Collective Punishment against the Russian People

To the professor’s question concerning what a teacher should do to bring control to a classroom, a would-be teacher proffered: tell the students that if anyone disturbs the class, then the entire class will have a detention.

“That’s collective punishment,” I responded, to which I added with a tongue-in-cheek, hyperbolic flourish, “and it’s a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.”

Nonetheless, why should innocent people be made to pay for the mistakes of others?

Imagine if someone on your four-member bowling team was pulled over and charged with DUI. Imagine then that your entire team was thrown out of the bowling league. How would you feel?

Imagine if someone pulled off a major heist in your hometown and the legal authorities announced a round-the-clock curfew until the perpetrator is apprehended. Everyone would be affected, albeit it may not be adverse for all; but the actions of one or a few are used against others innocent of said actions. Is this fair? Is this how justice is carried out?

Responding to allegations of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) imposed a ban against all Russian track and field athletes, irrespective of whether all athletes were doping or not. Collective punishment is what is being meted out against Russian track and field athletes for doping infractions committed by some Russian athletes. As a final blow, the Court of Arbitration for Sport turned down the appeal of 68 Russian athletes seeking to overturn the ban.

If athletes are caught cheating, then by all means, apply the appropriate penalties to those athletes. If there is an organization in place arranging circumvention of rules, then penalize the organization and the complicit persons within the organization. But do not punish the innocent!

World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren accused Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing doping of the country’s Olympic athletes. The IOC may even extend the collective punishment beyond track and field to all Russian athletes and ban them from the upcoming Rio Olympics.

McLaren suggested Russian athletes could compete in the Rio Olympics if they didn’t compete for Russia. In other words, the athletes are being asked to throw away patriotic allegiance. (Not a bad idea — overcoming patritism, but it should be expanded to all people in all nations, at least as far as when patriotism rises to level of chauvinism or jingoism.)

Hypocrisy seems very much at play here. Back at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, Canada’s 100-meter sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids and was stripped of the gold medal as well as the world record he had set. An investigation was carried out in Canada, the Dubin Inquiry, and doping was found to be rife among Canada’s track and field athletes. There was no call for a ban on Canada’s track and field athletes.

As for the second-place finisher at the Seoul Olympics, Johnson’s nemesis, American Carl Lewis was awarded the gold medal. In fact, four of the top five finishers later were found to have tested positive for doping. American Calvin Smith finished who fourth behind Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis, and Linford Christie. Today he is the only man among the first five finishers in Seoul untainted by a doping scandal. Yet Lewis keeps his gold from Seoul. The United States Olympic Committee hid Lewis’s positive test results, and over a hundred positive tests between 1988 and 2000. There have been calls for an independent inquiry into the US’s record on drug issues, but no ban was imposed on American athletes.

iocMeanwhile, in Rio favelas are being razed and poor people are being forced from their homes, the environment is being destroyed, and people are being killed all so the show can go on. One need only look at what happened in Greece a few years ago when it hosted the 2004 Summer Olympics, building new venues and all the rest of it, going in debt up to its ears, and now these stadiums, facilities, and whatever else are part of the theft by the west, Europe, the banks, etc. The Olympics have stringent requirements for facilities, require under-the-table payments, and usually leave the taxpayers with a large debt burden to the glee of elitists and the bankers.

Conclusion

It should be noted that there may be much more to the Russian doping story than state/corporate media reveal. Politics may lie behind the IAAF ban. (Read Andrey Fomine’s “The Olympics as a Tool of the New Cold War.”)

Since taking increasingly bold actions against US imperialism, Russia has reaped a whirlwind of hysterical demonization by western governments and their stenographic media. The US, against its promise, expanded NATO right up to the Russian borders. The US spent $5 billion dollars to faciltate a fascist-executed coup in Ukraine. Yet, the US had the gumption to blame Russia for turmoil in the ethnic Russian-populated eastern Ukraine. Russia was criticized for holding a referendum and respecting the right to self-determination of the Crimean people, while the Puerto Rican indepence movement is squashed. The US had the gall to blame Russia for the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17 over Ukraine, since shown to be dubious. After destroying Libya and toppling its legitimate government, terrorist groups were unleashed (and supported) by the US and its allies.

Then the US turned its lethal gaze toward the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. They planted a false story of a Syrian government gas attack which was debunked by Vladimir Putin. Yet, the US was in an uproar when Russia, bidden by the legitimate government, stepped in to staunch the western-backed terrorism in Syria. More recently, the US has provided anti-missile “defense” systems to NATO satellite states bordering on Russia. This by the US which threatened a nuclear war over Soviet missiles in Cuba. Hypocrisy seems rife.

Given all of the above, and given the widespread doping in international competition, given that Canada had a systematic doping program for its track athletes and that the US organizationally covered up doping among its athletes and both western states were never subjected to collective punishment … the collective punishment exacted against Russian athletes should induce a vigorous skepticism as to the nature of the punishment. Collectively punishing Russian athletes implies, by extension, that Russian society is guilty.

A more perspicacious observer might be inclined to recognize the collective punishment of Russian athletes as western demonization at work.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer and former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.