If you’re looking for winners after the International Olympic Committee’s decision to boot Russia from the upcoming Games, keep on looking.
There are none.
Yes, it’s easy to view the IOC’s decision as a victory for clean athletes who have been desperately waiting for a day like Tuesday — when the IOC finally delivered a sanction that was, at least on some level, in line with the crimes.
It’s easy to see it as vindication for Grigory Rodchenkov, the Russian lab director who helped execute the cheating, then got sick of it all and became a whistleblower who is now living in hiding in the United States.
And it’s easy to see it as a long-awaited comeuppance for the Russians, who have been thumbing their noses at long-accepted rules and norms of fair competition, virtually daring the powers that be to do something about it.
But the crimes — they have already been committed, and those who were cheated at the Sochi Olympics will never get that moment back, even if the IOC gives them a ceremony at the Pyeongchang Games in February.
Rodchenkov’s life will never be the same.
“It’s going to be challenging in ways hard to imagine,” his attorney, Jim Walden, said. “It’s unlikely he’ll ever be reunited with his family, unlikely he’ll ever leave the United States, and he’s going to be looking over his shoulder every day.”
And while it might seem like a good deal to ban Russia from the Olympics — or at least the Russian flag, anthem and uniforms, though not all its athletes — it’s a precarious position for the IOC. One potential endgame is that Russia just throws up its hands and leaves the movement altogether. Imagine, if you will, the NBA without the Lakers or the World Cup without Brazil, and you get a sense of what the Olympics might be like in the future without its second biggest team.
As the IOC left it, there figure to be a number of Russians competing in Korea.
They will be individually referred to as “Olympic Athlete from Russia,” or “OAR.”
The fact that Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov called the name a “very important” concession — to say nothing of the fact that IOC left open the possibility that the Russian flag could fly at the closing ceremony — gives a window into the contortions the IOC has been going through to make sure it doesn’t completely alienate the country that spent $51 billion to stage the Sochi Games where it cheated all its guests.
That $51 billion wasn’t simply to put on a good show. It was…