IOC resets Olympics. Our issues about WADA can be resolved during the year
We remember “Russian” Olympic scandals of the past
IOC President Thomas Bach announced a postponement of the Olympics to 2021. It is a scandal that has long been absent in the Olympic movement. However, the previous Games had enough scandals, though not so notorious. Realnoe Vremya remembers the Olympics for Russians after the USSR stopped existing.
Briefly about postponement
Actually, one important factor influenced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. Many member states declared quarantine whose deadline nobody can predict. And a huge number of pre-Olympic qualifiers was planned in spring 2020. The impossibility of hosting them, the unclear end of the quarantine, the time potential Olympians need to be in their best shape — all this weighed down one side of the scales. At the same time, there was just one positive factor: Japan is gradually overcoming the peak of the coronavirus, they are already playing basketball, sumo competitions are going on and, by the way, the quarantine wasn’t declared there.
By the by, the cancellation of the competition has one interesting fact. The squad and content of pre-Olympic European championships such as athletic or swimming often turned out weak. The case is that the closeness of the Olympics made favourites choose: to rush for two Olympic birds in the bush or focus on one European bird. In the end, as a rule, they chose the Olympics, and the European championships were “fat-free”.
Besides, Russian sport will have a year to solve its problems with WADA and the IOC. The end of the trial in which our biathletes Vilukhina, Zaytseva and Romanova participate will probably clarify them. Meanwhile, we decided to remind our readers about the most famous scandals that were given or take linked with Russian Olympians. At the same time, one can compare those events with already boring and a bit tedious stories from Sochi 2014, Rio 2016 and Pyeongchang 2018.
1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain
At these Olympics, our squad competed as CIS team — the non-existing Commonwealth of Independent States whose athletes listened to the Olympic anthem and watched the Olympic flag to rise on the flagpole in honour of their victory. The same happened at the Winter Olympics in French Albertville six months earlier, but, in fact, if we look at the champions and medallists of that Olympics, most winter Olympians represented Russia. And before Albertville, the Russians quite painlessly made up the skeleton of the CIS team, there was real backbiting before Barcelona. Former compatriots wanted to be on the CIS team by all means. They were sometimes welcomed with open arms like two basketball players, Latvia-born Gundars Vētra and Igors Miglinieks, though their homeland already had a possibility of competing at the Olympics on its own (but it didn’t qualify for those Games).
However, threats, blackmail, persuasion were applied in other sports. For instance, for this reason, two Kazan boxers Foat Gatin and Ayrat Khamatov weren’t on the CIS team. The CIS team’s head coach Konstantin Koptsev chose Georgian Ramazi Paliani and Uzbekistani Artur Grigoryan instead. The Tatarstan sport management of those years claimed that the choice wasn’t accidental. Koptsev was a friend of both boxers’ coaches David Kvachadze and Vladimir Shinov. Koptsev himself stated that he was threatened to try to get “their” candidates to the team. In the end, with his Olympic choice, he simply let the future administration of Russian box down, as we had few boxers with international experience after the 1992 Olympics. And the CIS team failed the Olympic tournament itself — a silver and bronze under Paliani’s belt.
A truly wild case happened during the very Olympics. Chechnya weightlifter Ibragim Samadov was life disqualified for…refusing to accept a medal he won. At first, he was considered a favourite in his weight category (to 82,5 kilogrammes) but competed badly — he lifted as much as Greek Pyrros Dimas and Kšyštof Simeon from Poland did but gave them way because he weighed more. During the award ceremony, he put the bronze medal on the podium and went backstage. But later the IOC substituted the life punishment by a two-year term. After this term, Samadov began competing for team Kazakhstan.
1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, USA
The biggest “Russian” scandal of that Olympics went almost unnoticed. Then Russian boxer Konstantin Tszyu deliberately arrived from Australia to Atlanta to talk with Russian volleyball players Marina Pankova (Nikulina) and Irina Ilchenko (Smirnova). Tszyu offered him to go to the team Australia where the Olympics in 2000 were to be (in Sydney). The Russian press didn’t write about it, and then coach of the volleyball national team Nikolay Karpol told a Belarusian newspaper about this unpleasant case.
2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia
A scandal broke out in gymnastics competition, which mostly influenced favourite Svetlana Khorkina’s final performance. The vaulting horse was 5 cm below the norm, because of this athlete performed their jump bad and got low scores. For the sake of justice, the organisers’ mistake influenced the performance of other athletes too. Annika Reeder from England was injured when landing, while American Alice Ray received low points and she dropped out of the number of candidates for a medal.
2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, USA
It is the most scandalous Olympics for Russians. During the Games, President of the Russian Olympic Committee Leonid Tyagachev offered to boycott the Games. He was the key sports spokesman of those years, as then-formal head of Russian sport Sergey Rozhkov didn’t have serious power.
Pressure on Russia was put in different ways and not always was justified. Russian skiers Olga Danilova, who is a pupil of Tatarstan sport, and Larisa Lazutina were disqualified. The scandal was instigated by Norwegians. In this case, one could agree with the claims because the facts of doping intake were officially confirmed.
Apart from this, there was a high-profile scandal in figure skating. Russia was accused of being in cahoots with French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne. Russian criminal authority Alimzhon Tokhtakhunov aka Taiwanchik allegedly came to an agreement with her. According to western mass media’s version, the French judge scored our pair Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze high, while Russian judges “paid off their debt” by supporting the French ice dance pair Marina Anisina and Gwendal Peizerat. These accusations were absurd because the French figure skaters competed against Russians Irina Lobachyova and Ilya Averbukh.
Nevertheless, the International Figure Skating Federation bought these absurd accusations, reconsidered the score of the Canadian pair Jaimie Salé and David Pelletier and made an unprecedented decision. The Canadians were crowned champions in the end, while the Russians appeared with them for the second award.
Chinese figure skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo who became bronze medallists and ignored the second award were more principled in this situation. Sadly, the Russian pair Berezhnaya — Sikharulidze didn’t express principles and voiced their discontent only in a talk with Russian mass media. We can explain this saying that the pair had a post-Olympic tour in North America ahead. Single skater Irina Slutskaya who was frankly misjudged participated in this tour too, in her case American Sara Hughes was given the first place.
The semi-final of the hockey competition with Russia and the USA ended with a scandal. NHL referee Bill McReary didn’t “notice” Sergey Samsonov’s goal with 3-2 in favour of the Americans.
2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece
The most high-profile scandal at these Olympics is linked with Aleksey Nemov’s horizontal bar performance. Judges evaluated him so bad that this made even fans indignant. The opposition in the stands lasted for 10 minutes, which impeded the performance of next gymnast Paul Hamm from the USA. Nemov himself had to calm the indignant audience down.
2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China
A mass clean-up before the Games help to avoid serious scandals in Beijing itself. It included 11 Bulgarian weightlifters, after which the whole men and women’s teams were disqualified. Russian female field and track athletes had fewer disqualifications — seven. Runner Yelena Soboleva who competed for Tatarstan too and was up for a gold was among them. Vitaly Mutko was the minister of sport of Russia then but he was just getting familiar with the affairs, while the scandal was the responsibility of ex-Minister Vyacheslav Fetisov.
2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada
A bit of the scandal of these Olympics was linked with Tatarstan. Kazan biathlete Niyaz Nabiyev wasn’t allowed to the competition in Vancouver first because of high haemoglobin in his blood, which happens when doping is taken. Nabiyev got an opportunity to compete by the second competition, as the level haemoglobin went down (it increased because of the organism’s specifics). Unfortunately, Nabiyev finished 43rd. But the case is illustrative in terms of Russia’s place in the sports hierarchy, as there was anyway a fight for competing at the Olympics, while several years later the revocation of Sochi awards, mass exclusion of athletes from Olympics despite the absence of any proof of their guilt, the Olympians’ performance in Pyeongchang as neutral athletes was humbly accepted.