Russian reactions to doping punishment: only putin is innocent

The World Cup and Olympic ban is the dominant topic in sports reporting. There is also plenty of doping in the Duma.

Outstanding boxer and now politician: Nikolai Valuyev wants his own games for Russia Photo: imago/ITAR-TASS

The perennial Russian doping scandal does not stop at the parliament, the State Duma. Its vice president, Mikhail Degtyarev of the Liberal Democratic Party, stated unequivocally on Monday: "There is no place for dopers and cheaters in the Duma." So, in all seriousness, there is now talk of doped deputies. There are good reasons for this. After all, 17 former athletes sit in the parliament.

One of them is Artur Taymasov. He has won Olympic gold in freestyle wrestling three times, in 2004, 20. After Taymasov’s anabolic steroids were found in stored doping samples in 2017, he had to hand back two of his badges. Until earlier this week, no one wanted to be bothered by the fact that the man from North Ossetia, who won his victories for Uzbekistan, sits in parliament for Putin’s United Russia party and still works in a sports-relevant position as deputy chairman of the Committee on Physical Culture, Tourism and Youth.

But since the World Anti-Doping Agency, Wada, banned Russian sports from the World Cup and the Olympics a week ago for manipulating data from the Moscow analytical laboratory, almost every political player has tried to make himself interesting with a more or less original statement on the subject.

For example, there is Vyacheslav Fetisov. The ice hockey hero of years gone by, who twice won the Olympics for the Soviet Union in the 1980s, also sits in the Duma for United Russia. In 2002, Vladimir Putin appointed him head of the State Committee for Sport. He is Russia’s representative to Wada and was one of the successful publicity figures for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. But Fetisov wants nothing to do with the great festival of state doping. On Tuesday, he addressed the public with a drastic opinion by Russian officials’ standards. Vitaly Mutko is to blame for all the misfortune. The was sports minister from 2008 to 2016 and is now deputy head of government.

The deputy chairman of the Duma Committee for Physical Culture is a convicted doper

Mutko had reassigned all key positions when he came into office. Fetisov also lost his post. "And now we have what we have," says the former ice hockey player. Under Mutko, the sport has been thoroughly hierarchized, and the state has taken total control. In the interview, which was published on the Russian sports portal sports.ru, Fetisov was asked whether Vladimir Putin was not also responsible for this. But the criticism of the system does not go that far. "What does he have to do with it?" asks Fetisov. "He’s trying to correct the situation as best he can."

Fetisov, who came within a hair of becoming head of Wada in 2008, is at least not among those who call the verdict against Russia an act of Russophobic politics. There are plenty of them in the State Duma. One of them is Nikolai Valuyev. The 2.13-meter giant was once the world heavyweight boxing champion. He thinks the idea of the President of the Russian Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, to hold alternative games is just fine.

After jokes were made about how pathetic an event would be if, apart from Russia, only North Korea took part, Valuyev brought up the idea of an Olympics for the Brics countries – of course without first considering whether Brazil, China, South Africa and India would even want it.

Waluyev himself, by the way, also has a doping history. As a teenager, he is said to have been a kind of guinea pig for growth hormones. At 18, he was preparing for a career as an athlete in St. Petersburg. He was 1.65 meters tall at the time. Then, at 20, he was a giant and started boxing.