World Triathlon Sanctions Russian Fed (More To That Story?)

First the news, then the commentary (and the conspiracy theorizing).

World Triathlon’s Executive Board has decided to sanction the Russian Triathlon Federation due to the significant number of doping cases in Russia. The sanction will be effective for one year. Punishments include the following. The Russian Triathlon Federation:

- will reach an agreement with RUSADA to test all Russian athletes, especially all those athletes who will be competing internationally.
- will, together with World Triathlon, create an education plan for Russian athletes and coaches in regard to doping issues.
- will compensate and refund the prize monies previously awarded to the Russian triathletes sanctioned with doping offences.
- will sanction any coach or official that is involved in any doping violation, and collaboration must be made with World Triathlon disciplinary bodies.
- is to reimburse World Triathlon for all costs (including but not limited to laboratory fees, hearing expenses and travel) related to any of the violations of the Anti-Doping Rules committed by their athletes and coaches.
- cannot organize any World or European Triathlon events for one year (until the end of 2022).

Additionally, Russian Triathlon Federation officials must resign from any World Triathlon and European bodies for the period of one year.

Now for the commentary. Of course I might be reading this wrong, but Russian Federations have not traditionally surrendered to such sanctions; they've refused to accept the premise behind them. I'm wagering the Russian Triathlon Federation will balk at compliance (even though the compliance costs are, if you math it out, trivial) and my instinct tells me World Triathlon may think as I do. More on that below. But there’s some background to this.

Russian state-sponsored doping was known prior to the 2016 Olympics. The IOC gave each sports federation the opportunity to disallow Russian athletes in its sport. The IAAF (track & field’s world governing body) chose to ban Russian competitors at the Rio Olympics. Triathlon chose otherwise. The ITU (now World Triathlon) recommended to the IOC that the 6 Rio starters from Russia be allowed to compete. You’ll find there’s some crossover in this list of Rio’s Russian starters and that “significant number of doping cases in Russia” causing World Triathlon to take the action announced today.

WADA struck a sterner posture, recommending that Russia be banned as a country from the Rio Games. (We asked our readers about this at the time, and 7 in 10 felt that Russians should not be a part of the 2016 Games. ) The IOC stressed that, "The absence of a positive national anti-doping test cannot be considered sufficient by the IFs.”

Nevertheless, negative test results were part of the ITU's defense of its decision to allow Russian triathletes to compete. "None of the six Russian triathletes (three men, three women) that have qualified for 2016 Olympics are included in the McLaren report,” said the ITU at the time, "nor have any of them served suspensions or bans for failed doping tests. Additionally, they have all been tested outside of Russia. Therefore, ITU will recommend to the IOC that these six athletes be permitted to compete in Rio next month.”

World Triathlon’s sanction of the Russian Federation is welcome, and has been widely reported in the media. What I haven’t read in the media is any of the Rio history above. Our world federation unwisely allowed Russian athletes to compete in the 2016 Olympics. It ought to have followed the counsel of WADA, and heeded the decisions of federations like the IAAF. I suspect part of World Triathlon’s actions today stem from the knowledge that it was betrayed by the Russians it trusted, naively wagering that they were clean. Fool me once.

World Triathlon, it’s credulity notwithstanding, is lily white and pure compared to the Olympic movement writ large. The IOC’s bribery and vote buying; its failure to aggressively defend Peng Shuai; why there’s an Olympic Games given to China at all; means that “Olympism” as an ideal is a pathetic irony, and the Olympic Games have been reduced to a very good track meet, swim meet, triathlon and so on (which, because the competition is so good, I eagerly watch). Back to Russia...

My hope is that this is the first necessary step in the process to decertify the Russian Federation. The Court of Arbitration of Sport has a recent history of letting Russian athletes compete if they have not committed a banning offense. It occurs to me this is a possible workaround. World Triathlon wrote me today that it, "will be closely monitoring the situation and the measures taken and will review its position in one year. Further actions might be taken if the sanction is not being followed or if the Executive Board decides something else if more cases arise." Make of that what you will.

I hate question mark journalism. It’s lazy. It’s what you do when you don’t have the facts. It’s exactly what I’ve done here. Nevertheless, if there is no National Federation, perhaps there are no Russian Olympic athletes and that’s the play. Bravo to World Triathlon if it has chess-gamed this out.