About a week ago, The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued an unexpectedly tough report calling for Russia to be banned from international athletics at all levels for flagrant doping violations and a “deeply rooted culture of cheating at all levels” within Russian athletics. WADA also urged the International Association of Athletics Federations to ban five Russian athletes and five coaches for life. Why the Draconian measures?
The verdict was doubtless bolstered by considering the repeated examples of Russian cheating going back to the bad old Soviet Union days, when the gargantuan Press sisters were winning gold medals over female athletes half their size and East German female swimmers had shoulders as wide as Volkswagon buses, often because they had been dosed with testosterone without their knowledge. More recently, WADA found that Russia “intentionally and maliciously” destroyed 1,400 urine and blood samples of its athletes and, WADA says, the Russian government was directly involved.
WADA President Dick Pound’s report conceded that “corruption and bribery practices at the highest levels of international athletics” were rampant, but that Russia was in a league of its own. “For the 2016 Olympics our recommendation is that the Russian Federation is suspended. One of our hopes is that they will volunteer that so they can undertake the remedial work needed.”
Then he told another funny joke about a horse, a rabbi and an octopus walking into a bar.
Sports mirror the culture of a nation with remarkable accuracy. (A nation’s politicians are always worse.) The key question is whether a nation and its populace regards winning as all that matters, or if enough of the country’s citizens have been raised and taught to believe that only victory fairly achieved can be a source of pride and satisfaction. Which of these two models guides a culture will affect everything from business to crime to education and international relations.
The United States is beset with cheating at epic levels, especially if lying is factored into the equation. Nonetheless, an anti-cheating culture remains strong withing most of the public and in most professions and industries, at least when compared to the rest of the world, where bribery is not a source of shame (and often legal) and what Ethics Alarms calls rationalizations are regarded as just good old every day logic. When a culture turns, the results are ugly and usually permanent. Culture, it is correctly noted, is like water to a fish: it affects everything about us, and we are usually unaware of it. Polluted water, which is what the Russian culture….and the Iranian culture, and the Muslim culture, and the Chinese culture, and the African culture, to name a few members of the Corrupted Culture Club…is, eventually will make everything swimming in it ugly, unhealthy, dangerous and untrustworthy.
That’s why fighting for an ethical culture against the constant forces of greed, ambition, ideology, ignorance and cynicism, dragging us away from fairness, justice and virtue and toward guilt-free selfishness and corruption, is among the most important tasks we have. It’s about a lot more than sports.
Periodic acknowledgments of harsh reality like what the World Anti-Doping Agency just made about Russia provide hope that a critical mass of individuals still understand that ethics is crucial to civilization, and that “by any means necessary” is a recipe for permanent, deadly and irreversible cultural pollution.
12 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)”
When this was first posted, the top paragraph was inadvertently dropped. This sometimes happens when I add a graphic and the cursor is misplaced: usually I catch it before posting.
I blame the Press girls.
Hey, it was all about proving the superiority of the Soviet way of life, and a lot of “useful idiots” in the West bought it, hook, line and sinker. Of course this made the US hockey victory in 1980 all that more significant. That said, Russia before the Soviet era was notoriously repressive and corrupt, so the Soviet-era corruption didn’t come from nowhere.
I do believe some kudos should be handed out to the Communist Bloc from the 1950s and 60s for their medical research and development. No mere blood doping, but far more sophisticated approaches.
Since athletes talk among themselves when their handlers are not around, I am sure such information about additives flowed to their non-communist brethren.
East Germany I always admired since they rarely wasted athletes on team sports with the fire belief that too many skilled performers on pursuit of one medal was a valuable waste of resources.
I will digress into a favorite topic of Jack – baseball!
I knew nothing of PED’s or steroids until a game in 1980. At Fenway Park the left fielder of LA now had a finely tuned and muscular body when the previous season he resembled any Joe standing in line at DD. I remarked to my seat mate who I just met. Seat mate happened to be a weight lifted and a physician and he simply said “juice.” What followed was a quick tutorial on steroids and the collection of what is now PED’s.
Brian Downing, I presume.
You are correct. I tried to avoid placing the name, since I was 100% sure that you would make the connection. I believe he soon had the nickname “The Hulk.”
I also will note that when I would work out at the local “Y” it was not uncommon for high school kids to be discussing how to build up muscle mass via artificial means. On a further note off that – the “Y” would also have an abundance of correction officers working out since the MCI was a town over. Seemed that steroid use was an accepted criteria for part of the workout regimen.
I was fortunate to hear Gary Kasparov, a Russian former chess grandmaster give a speech at the Nixon Foundation about how Russia under Putin has become a thoroughly corrupt society again. Putin according to him, has the ethics of the Godfather and is far more dangerous to world peace.
This should not, and I assume does not, come as a great surprise to anybody. Our President is certainly afraid of him.
I believe the taller Ms. Press bears something of a resemblance to Sheldon Leonard.
Not as funny though, I hear.
But much tougher.
Not necessarily. In his early days as an actor, Leonard was often cast in gangster roles!
This is my concern with the obsession with “diversity. I’d prefer the term “least common denominator.” We’re not enriching our culture, we’re watering it down, at best, and destroying it at worst.