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The Stalinist Witch-Hunt Against Russian Athletes

The campaign to ban Russian athletes is an unethical and grossly political affair.

Alexander Mercouris

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When the doping scandal involving Russian athletes first broke I wrote a piece for Sputnik in which I said that an across the board ban on Russian athletes would be contrary to the principles of the Olympic movement and would be openly and grossly discriminatory. 

Reversing the standard of proof and barring athletes against whom there is no evidence simply because they happen to be Russians would be so obviously wrong and unjust that it would inevitably raise questions about the motives of those behind it.  These were the words I used:

“The Russian authorities are challenging some of the allegations — as it is their right to do — but look to be genuinely offering cooperation to help solve the problem. For example, they have offered to appoint a foreign specialist to head their laboratory. The right thing to do is not to impose a blanket ban but to work with the Russian authorities so that the problem can be solved. That may involve bringing criminal charges and imposing individual bans on specific persons, barring them from involvement in international sports training and competition.

If that does not happen and a blanket ban on Russian athletes is imposed instead, then it seems to me that the world’s sporting bodies will not only have retreated from their ideals but will open themselves up to questions about what their real motives are.”

Since I wrote those words it has unfortunately become all too clear that the concerns I expressed in the final paragraph were only too justified.

The Russians do not deny that there has been a doping problem in Russian sport and seem to have made a genuine effort to respond to the concerns of the international sporting bodies.  Though it is barely reported in the West, since January samples of all Russian track and field athletes are sent to Britain for testing.  Russian athletes now engaging in doping would presumably have to fool or gain the cooperation of the British authorities in order to do it.  Neither seems very likely.  The Russians have also banned the individuals they allege were involved in doping from further involvement in sport, and have brought criminal charges against some of them.

Notwithstanding these steps, since January there has been an escalating campaign to discredit Russian sports and to have Russian athletes banned from the Olympic Games, which are due to take place in Rio de Janeiro.  It first began with a media campaign against Russia’s Maria Sharapova, Russia’s iconic tennis champion.  Sharapova was banned for using meldonium, a Soviet era medicine still made in Latvia which is very commonly used in the former USSR, and which it was perfectly legal for athletes to use until just the beginning of this year.

The Russians have made it fairly clear they think the reason meldonium was placed on the list of prohibited substances is because Western athletes don’t take it as it is hardly known in the West.  By contrast many Russian athletes do take it – as do many other Russians – for purely medical reasons.  Though Sharapova only took the medicine for a period of 2 weeks after it was prohibited, a media campaign was launched against her in the West, and she was banned from international tennis competition for 2 years.

Not only does this seem grossly disproportionate but it ignores the fact that Sharapova’s explanation – that she took the medicine for purely medical reasons on the advice of her doctor and continued to take it because she missed the email informing her it was banned – is probably true.  If Sharapova had really been taking the medicine to enhance her performance she would presumably have kept the fact she was taking it secret and would have kept a careful eye out in case it was banned, taking immediate steps to conceal her use when it was banned.  That she did none of these things is a strong sign her actions were innocent as she says, and that her perfectly plausible explanation is true.  That the US sports fashion group Nike continues to work with her shows they too believe her explanation is true.

The Sharapova affair however was merely the first act to the drama.  A series of articles appeared in The New York Times and the London Times making lurid allegations of systematic Russian state involvement in doping Russian athletes, and a series of documentaries making the same claims also appeared on German television. 

These allegations are largely based on claims made by individuals the Russian authorities claim were involved in doping, including Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory.  Some of these individuals are the subject of criminal proceedings brought against them by the Russian authorities, including Rodchenkov who has fled abroad.  By contrast these same individuals in the West are called “whistleblowers”, with their allegations assumed to be true.  When the allegations and proceedings the Russians are bringing against them are reported – which is rarely – they are represented as attempts by the Russian authorities to punish and discredit them. 

Followers of the Magnitsky and other affairs will be familiar with the pattern whereby individuals charged with serious crimes in Russia are called “whistleblowers” in the West.  The key point to take away however is that (as is the case in the Magnitsky affair) none of the allegations either by or against these individuals have ever been proved to be true in any contested legal proceedings in any court, even though the allegations involve serious criminal offences.

These media stories were timed to coincide with the meeting of the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”) on 17th June 2017, which upheld the ban on Russian track and field athletes attending the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.  As if to make sure the decision went the “right” way, a series of hostile articles appeared just before the meeting in the British media which made serious accusations against Lord Coe, the IAAF’s President, with one British Conservative MP even threatening to have him investigated by the British Parliament.  That the intention behind the articles was to pressure Lord Coe and the IAAF to impose a blanket ban on Russian track and field athletes is strongly suggested by the way some of the articles all but accused him of covering up for the Russians in the past.  Perhaps not surprisingly, once the blanket ban on the Russian athletes was announced the media campaign in Britain against Lord Coe stopped.

The sequel to the IAAF ban is that Russian athletes have appealed against the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne.  However, in what obviously was not a coincidence, on the first day of the hearing on 18th July 2016 the international anti-doping agency WADA released a report, drawing heavily on Rodchenkov’s claims, which again alleges systematic state involvement in doping of Russian athletes, this time at the winter Olympics in Sochi. 

Even more interesting than the WADA report itself is that it finally made clear who is actually behind the campaign to prevent Russian athletes from attending the Rio Games.  The report was leaked before it was published to the US and Canadian sports authorities, who used it to lobby the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) to have the entire Russian team, not just the track and field athletes, banned from the Rio Games.  The fact that the leak has compromised WADA’s appearance of independence, and the ethical issues involved in the sporting bodies of two countries lobbying the IOC for a blanket ban of the athletes of a third country, appears to have shocked some European sports officials.  That however is unlikely to concern those behind the campaign, not to mention their media allies.

This is becoming a very ugly affair.  Those who demand a wholesale banning of Russian athletes are not saying they will be using prohibited substances if they go to Rio.  In the case of the Russian athletes, whose samples are now being tested in Britain, that is now for all practical purposes either impossible, or at least extremely difficult.  Nor do they say what they want the Russians to do beyond what they have done already. 

Instead they demand that athletes against whom there is no evidence of previous wrongdoing and who there is now every reason to think will be competing in Rio cleanly, should be banned because of allegations of wrongdoing against other athletes and sports officials with whom they happen to share the same nationality.  That is collective punishment of people belonging to the same national group as well as guilt by association, practices formerly considered unacceptable in civilised countries.  

Those behind the campaign have even at times come close to saying that the Russians should confess that the allegations of systematic state involvement in doping are true if they want Russian athletes to be allowed to compete in Rio.  That it is profoundly wrong and unethical to bully a confession out of someone should be obvious.  In this case, if such a confession were ever given, it would almost certainly be treated as proof of the guilt  of every Russian athlete who has ever competed in international sports competitions.  A campaign to strip them of their titles and their medals would surely follow.

In fact what this affair most resembles is a Stalinist witch-hunt.  Wild allegations of a conspiracy based on the evidence of a few compromised individuals are treated as proof of guilt against an entire class of persons.  Demands for confessions and for stern punishments of those declared guilty follow.  The presumption of innocence is cast aside, the burden of proof is reversed, and due process is ignored.

One demand more than any other demonstrates how ugly this affair has become.  The IAAF and now the sports bodies of the US and Canada are not only demanding that Russian athletes prove their innocence before they can take part in the Games.  They also demand that even if athletes prove their innocence, they should only be allowed to take part in the Games as “neutrals” and not as Russians.  Thus even if proved innocent Russian athletes would have to deny their nation and their country – foregoing the right to wear its colours or hear its anthem if they win.  

The IOC has up to now rejected this truly outrageous demand.  Time will show whether it stands its ground.

If the case in Lausanne were simply being decided on legal principles there is no doubt the Russian athletes would win.  Imposing a blanket ban on athletes of one country simply because they happen to be citizens of that country when there is no evidence against them is wrong at so many levels it is difficult to believe any court would allow it.  However one has to face the reality that even courts that were once genuinely independent and impartial now find themselves increasingly used as weapons in what is coming to be called “lawfare”.   It is therefore no longer possible to take anything for granted. 

We shall know the answer on Thursday 21st July 2016, when the Court will publish its decision, from which be it noted there is no appeal.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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New Satellite Images Reveal Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Syria; Putin Accepts Offer to Probe Downed Jet

The images reveal the extent of destruction in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport.

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Via Zerohedge


An Israeli satellite imaging company has released satellite photographs that reveal the extent of Monday night’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria.

ImageSat International released them as part of an intelligence report on a series of Israeli air strikes which lasted for over an hour and resulted in Syrian missile defense accidentally downing a Russian surveillance plane that had 15 personnel on board.

The images reveal the extent of destruction on one location struck early in attack in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport. On Tuesday Israel owned up to carrying out the attack in a rare admission.

Syrian official SANA news agency reported ten people injured in the attacks carried out of military targets near three major cities in Syria’s north.

The Times of Israel, which first reported the release of the new satellite images, underscores the rarity of Israeli strikes happening that far north and along the coast, dangerously near Russian positions:

The attack near Latakia was especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.

The Russian S-400 system was reportedly active during the attack, but it’s difficult to confirm or assess the extent to which Russian missiles responded during the strikes.

Three of the released satellite images show what’s described as an “ammunition warehouse” that appears to have been completely destroyed.

The IDF has stated their airstrikes targeted a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” This statement came after the IDF expressed “sorrow” for the deaths of Russian airmen, but also said responsibility lies with the “Assad regime.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret over the incident while offering to send his air force chief to Russia with a detailed report — something which Putin agreed to.

According to Russia’s RT News, “Major-General Amikam Norkin will arrive in Moscow on Thursday, and will present the situation report on the incident, including the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event and the pre-mission information the Israeli military was so reluctant to share in advance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry condemned the “provocative actions by Israel as hostile” and said Russia reserves “the right to an adequate response” while Putin has described the downing of the Il-20 recon plane as likely the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and downplayed the idea of a deliberate provocation, in contradiction of the initial statement issued by his own defense ministry.

Pro-government Syrians have reportedly expressed frustration this week that Russia hasn’t done more to respond militarily to Israeli aggression; however, it appears Putin may be sidestepping yet another trap as it’s looking increasingly likely that Israel’s aims are precisely geared toward provoking a response in order to allow its western allies to join a broader attack on Damascus that could result in regime change.

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“Transphobic” Swedish Professor May Lose Job After Noting Biological Differences Between Sexes

A university professor in Sweden is under investigation after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded”

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Via Zerohedge


A university professor in Sweden is under investigation for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and that genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone,” reports Academic Rights Watch.

For his transgression, Germund Hesslow – a professor of neuroscience at Lund University – who holds dual PhDs in philosophy and neurophysiology, may lose his job – telling RT that a “full investigation” has been ordered, and that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.”

“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn’t,” Hesslow said.

Hesslow was ordered to attend a meeting by Christer Larsson, chairman of the program board for medical education, after a female student complained that Hesslow had a “personal anti-feminist agenda.” He was asked to distance himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that the sexual orientation of transsexuals is “a matter of definition.”

The student’s complaint reads in part (translated):

I have also heard from senior lecturers that Germund Hesslow at the last lecture expressed himself transfobically. In response to a question of transexuallism, he said something like “sex change is a fly”. Secondly, it is outrageous because there may be students during the lecture who are themselves exposed to transfobin, but also because it may affect how later students in their professional lives meet transgender people. Transpersonals already have a high level of overrepresentation in suicide statistics and there are already major shortcomings in the treatment of transgender in care, should not it be countered? How does this kind of statement coincide with the university’s equal treatment plan? What has this statement given for consequences? What has been done for this to not be repeated? –Academic Rights Watch

After being admonished, Hesslow refused to distance himself from his comments, saying that he had “done enough” already and didn’t have to explain and defend his choice of words.

At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” Hesslow said in a written reply to Larsson.

He also rejected the accusation that he had a political agenda – stating that his only agenda was to let scientific factnot new social conventions, dictate how he teaches his courses.

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