Heading into the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, all eyes were on how the International Olympic Committee would react to 2016 revelations of state-sanctioned doping among Russian athletes. And to the amazement of some, the IOC followed through, formally barring Russia from the event fewer than 10 weeks before it was set to begin.
Talking to Recode’s Kara Swisher before that momentous ban, USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan was pessimistic about its chances. But she explained why it’s the right call.
“There are people out there to this day who came in fourth or fifth, who should’ve been second or third,” Brennan said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “They didn’t get the medals, and if they get them — occasionally they do return gold and give it to the right person — it comes in a FedEx box and they open it up at home in their foyer. ‘Oh, huh, I’m a bronze medalist.’”
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Brennan preemptively answered a likely critique of the IOC’s eventual decision: Why haven’t other countries been banned for their doping athletes? Doping athletes like, say, American cyclist Lance Armstrong, or American track and field athlete Marion Jones?
“Here’s the difference: When Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones and all those other scoundrels cheated and got caught, they were doing it in defiance of their national Olympic committee, the U.S. Olympic Committee,” Brennan said. “When all these Russians were cheating, they were doing it in compliance and cooperation with their national federation.”
“What the Russians did would be the equivalent of, probably, Barack Obama knowing, but certainly the FBI director knowing, the CIA knowing, the U.S. Olympic Committee all in cahoots with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, probably members of Congress, all of them,” she added. “The only way to stop this is you kick ’em out. You take them away from the one thing they want.”
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.