Russia To Host Fake Olympics For Banned Olympians—Sad!

In authoritarian Russia, fake Olympics host you

Putin strong — AFP/Getty Images
Jul 28, 2016 at 11:05 AM ET

The world’s saddest sporting event is slated for Moscow on Thursday, as Russia hosts Stars 2016, a made-up-on-the-spot track and field meet for all its athletes banned from the Rio Olympics.

Earlier this week, the International Associations of Athletics Federations upheld a full suspension of the Russian track delegation in light of overwhelming evidence of state-sponsored doping. Of the 68 Russians initially scheduled to compete, only one—Darya Klishina, a long jumper who trains in the U.S.—has been cleared for Brazil.

The other 67 athletes, now with nothing better to do, will run, jump, vault, and, uh, put shots at the Znamensky Brothers stadium, as head coach Yuri Borzakovsky told the state-run news agency, TASS. The ranks will double to 135 with other invited athletes for a better semblance of a major competition.

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The World Anti-Doping Agency supported the IAAF’s ban of the Russian contingent—further solidified by the subsequent McLaren Report—which was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The Russian Olympic Committee, however, called it “a most dangerous precedent.” ROC president Alexander Zhukov said to reporters on Thursday, “I can say only one thing: we have never had any state programs for doping support. We have zero tolerance to doping. Russia’s team is the cleanest one at Rio.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin denounced all of this evidence and reporting as a conspiracy.

“We can’t accept indiscriminate disqualification of our athletes with an absolutely clean doping history,” Putin told an audience in Red Square which included banned athletes.

“We cannot and will not accept what in fact is pure discrimination.

“It’s a well-planned campaign which targeted our athletes, which included double-standards and the concept of collective punishment which has nothing to do with justice or even basic legal norms.

“Not only have our athletes who never faced any specific accusations been hurt—this is a blow to the entire global sports and the Olympic Games. Clearly, the absence of Russian athletes, who were leaders in some of the sports, will affect the competition.”

While two-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva will not compete in Stars 2016, world champion 110-meter high hurdler Sergey Shubenkov is expected to race, at least so long as he has recovered from his pledged response to an upheld ban—“I will get drunk,” he said.

Such an event is vaguely reminiscent of the Friendship Games held by the Eastern bloc countries who boycotted the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Sovetsky Sport, the Russian national sports newspaper said in a contemporary account, “The purpose of these competitions is to give sportsmen who did not go to the Olympics because of the atmosphere of anti-Sovietism and hostility to socialist countries, the chance to demonstrate their abilities.”

The difference, of course, is that parallel event was exclusion by choice, not by ban. The Stars 2016 meet will feature a lineup of those who have been caught doping and potentially some who have never cheated but are collateral damage in the doping program.

Either way, this event is clearly not why the athletes have trained the past four years. Even if someone logs a world record or a time that exceeds the gold-medal standard in Rio, no one would believe the veracity of that accomplishment by a member of a banned team competing in a country whose WADA lab has lost its accreditation.

Putin insinuated that the Olympic medals will be devalued (even though most would argue the opposite, that their merit has been protected by stringent drug standards).

“It is one thing to win in competition with your equals, with strong rivals, after all, and quite another thing to compete against athletes clearly not of your level,” Putin said. “Such a victory does not have the same taste and is perhaps even quite tasteless.”

What, then, is the taste of a medal from Russia’s own Stars 2016 track meet?