Last week, the extremely confusing news that Russia would be banned (kind of, sort of, ok maybe not really banned but we're going to put it in the headlines as banned) from the Winter Olympics broke.
There were a lot of people applauding the decision, including me. Like many of those people, I saw the excellent documentary Icarus . Included in that documentary was a man from the inside of the Russian system telling a lot of us what we already knew: that Russia had state sponsored doping.
I'll admit, I haven't always been with the anti-doping crusaders. I've mocked John Leonard, Craig Lord and others for what I saw as their hysterical takes on doping, specifically as it affects the sport we care about most, swimming.
I'm having Craig Lord on a podcast later this week to discuss this very ban (and hopefully many other things) and what it means.
But for now, I'm left with an incredibly unsettling feeling. Rather than feel comforted by the news out of the IOC, I'm wondering if the Olympics, and how strongly swimming is tied to it, are a recipe for disaster.
It's crazy to say that swimming doesn't need the Olympics. The sport swells to its highest crescendo every four years on the backs of those rings. But there are some serious cracks in the Olympic foundation.
For one, the IOC and other governing bodies (our lovely FINA, for instance) haven't stood up well against a modern internet age level of scrutiny. So it's hard to credit the IOC for making such an obvious decision. How much more evidence did they need?
I think it's a legitimate question whether swimming should continue to pin its survival to an event organized by crooked plutocrats every four years. With swimmers trying to formalize professional competitive swimming, should we move to abandon ship as a sport before the decision is made for us?
What would we do if suddenly there was no Olympics every four years.? How would we fill that gaping hole? The Winter Olympics is starting to look like a doubtful exercise. How far behind will the summer rendition be?
Would that even work, or given that the corruptive rot extends to FINA as well as NOCs (National Organizing Committees), where do we start running into an organization worth saving in the sport of swimming?
It's scary to imagine a world without the current organizations that we have, and recreating a lot of the events we love to watch and compete in would not be easy. But we also need to consider whether we've tolerated too many lies in exchange for "nice" swim meets.