Yesterday’s verdict of The IOC Disciplinary Commission, handing out a lifetime Olympic ban and stripping medals off the Russian skiers Alexander Legkov and Evgeniy Belov will go down in history.
Regardless of which side of the argument you’re on, the history is made because for the first time ever in sport a doping ban is given in the case where there is no direct evidence of actual doping, no evidence of sportsmen being involved and still no clear understanding of what had actually happened.
The formula under which international sports bureaucrats judge sportsmen is notoriously vague and deserves to be quoted in full:
“…The standard of proof shall be whether the IOC has established an anti-doping rule violation to the comfortable satisfaction of the hearing panel bearing in mind the seriousness of the allegation which is made. This standard of proof in all cases is greater than a mere balance of probabilities but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Where these Rules place the burden of proof upon the Athlete or other Person alleged to have committed an anti-doping rule violation to rebut a presumption or establish specified facts or circumstances, the standard of proof shall be by a balance of probabilities…”
To translate : all the decisions are at the sole discretion of the Hearing Panel.
Which appears to be guided by implied need to do something, rather than to be seen as doing nothing.
The international sport administrators, strongly egged by the media, are looking to show how tough they are on doping. In other words, an appeasement of perceived “public opinion” takes precedence over individual sportsmen’s fate
It was first demonstrated in the summer when Therese Johaug was given demonstratively harsh sentence, banning her from the Olympics in PyeongChang. Because nothing proves that high moral ground of an august panel as much as denying millions of fans a chance to see their favorite to compete at the most important event of the four-year cycle, right?
And now it’s two Russians who are given a lifetime ban for something that they insist they had never ever done and had no knowledge of.
Legkov has not commented yet, but Belov put out an Instagram message that reads
“ Massive thanks to all for your support. The fire of unjustice ( sic) burns inside me. Never thought it would touch me personally, I always was against doping in sport. Extremely regretful, that the sport and the Olympic movement have turned to political wars, they should be uniting people the world over.”
Quick anonymous canvassing of reaction to the Legkov/Belov decision among professional athletes by the DailySkier have revealed an undercurrent of deep concern among the skiing elite: “They have moved the goalposts on the whole thing without any concern for our fates, our interests. You could accuse anybody of anything nowadays” reads one of the comments.
As to Legkov and Belov, their lawyer, Christof Wieschemann, has said the IOC decision will be appealed in the Court of Arbitration for Sport a.k.a CAS. The most ironic twist? The CAS hasalready exonerated the Russians once this year, for the lack of evidence of their misdeeds.
TOP photo: Legkov, Wieschemann, Belov by ghe CAS building earlier this year. Courtesy of Belov Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/_belov_evgeniy_/
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