Stop Olympic profiling

The decision to ban Russian track and field athletes from the 2016 Olympics has nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with world politics.

The International Associations of Athletics Federations made its punitive announcement as U.S.-led NATO forces were conducting military maneuvers near Russian borders. The IAAF decree was also revenge for Russian aid that keeps Syria alive.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe is both a runner with four Olympic medals and an anti-worker politician. From 1992 to 1997, Coe was a Tory (Conservative Party) member of the British Parliament.

As Baron Coe of Ranmore and a knight commander of the Order of the British Empire, he raced back to the House of Lords last year to vote for budget cuts that would have hurt 3 million people. (London Mirror, Oct. 27, 2015)

Why can’t Russian and other athletes be tested individually for drugs like steroids before competing in Rio de Janeiro? Banning athletes just because they’re from the Russian Federation is profiling.

That’s what New York City cops were doing when they stopped and frisked hundreds of thousands of people because they were Black or Latino/a.

The most notorious case of sports doping involved U.S. bicyclist Lance Armstrong. He admitted using prohibited substances after winning the Tour de France seven times. But other U.S. bicyclists weren’t prevented from competing.

Phony charges against athletes are nothing new. David Frum — who coined the term “axis of evil” as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush — hinted that tennis superstar Serena Williams was using steroids in a July 11, 2015, tweet. That’s racist and sexist libel.

It was criminal that the heavyweight championship was taken away from Muhammad Ali for opposing the Vietnam War.

It took until 1983 for the International Olympics Committee to restore the medals earned by the great Native athlete Jim Thorpe at Stockholm in 1912. Thorpe was stripped of them for earning a few bucks playing baseball in order to eat.

Nobody claims that the Olympics are amateur anymore. After heading the organizing committee for the 2012 London Olympics, Sebastian Coe got 12 million British pounds (approximately $17.6 million) for selling his private consultancy firm to an Olympic advertising contractor. (Daily Mail, Oct 25, 2012)

That’s at least as corrupt as using steroids. Before accusing Russia, “Knight Commander” Coe should remember that it was the British Empire that waged the Opium Wars against China to push drugs.

One of those barred from Rio will be the woman pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who won gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

“I have never failed a doping test — be it in London, China, the United States or any of the European countries where I have vaulted,” wrote Isinbayeva. “I have been tested endlessly by antidoping officials around the world, and all my 28 world records were set abroad.” (New York Times, June 15)

U.S. pole vaulter Jenn Suhr wants to be able to compete against Isinbayeva in Rio. They are the only women who have cleared 5 meters in the pole vault.

Will you let them, Lord Coe? Hands off athletes from the Russian Federation!

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