Simon Barnes

Russia killed Olympic amateurism. Now it might kill anti-doping

The row about Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme will continue for years. The fact is that Russia has a long tradition of Olympic cheating. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when the big issue in Olympic sport was amateurism, the Soviet Union and satellites sent unabashed and obvious full-time professional athletes, while the International Olympic Committee, under the mad Avery Brundage, pretended not to notice. Politics first, ethics second. The end result was that amateurism, a dubious proposition at best and in practice an element of the class war, has now gone for ever. Question: will undoped sport go the same way? Russia promotes, the IOC condones, and ethics comes second once again. Will sporting audiences at the 3032 Games look back on the stand against doping with the bewildered amusement we now adopt to look back on amateurism?

This article originally appeared in the Spectator magazine in August. It is being republished on Coffee House after a report out today implicated more than 1,000 Russian athletes in state-backed doping

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in