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Russia’s Olympians win case against International Olympic Committee

Court of Arbitration for Sport lifts IOC imposed lifetime bans on Olympic participation by 28 clean Russian athletes

Alexander Mercouris

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Two months ago, when the International Olympic Committee decided to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee and to ban Russian athletes from competing in the coming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in South Korea under their own flag – allowing only a selected few Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic flag and by invitation only – I expressed in an article for RussiaFeed my own total incomprehension at this decision.

I said that the decision seemed to me to make no legal sense since it contradicted the findings of the International Olympic Committee’s own Schmid report, which concluded that there was no evidence of any government organised state sponsored doping scheme in Russia

Schmid – somewhat grudgingly but nonetheless conclusively – admits that there is in fact no evidence of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia

….the independent and impartial evidence do not allow the IOC DC to establish with certitude either who initiated or who headed this scheme.

On many occasions, reference was made on the involvement at the Minister of Sport’s level, but no indication, independent or impartial evidence appeared to corroborate any involvement or knowledge at a higher level of the State.

Elsewhere Schmid admits that the doping scheme in Russia did not involve all Russian athletes – a sure indication by the way that it was not government organised or state sponsored – and that it was different from the doping scheme in the former German Democratic Republic, which of course was both government organised and state sponsored.

Given that this is so, why is former Sports Minister Mutko against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists being banned from participating in the Olympic Games for the rest of his life?

Why is the Russian Olympic Committee being suspended, when no evidence of the involvement of any of its members in the doping scheme exists?……

The anti-doping systems now put in place in Russia are now universally acknowledged to be just about the best in the world……

Given that this is so and that there is no longer any possibility of Russian athletes engaging in a massive doping conspiracy in the coming Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, why is action being taken to prevent them competing on the same basis as everyone else?……

In reality the decision of the International Olympic Committee to ban certain Russians from involvement in the Olympic Movement, to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee, and to allow only specially invited Russian athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics and then only under the Olympic flag, has nothing to do either with sport or doping or the principles of legality.

The sequel was that the Russians – grudgingly and perhaps wrongly – agreed to the International Olympic Committee’s terms so as to permit those Russian athletes who wanted to compete in the PyeongChang Games and could obtain invitations from the International Olympic Committee to do so.

However he situation then went from bad to worse, with the International Olympic Committee banning Russian athletes against whom no evidence of involvement in doping exists or has ever existed.

The decisions moreover were made in secret, with no real explanation of how or why they were being made.

Russian bafflement and anger at these seemingly whimsical and arbitrary decisions was made abundantly clear at a meeting on 31st January 2018 which President Putin held with those Russian athletes who had managed to secure invitations to compete in the PyeongChang Games from the International Olympic Committee.

After apologising to the athletes for the Russian government’s failure to protect them President Putin had this to say

At the same time, while admitting our own failures, mistakes, lack of attention to the things relevant and important in modern sports, we really hope that our colleagues in international sport organisations will do everything to make sure these organisations do not become departments of certain countries’ government bodies, no matter how powerful and influential these countries seem at first glance. We really hope for this kind of attitude towards this matter, towards sports, and rely on their courage.

We realise that modern sport is linked with sponsorship, advertising and everything else that accompanies major international competitions. But if modern international sports and the Olympic movement lose the main element of sport, which unites peoples and countries, all of it will become pointless. In this case the appeal of the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Coubertin “O Sport, You are Peace!” will lose its meaning.

We will do everything to prevent this from happening. We will work with international organisations and support, as I said, our athletes who did not make it to the Olympics.

Some things really seem strange to us in this context. As you know, many of them were allegedly banned from the Games for the totality of circumstances not related to doping. What are we fighting against then? Doping or something else? We would like to know what it is.

(bold italics added)

The highlighted words show that the Russians believe that the International Olympic Committee is being pressured by threats to withdraw sponsorship and advertising coming from Western countries, first and foremost the United States.

Other Russian officials have made their anger clear in far less measured terms.  Nikolay Patrushev, the powerful secretary of Russia’s Security Council, has said that if the International Olympic Committee continues on its present course it risks the break-up of the Olympic Movement.  .

I suspect that the Russians privately believe that the true reason why Russian athletes with clean records were being banned was because they were seen as posing an increasingly dangerous threat to the medal hopes of US athletes.

There also seems to have been a secondary desire to humiliate Russia by knocking it off its position at the top of the Sochi Winter Games’ medal table.

The anger in Russia on this issue perhaps explains the current runaway success in Russia of the film ‘Going Vertical’, which tells the story of how the Soviet basketball team beat the US national team at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.  Reuters has this to say about popular reaction to this film in Russia

After taking more than 2.2 billion roubles ($38.88 million) at the box office in just over three weeks, the film, financed by the state, has become the country’s most successful home grown production in rouble terms, watched by over 9 million people or approximately one in 12 registered voters.

During one packed Moscow showing this week, some audience members broke into spontaneous applause and others wiped tears from their eyes at decisive moments in the narrative.

Regardless, the first legal consequences of the International Olympic Committee’s decisions became evident today when three separate panels of the Lausanne based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) unanimously decided to lift lifetime bans imposed by the International Olympic Committee on 28 Russian athletes against whom no evidence of doping violations exists, and to reduce the time limits of bans imposed on 11 others.

The Russians are hailing these decisions as a breakthrough, and perhaps they are.

However it is testament to the implacable attitudes of some people that the International Olympic Committee is saying that it may defy these CAS decisions, so that the Russians athletes whose bans CAS has lifted may still be prevented from participating in the PyeongChang Games.  In addition the International Olympic Committee is also saying that it is considering appealing the CAS decisions to the Swiss Federal Appeal Court.

That the Olympic Charter apparently says that the International Olympic Committee is bound by CAS’s decisions, and that defiance of those decisions may therefore be contrary to the Olympic Charter, apparently is neither here nor there.

Meanwhile the CAS decisions have provoked a furious reaction from the usual suspects.

An article by Martha Kelner in the Guardian harshly criticises the International Olympic Committee not for acting illegally by banning clean athletes against whom no evidence of doping violations exists, but for not going further by imposing a blanket ban on all Russian athletes, irrespective of whether they are guilty or not

First there was the news that the Russian athletes permitted to compete as neutrals would still be introduced on the start line as being from Russia. Then came the announcement that the Russian flag may appear at the closing ceremony as their national anthem booms around the stadium and into homes around the world. Last week it was revealed that, of a pool of 389 Russian athletes, 169 would be allowed to compete in South Korea.

We should have anticipated this really. By caveating its ban with the provision that Russian athletes who could “prove” they are clean would be allowed to compete in Pyeongchang, the IOC left itself with wriggle room. But the ruling of Cas has exposed a gaping hole that leaves many asking whether the lawyers should have realised the potential for this unravelling – especially as the IOC president, Thomas Bach, is a former Cas lawyer.

The IOC could have followed the blueprint of the International Paralympic Committee, which successfully banned Russian athletes from Rio 2016, or the IAAF, athletics’ world governing body, which did the same. But instead it issued lifetime bans on 45 athletes which history should have told it were unenforceable

In other words the International Olympic Committee should have imposed a collective punishment on Russian athletes by banning all of them regardless of whether they are innocent or not because they are Russians.

Needless to say that is not only completely illegal; it is also grossly discriminatory and morally wrong.

Kelner justifies her call by citing the “overwhelming evidence” of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia, whose existence supposedly has been “proved”.  CAS supposedly made the “wrong” decisions because it ignored the existence of this conspiracy which has been “proved”

A month before Rio 2016 a report authored by the Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren found overwhelming evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russia. So why – more than 18 months later – are we a week away from another Olympic Games wondering yet again how many Russian athletes will be competing?…

There are questions also to be asked of Cas about how it has dealt with these cases. It seems they have been treated like any other anti-doping violation appeal dropped through the Cas letterbox in Lausanne, Switzerland. That is to say each case has been treated individually, ignoring what is proven evidence of a state-run system….

This verdict has given Russia some serious arsenal in the propaganda war and it is already claiming that it proves talk of state-sponsored doping was overblown. For all the posturing, once again the clean athletes are the victims here and their turmoil goes on.

The Schmid report in fact found no evidence – much less “overwhelming evidence” – of a government organised state sponsored doping scheme in Russia, and in evidence given to Schmid Professor McLaren himself in effect admitted that he had no proof that a government organised state sponsored doping scheme had been operating in Russia.

I say this because Professor McLaren admitted to Schmid that he had no proof that Vitaly Mutko – Russia’s Sports Minister, who would have had to have been involved in any government organised state sponsored scheme – had any knowledge of the doping which was going on,

As for Kelner’s suggestion that Russian athletes should be denied the right to prove their innocence, I am quite simply at a loss to know what to say, other than that attitudes to Russians in Britain must be very bad indeed if it has now become so easy to demand that Russians be denied their right to prove their innocence simply because they are Russians.

The Russians for their part are saying that if the International Olympic Committee continues to defy the CAS decisions by preventing Russian athletes whose bans have been lifted from participating in the PyeongChang Games then they will bring legal action against the International Olympic Committee in the Swiss civil courts.

I have no doubt that they will do so, and given the CAS decisions I have no doubt they will win.

As for the appeal to the Swiss Federal Appeal Court that the International Olympic Committee is talking about, I cannot see what possible grounds there are for it, and I am sure if it is ever brought it will fail.

The next couple of days will show what the International Olympic Committee will now do.

Hopefully sense will finally prevail and talk of pointless appeals and further legal action will fade.

If so there may be grounds for hope of a belated return to sanity, and for a line to be drawn under this unhappy affair

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Photos of swastika on Ukrainian mall stairway creates a stir [Video]

Ukrainian nationalist press in damage-control mode to explain away the Nazi sign, but they forgot the name of the street the mall is on.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the aspects of news about Ukraine that does not make it past the gatekeepers of the American and Western news media is how a significant contingent of Ukrainian nationalists have espoused a sense of reverence for Nazis. The idea that this could even happen anywhere in the world in an open manner makes the claim seem too absurd to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when the Nazi swastika adorned streets and buildings in Europe. Right?

Well, maybe, wrong.

This was seen in Kyiv’s Gorodok (or Horodok, if you insist) Gallery, a shopping center in that city, located on Bandera Avenue.

The pro-nationalist news service UNIAN wasted no time going to press with their explanation of this incident, which admittedly may be accurate:

Children and teenagers who participated in the All-Ukrainian break dance festival held in the Kyiv-based Gorodok Gallery shopping mall were shocked to see a swastika image projected onto an LED staircase.

The mall administration apologized to visitors, explaining saying that their computer system had apparently been hacked.

“The administration and staff have no relation to whatever was projected onto the LED-staircase, and in no way does it support such [an] act. Now we are actively searching for those involved in the attack,” it said in a statement.

According to Gorodok Gallery’s administrative office, it was not the first time a cyber breach took place.

As reported earlier, Ukraine is believed to be a testing ground for cyberattacks, many of which are launched from Russia. Hackers have earlier targeted critical energy infrastructure, state institutions, banks, and large businesses.

This time, it appears, hackers aimed to feed the Kremlin’s narrative of “Nazis in power in Ukraine” and create a relevant hype-driving viral story for Russian media to spread it worldwide.

The Gorodok Gallery also apologized on its Facebook page and said that this was a result of hacking.

But what about the street that the mall is on? From the self-same Facebook page, this is what we see:


To translate, for those who do not read Ukrainian or Russian, the address says the following:

23 Steven Bandera Prospekt, Kyiv, Ukraine 04073

This street was formerly called “Moscow Avenue.” Big change, as we shall see.

Steven Bandera got his birthday designated as a national holiday in Ukraine last December. He is known in Ukraine’s history for one thing. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The street where the shopping mall is located is named for Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who briefly collaborated with Nazi Germany in its fight against Russia.

His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews.

Several Israeli papers picked this bit of news up, and of course, the reasons are understandable. However, for the West, it appears possible that this news event will largely go unnoticed, even by that great nation that is often called “Israel’s proxy”, the United States.

This is probably because for certain people in the US, there is a sense of desperation to mask the nature of events that are happening in Ukraine.

The usual fare of mainstream news for the West probably consists of things like “Putin’s military seizes innocent Ukrainian sailors in Kerch incident” or, “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church declared fully independent by Patriarch of Constantinople” (not that too many Americans know what a Constantinople even is, anyway), but the overriding narrative for the American people about this country is “Ukraine are the good guys, and Russia are the bad guys,” and this will not be pushed aside, even to accommodate the logical grievance of Israel to this incident.

If this article gets to Western papers at all, it will be the UNIAN line they adhere to, that evil pro-Russia hackers caused this stairway to have a swastika to provoke the idea that Ukraine somehow supports Naziism.

But UNIAN neglected to mention that the street name was recently changed to Stephan Bandera (in 2016), and no one appears to have hacked this. Nor does UNIAN talk about the Azov fighters that openly espoused much of the Nazi ideology. For nationalist Ukrainians, this is all for the greater good of getting rid of all things Russia.

A further sad fact about this is the near impossibility of getting assuredly honest and neutral information about this and other similar happenings. Both Ukrainian nationalists and Russian media agencies have dogs in the race, so to speak. They are both personally connected to these events. However, the Russian media cannot be discounted here, because they do offer a witness and perspective, probably the closest to any objective look at what is going on in Ukraine. We include a video of a “torchlight march” that took place in 2017 that featured such hypernationalist activity, which is not reported in the West.

More such reports are available, but this one seemed the best one to summarize the character of what is going on in the country.

While we do not know the motive and identities of whoever programmed the swastika, it cannot really be stated that this was just a random publicity stunt in a country that has no relationship with Nazi veneration.

The street the mall is on bears witness to that.

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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