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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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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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