By Des Bieler
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday that the U.S. manufactured doping allegations against his country, leading to a ban from the Olympics, because the Americans "can't beat us fairly." There is no official Russian contingent at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, although 168 athletes from that country are competing as a team called "Olympic Athletes from Russia."
The ban was enacted by the International Olympic Committee as punishment for what it alleged was a years-long, systematic doping operation by Russia, most notably when it hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. A significant part of the IOC's case rested on the testimony of Grigory Rodchenkov, who ran Russia's anti-doping laboratory before fleeing to U.S. protective custody in 2016 while fearing for his life.
In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that U.S. authorities have been giving Rodchenkov "some kind of substances" so he "says what's required" to harm Russian interests. His comments were echoed Sunday by Lavrov, who said of the Olympics on a state-owned Russian TV channel, "I think it's a form of competition without scruples because the U.S. team, obviously, are not capable of beating us fairly at sport."
Lavrov claimed, Inside the Games reported, that American officials engineered the ban "to find and keep their place as indisputable world leader in sport." He added, "All rivals must be pushed to one side."
The Olympic ban was part of a broader U.S. campaign against a newly resurgent Russia, Lavrov said, which included what he described as false charges of meddling in the 2016 American presidential election. "They have been investigating this for a year and not a single fact has surfaced to corroborate these speculations," he said, according to RT.com.
"If there were any facts, they would have been leaked by now. I know this is how the U.S. system works. Everything gets leaked with so many people involved in all those hearings and investigations."
"Over the past three years, a high-stakes game of chicken has been played between those willing to sacrifice the Olympic ideals by employing a state-directed doping program to cheat to win and, on the other side, athletes unwilling to stand silent while their hopes and dreams were stolen and the Olympic Games hijacked," Travis Tygart, chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said in December, when the IOC's ban on Russia was announced. "Today the IOC listened to those who matter most - and clean athletes won a significant victory."
At the Pyeongchang Games, OAR athletes have been allowed to compete after being judged as not guilty of doping violations. They are wearing nondescript uniforms, cannot display Russian identification and will hear the Olympic anthem, rather than their country's, if they top the podium.