What do you read, my Lord?
Words, words, words
-- Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2
I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man's word should be as good as his bond…
-- John D. Rockefeller
The International Olympic Committee’s Sunday decision to let each sport’s international federation determine which Russian athletes will be eligible for Rio has been seen as (pick a word): shameful, fair, hypocritical, righteous. . .pass, punt & kick.
The IOC is not the only party worthy of criticism in its handling of the state-supported doping program Russia put in place after its poor performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Certainly, Russian sports officials, coaches and athletes deserve the loudest excoriation (please don’t try to tell me all these athletes were innocent pawns.)
And the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is supposed to be policing this stuff, was almost complicit in its ignoring of evidence provided by insiders beginning four years ago. Then WADA acted so late that its eventually damning independent investigation had to be done in haste with a report release date so close to the Olympics that acting on its evidence has turned into a chaotic exercise.
So you have Russian athletes who have served time for doping offenses now banned from the 2016 Summer Games while three U.S. sprinters with similar rap sheets get to run in Rio. Please explain the logic of that.
And you have an international federation, swimming (FINA), whose top official went to Russia recently to show his support. Good luck with getting any honest appraisal from FINA of whether Russian swimmers are legit.
And every event in Rio where a Russian is a high finisher will be subject to doubt and questioning.
But in the end, the responsibility for all this falls to the IOC, whose current president, Thomas Bach, relentlessly has mouthed the words “zero tolerance” on the subject of doping.
When Hamlet answered Polonius’ question with “words, words, words,” it was, among other things, a way to make fun of the old man's prattling, which rendered most of what Polonius said meaningless.
So, just for the fun of it, I went to the IOC website and did a search for the words, “zero tolerance” in reference to doping. The use of it by IOC leaders predates Bach’s presidency, which began in September 2013 with a congratulatory phone call from Russian President Vladimir Putin, yet most of the instances my search turned up are from 2014-15-16.
Here they are, with date and the link to each. (I think this is where the expression "hoist with one's own petard" applies.) All CAPS sections are the way they appear on the IOC web site. (I have changed a few British spellings to U.S. spellings.) You have to love the one (2/14/2014) that came out during the Sochi Olympics, when Russia’s internal security agency worked with the “anti-doping” lab in Sochi in an elaborate cover-up of positive tests.
Zero obviously does not equal nothing to Bach and the IOC. Zero tolerance would have meant barring from Rio those Russian athletes in sports where the McLaren report found cover-ups of positive tests. The IOC's use of zero has the value referred to in my favorite Shakespeare passage, this from Act 5, Scene 5 of Macbeth: "...a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
6/21/2016 DECLARATION OF THE OLYMPIC SUMMIT
This includes a zero-tolerance policy with regard to doping, which was re-confirmed by all participants.
6/18/2016 THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE (IOC) WELCOMES AND SUPPORTS THE IAAF’S STRONG STANCE AGAINST DOPING. THIS IS IN LINE WITH THE IOC’S LONG-HELD ZERO-TOLERANCE POLICY.
6/1/2016 STATEMENT BY THE IOC EXECUTIVE BOARD
THE FIGHT AGAINST DOPING IS A TOP PRIORITY FOR THE IOC, WHICH HAS ESTABLISHED A ZERO-TOLERANCE POLICY. TODAY, WE ARE TAKING FURTHER DECISIVE ACTION TO PROTECT THE CLEAN ATHLETES AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES RIO 2016
5/18/2016 IOC PRESIDENT THOMAS BACH: "NO PLACE TO HIDE FOR DRUG CHEATS"
Bach wrote: “With all these measures within our zero tolerance policy we prove that the protection of the clean athletes from doping, corruption, all kinds of manipulation and unfounded suspicion are at the heart of all our efforts.”
5/12/2016 UK ANTI-CORRUPTION CONFERENCE ORGANIZED BY UK PRIME MINISTER CAMERON WELCOMES EFFORTS OF SPORTS ORGANIZATIONS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
IOC President Thomas Bach said: “We appreciate that this summit has acknowledged the efforts of the IOC and sports organizations. The IOC has all the instruments in place and the resolution to fight effectively against corruption. But like any other organization we are not immune to wrongdoing. In such cases we have a proven record of swift action. The reforms of Olympic Agenda 2020 have strengthened our position to implement our zero tolerance policy in this respect.
3/1/2016 IOC MAKES DOPING RESULTS MANAGEMENT AND SANCTIONING INDEPENDENT
“This is a major step forward to make doping testing independent, following the decision of the IOC Executive Board three months ago after the proposal of the Olympic Summit. It represents support for the IOC’s zero tolerance policy in the fight against doping and in the protection of the clean athletes,” the IOC President Thomas Bach said.
12/10/2015 IOC EXECUTIVE BOARD ADOPTS DECLARATION ON GOOD GOVERNANCE IN SPORT AND THE PROTECTION OF CLEAN ATHLETES
With regard to the protection of clean athletes the IOC EB has confirmed its zero tolerance policy and expressed support for the authority and autonomy of WADA in the fight against doping.
11/10/2015 IOC EXECUTIVE BOARD TAKES ACTION FOLLOWING WADA INDEPENDENT COMMISSION - PROVISIONALLY SUSPENDS MR. LAMINE DIACK
With its zero-tolerance policy against doping, following the conclusion of this procedure, the IOC will take all the necessary measures and sanctions with regard to the withdrawal and reallocation of medals and as the case may be exclusion of coaches and officials from future Olympic Games;
11/9/2015 IOC STATEMENT ON WADA INDEPENDENT COMMISSION REPORT
If any infringements on the anti-doping rules by athletes and or their entourage should be established, the IOC will react with its usual zero tolerance policy.
6/6/2015 IOC PRESIDENT THOMAS BACH VISITS ATHLETES AND NATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE IN TAJIKISTAN
The Tajikistani President offered his strong support for the IOC’s efforts to protect the clean athletes and particularly the zero-tolerance policy towards doping.
11/4/2014 IOC DISQUALIFIES ATHLETE FOR VIOLATING ANTI-DOPING RULES AT THE SUMMER YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES
As part of its zero-tolerance policy against doping, the IOC is storing samples collected during the Olympic Games and the Youth Olympic Games for 10 years to conduct further analysis should new fully validated tests to detect new prohibited substances/methods become available.
2/14/14 THE ATHLETES’ HEALTH AT THE HEART OF THE IOC
Having established a zero-tolerance policy towards doping, the IOC has committed a huge amount of resources to ensure clean and fair competitions.
11/21/2013 IOC PRESIDENT WRAPS UP ASIA TOUR WITH VISIT TO REPUBLIC OF KOREA PRESIDENT PARK
The Korean President added that she was strongly supportive of the IOC's fight against doping and zero-tolerance policy on drugs.
11/13/2013 IOC PRESIDENT CALLS FOR SMARTER, MORE TARGETED TESTING AND BETTER RESEARCH AT WADA CONFERENCE IN JOHANNESBURG
Speaking at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s 2013 World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg, South Africa, the President told delegates that the ultimate goal was the protection of clean athletes:
“What we need is the greatest possible deterrence. All of us gathered here in Johannesburg are united in our zero-tolerance attitude to doping. The IOC will continue to pursue this fight with great determination and clear measures.”
11/3/2013 OLYMPIC SUMMIT HELD AT IOC HEADQUARTERS
Regarding the fight against doping, the participants endorsed the IOC Executive Board’s guidance paper on World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which was previously accepted by the Olympic Movement candidate for the WADA presidency, Craig Reedie. The participants reaffirmed their support for the candidate and the submission by the IOC, on behalf of the Olympic Movement, for the revision of the World Anti-Doping Code, which reinforces the Olympic Movement’s zero-tolerance policy.
The sum of all that? Bach and his IOC sound like the boys and girls who cried wolf. Who can take them at their words any more?