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It’s time to get serious

One of the benefits of getting old is that life becomes ever more simple and straightforward – that’s what I like to maintain, anyway. The thing is that – as modern life hurtles on past your train window – we all tend to get fed up trying to stay ‘connected’ and gradually regroup (or find comfort) within life’s little certainties.

Why cannot life generally be so simple?

I only once agreed with anything that maverick TV presenter and comedian Kenny Everett ever said – and that was when he made a memorably bizarre appearance at a 1983 Young Conservatives conference, bouncing on stage wearing giant foam rubber hands and yelling (among other wondrous lines) “Let’s bomb Russia!” …

Everything Russia (and before that, the Soviet Union) has ever thought, believed or done is basically anti-democratic and illogical. You could file it under ‘lacking in reason, humanity, compassion or straightforward common sense’ if you wish – i.e. (in summary) Russia is just backward-looking and evil.

Whether one wishes to dress it up in diplomatic niceties, PC-correctness or sheer funk, it is a fact that Russia is not a fit state to belong to human society as the rest of us know and love it.

Why? Because it only ever acts in furtherance of its ruling elite, pays no regard to the interests of its people, sees nothing wrong in cheating in every forum of international intercourse (whether diplomacy, geo-politics, sport or climate change) and frankly lies through its teeth whenever it suits. It does this because Russians do not choose to live by the same rules of humanity as the rest of us. Mind you, hypocritically, it loves condemning ‘The West’ for exactly the same ‘offences’ it gets up to itself without a second thought.

The reason for this is that, being so far ‘beyond the Pale’ itself, Russia necessarily assumes all other countries have as little regard for rules of law (and anything else) as it does.

It’s the final conceit of the scoundrel.

There’s only one way to deal with Russia and that is to ‘send it to Coventry’, as we say in Great Britain.

The only thing that it understands or respects is naked strength and power.

Whenever in diplomatic terms you try and hold Russia to account in terms of conventions it may have signed, or those it has allegedly accepted and adheres to [but in reality doesn’t] – in other words, whenever you try ‘jaw-jawing’ instead of ‘war-warring’ (to flip upside down something Winston Churchill once said) … you might as well stop wasting your breath.

It’s quite simple.

Today I take as my subjects the latest (McLaren) report into state-sponsored performance- enhancing doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and Russia’s general performance diplomatically since 2010.

Yesterday’s report by the Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren has prompted the IOC to review its approach to dealing with Russia.

Not before time – there’s already a temporary ban on Russia’s track & field athletes appearing at the Rio Olympics (which begin in less than three weeks) and, given Mr McLaren’s understated but damning evidence that Russia has systematically cheated – by which I mean ‘sanctioned cheating at the highest level and its state authorities have instigated and colluded in carrying it out’ – at every recent major sporting gathering in over thirty different sports, I can see little option to extending and rendering the ban on Russian athletes ‘until further notice’.

I can see no option but to ban Russia completely from not only competing at Rio, but from being a member of the Olympic movement at all. Clearly as part of this move, any future games awarded to Russia should be immediately rescinded.

Where are you, FIFA, when the world is crying out for the restoration of a little integrity and respect to the sport of football?

Nobody should worry about Russia’s reaction to this rather drastic change of approach. Russia only understands naked brute force – that’s how it conducts all its relationships with other countries and geo-political groupings. It won’t be shocked and surprised by a tough line being taken against it. I’d go so far as to predict that in past decades it hasn’t been able to get its head around the fact that the rest of the world has allowed it to get away with what it has.

Similarly, Russia should be kicked out of the United Nations and be bracketed together with Kim Jong-Un regime in North Korea, i.e. treated as a ‘rogue state’ that simply cannot be trusted to act as a civilised nation in the modern world.

It’s like all totalitarian regimes and dictatorships – whether South Africa’s apartheid system or Russia’s state doping – all they understand is the national prestige and self-confidence they can gain from being successful on the world political and sporting stages. If they are denied that ‘oxygen of publicity’, they’ll soon come around, you mark my words.

Denying them the opportunity to gain any such self-justifying publicity would be a deadly blow to everything they stand for. And it’s the only sanction that they understand.

The irony is that it feels as if it should be a fallacy to believe that Russia and others like it care a fig what other world powers think of them. It ‘feels’ right that they don’t. But – the truth is – they care very deeply how the rest of the world sees them. They don’t care about being liked. They just want to be respected and feared.

And if they’re not allowed upon the world stage, there’s little chance that they’ll ever get the opportunity.

I think you’d be surprised how swiftly they’d give up drugs-cheating and hanging on to the Crimea and parts of the Ukraine to which they have no legal right.



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About Guy Danaway

Guy Danaway and his family live on the outskirts of Rugby. He is chairman of a small engineering company and has been a keen club cyclist for many years. He has edited Cycling Weekly since 1984 and is a regular contributor to the media on cycling issues. More Posts