors typically do, a judge carrying out an impartial inquiry – which is what Professor McLaren claims he was doing – would first want to hear what the other side had to say before coming to any conclusions. 

Instead Professor McLaren not only ignored what the Russians have to say, but has made it clear that he did so because he assumes in advance that whatever the Russians tell him will be a lie and untrue.  He was at it again at the news conference following the publication of his report, when he said the following

“It would take a lot to persuade me that they (NB: the Russians – AM) could be totally rehabilitated in time for PyeongChang and have a new culture. When I hear senior people in the Russian sporting and political establishment deny a lot of stuff, every time that happens, I’m thinking it’s going to take longer than it could.”

(bold italics added)

Preventing a defendant from exercising the option of denying accusations made against him, and insisting that the defendant must instead accept the accusations made against him in their entirety without being able to dispute them, and insisting that the defendant must confess his guilt or face dire consequences if he does not do so, is obviously not the right way to arrive at the truth of a matter, and in truth it is a gross violation of due process

For what it’s worth my opinion is that if there was a conspiracy the facts point more to Dr. Rodchenkov being its originator and mastermind than to anyone else in the Russian political or sports structure. 

This is in part because some of the elements of the state sponsored conspiracy Dr. Rodchenkov alleges – like the alleged role of the FSB – seem to me to belong more to the world of spy fiction than to real life.  I doubt the FSB had any role in this affair, and Dr. Rodchenkov’s claim it did, and his equally unlikely claim to have been one of its agents, all but confirms that he is not telling the whole truth. 

Professor McLaren’s credulous acceptance of Dr. Rodchenkov’s stories about the role of the FSB point to something else: Professor McLaren’s unfortunately all too typical ignorance of Russia, and his stereotypically Western assumptions about Russia, which inform his entire report.  Unfortunately that has exposed him to manipulation by Dr. Rodchenkov, which has obviously influenced the conduct of his investigation in a most unfortunate way.

Realistically, having made such a strong pitch against Russia last summer, Professor McLaren was in no position to change course now.  To have done so would have exposed him to ridicule and to legal action, and would be irreconcilable with his own sense of pride and self-esteem.  That all but guaranteed that his second report would be no more than a sequel to his first report, which in turn means that the contents of his second report come as no surprise.

The way forward now is to put all the damage done by this affair behind, and to concentrate on setting up in Russia the best and most full-proof possible system of testing, which will enable Russia to set the gold standard in this area, and which will make it possible for Russia to be fully reintegrated in world sport with a minimum of embarrassment.

In the meantime the legal claims Russian athletes are pursuing in various courts must take their course.  It goes without saying that if the Russian athletes prove their innocence then they should be fully compensated for the injury which has been done to them.

As for the future of Russian sports, if the Russians are able to set up an anti-doping system that is accepted as the gold standard – something which though difficult in my opinion is by no means impossible – then in the long run they might actually be the big beneficiaries from this affair.

  

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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