The Olympic Ban Helps Mr. Putin, Hurts Russia


It was probably a coincidence, but there’s a particular symmetry to Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he’s running for yet another term as Russia’s president on the day after his country was banned from February’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Mr. Putin has maintained his attractiveness in large component by persuading Russians that he’s the guarantor of their countrywide greatness against the machinations of a West permanently conniving to maintain Russia down. The Olympic ban was the perfect set up to declare his candidacy.

Speaking for the giant Gorky Automobile Factory in Nizhny Novgorod where he released his decision – a decision that will keep him in business office for another six years, since he will be sure to win – Mr. Putin dismissed the International Olympic Committee’s stern punishment as an “absolutely staged and politically motivated decision.” The 17-month I.O.C. investigation that verified the “systemic manipulation of the antidoping rules and system in Russia” and led to the ban was accorded no credence. The committee has now retroactively banned 25 Russians who competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, for doping offenses, stripping 11 medals, and the investigations continue.

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The irony in the back-to-again announcements is that the same power plays that garner Mr. Putin plaudits at home have spectacularly backfired abroad. The annexation of Crimea, the interference in Ukraine, the meddling in American elections and the elaborate, state-sponsored doping of sports athletes, to name the considerably more grievous of them, have sharply diminished Mr. Putin’s, and Russia’s, stature in a lot of the world.

Even so Mr. Putin depicts the ban, the truth is that it’s minimal the I.O.C. could did, and the earlier the Russians understand why the better because of their great sports athletes. The I.O.C. has come under considerable criticism over time for its anemic response to scandals and doping, but Russia’s brazen and elaborate cheating at the 2014 Game titles, revealed by the past director of Russia’s antidoping laboratory, rendered Russia’s participation in the South Korean games unthinkable.

Some will argue that the I.O.C. should have been actually tougher, imposing a blanket ban on all Russian participation. As it is certainly, while Russia is certainly banned from fielding a workforce, sending officials or increasing its flag in Pyeongchang, the Olympic committee ruled that Russian sports athletes with proof credible medication testing will be allowed to contend in neutral uniforms and beneath the Olympic flag, but still be discovered officially as “Olympic Sportsmen from Russia.” The committee also said the ban on Russia could be lifted in time for an overall look in the closing ceremony.

Mr. Putin said that those athletes who want to will be allowed to compete individually. That’s to the good. The sanctions explain that the culprit is the Kremlin and its own greed for glory. And while athletes who followed the orders of their coaches and downed illicit chemical cocktails must spend a price, those who have remained clean should not. And the insignia on the uniforms will help proclaim that “Clean Olympic Sportsmen from Russia” are generally welcome on the level participating in fields of foreign sport.

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