Sputnik: How critical is this decision in terms of the resolution of the ongoing doping scandal?
John Nauright: I think it's absolutely significant because I think there's been far too much Сold War politics or neo-Cold War politics being read into the banning of Russia and the blanket ban of Russia.
As your listeners may know, and people in Russia may know, there was zero positive doping tests in the recent FIFA World Cup in which the Russian team was also one of the participants, so I think this is an important recognition of the need to move forward rather than to continue to punish backward.
Sputnik: The move was largely criticized as deeply troubling and bewildering; what's your take on the justifiability of these rebukes? I think Mr. McLaren was very upset about this decision, obviously, after his report, what's your view?
John Nauright: The loudest outcries are continuing to come from athletes and officials in the United Kingdom and the United States, and I read a quote from the USOC (United States Olympic Committee), Sarah Hirshland, who said that until athletes were confident that there was a level playing field in sport, they would be doubtful of the outcome; but the point is that there is no level playing field in sports.
Russian athletes, American athletes, British athletes, German athletes, Australian athletes have access to much better training systems. Also, we know that many countries are abusing the medical exemption and other avenues to continue to skirt the rules in order to succeed, so I think that there is often a double standard and I think there's still this thought that Russia today is the Soviet Union, which hasn't existed for many years.
Sputnik: We've obviously got this politicization of the whole issue of alleged Russian state-sponsored doping, but also after the last winter Olympics there was a lot of criticism from Asian and other global entities, individuals and countries, about the way WADA was running its campaign and the way it was running its organization, a lot of people were saying that it was a broken body and it should be revamped, what's your feeling about that? It wasn't just countries and individuals — that was also sports people as well, they were saying that the taking away of Russia from the Olympic Games was totally against the philosophy and the way the Olympic Games were initiated, have you got any view with regard to that?
One of the pillars of sport that WADA uses to define whether somebody is cheating or not is whether something is against the spirit of sport, and you may have seen or heard about the fact that there was a Swedish documentary on a secret Norwegian program on the eve of the Pyeongchang Winter Games whereas the outcry and the further investigation of that program, we haven't seen the same standards applied country by country, or athlete by athlete; we know there are massive abuses of the medical exemption, so who decides whether the actions, the activities, the decisions, are completely apolitical, completely free from influence or not?
That is not to make a statement about whether the former Russian program or current programs that may run in other countries are legitimate or not, but it does raise a question about how do we understand that each individual athlete is protected and I don't think we've achieved that.
The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.