Not only is the United States in no position to lecture others on freedom and liberty, its own Olympic team should be banned from the Winter Games, according to a piece Tuesday on HuffPost.
“At a press briefing last week with International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams, there was stern talk about a country of cheaters so shot through with gold-at-all-costs mentality that they countenanced the systematic exploitation of Olympic athletes,” wrote HuffPost reporter Travis Waldron. “And when they weren’t talking about the United States, they talked some about Russia.”
Waldron then quoted Adams about how appalling it was that Larry Nassar, a doctor with the U.S. gymnastics program, had been caught sexually abusing hundreds of gymnasts. Then, he made the case that if Russia was banned for extensive doping among its athletes, then the United States should be banned because of Nasser, who was sentenced last week to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“It was a revealing moment, a pair of Olympic scandals meeting on the eve of the Winter Games, which began in earnest Friday. In Adams’ fluent institutionalese – his ‘guidelines’ and ‘briefings’ and ‘processes’ and ‘agenda’ – the grotesque particulars of the two cases fell away, and you could begin to see the essential similarities.”
“They were both scandals of entrenched abuse, born in one instance and deepened in the other out of a desire to win,” he wrote. “Because of a wish for Olympic superiority, Russia’s Olympic Committee systematically drugged its athletes. Because of a wish for Olympic superiority, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics failed to protect their athletes from the interweaving of emotional and sexual abuse.”
“So why not ban the United States? By what moral logic are the Russians any more deserving of punishment than Americans?”
Nassar did not assault his victims to help them perform better in the Olympics, and USA Gymnastics cleaned house and cooperated with prosecutors. The Olympic movement in the United States, even the portion of that devoted to gymnastics, simply is not guilty of or complicit in Nassar’s crimes. Not stated is why these athletes, already victimized, should be forbidden to at least compete in the event they were abused trying to reach – not to mention American athletes in sports unrelated to gymnastics.
The Russians, who won more medals than any other country at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, were banned in 2018 for what the International Olympic Committee called evidence of “an unprecedented systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping system.
Not only did the IOC ban Russia, it suspended Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, and banned Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, sports minister during the Sochi games, from any future participation in the Olympics.
The IOC had the decency not to punish athletes for actions for which they were not responsible and allowed Russians who had been cleared of doping activities to compete as Athletes From Russia. But there was no question, thanks to an investigation and interviews with officials from around the world that Russia cheated to win in the Olympics.
But to HuffPo, the U.S.’s “evasion of culpability derives from how the country has structured its institutions. Americans have a well-established doping regime, too; it’s just privatized and corporatized like America itself.”
The U.S. Olympic Committee receives no public funding, which means “the job of exotic chemical experimentation on the athletes tends to fall to outfits like the Nike Oregon Project. The U.S. doesn’t have state-sponsored doping because it doesn’t have a state-sponsored Olympic team.
Nassar is an animal who is where he belongs, and the USOC and gymnastics movement have some explaining to do about what they knew and when. But teams don’t get banned for this. Athletes in other sports don’t get punished. It’s not the same as Russia systematically cheating every other competitor in the games.