Why Russia’s Olympic punishment backfired

The Tokyo Olympics are over and fifth place in the medals table went to the ‘ROC’, the Russian Olympic Committee. Rather than being punished for its state-run doping programme, Russia has turned it into a perverse triumph, illustrating the weakness of sanctions as a way of trying to shape international behaviour. Of course, Moscow denied systematic cheating, but after the World Anti-Doping agency imposed a four-year ban in 2019, reduced to two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2020, they were forced to accept that if Russian athletes were going to compete, they could not do so under their own flag. They hardly went deep undercover, though.