Doping as a metaphor for how Putin’s Russia operates?

Does the report about doping in Russia show something about the nature of current regime in Russia, is it possible that the report may have some political consequences? Read few comments.

Mark Galeotti, Professor of Global Affairs, Center for Global Affairs, New York University

The doping is really a metaphor for how Putin’s Russia operates in the world today: use all your capacities and agencies to win, regardless of whether you break the rules, relying on stealth when you can, denial and defiance when you get caught. I don’t think there will be any serious political consequences at home, though, even if Russia is barred from the Olympics, not least because this will be fed into the Kremlin’s narrative of unfair foreign persecution.

Juliane Fürst, Senior Lecturer in Modern European History, University of Bristol

The doping scandal shows less about the current regime but much about the continuities of certain Soviet era mindsets. Sport has always been a matter of national pride and one of the sources and enforcers of Soviet patriotism. This was an attitude that prevailed throughout most of the socialist world and lead to wide spread doping in many places there. Doping was justified in two ways: the glory of victory for the socialist fatherland justified a bit of cheating. The assumption was that everybody else was cheating too. With few modification this attitude has survived intact in Russia. Sport is still an us versus them game. Success is still crucial to national self identity. The assumption is still that everybody else is cheating too. Plus Russia has the resources, the political will and enough control over the press to do doping on a large scale. Sochi was Putin’s game of soft power. But he finds it hard not to play with a hard fist even at the games of goodwill. Just being there was never enough for the Soviet Union either.

Sean RobertsLecturer in International Relations and Politics, University of Portsmouth

The report does say something about the nature of Russia’s current regime. It reminds us that Russia under Putin has a serious corruption problem, although it is important to note that Russian athletes are not the only ones engaged in doping. More importantly, these latest allegations tell us something about the nature of the evolving information war between Russia and the West. Clearly, there is an attempt to highlight the state’s involvement in this doping scandal, and by extension the role of Putin. Just as Putin has used sport to boost his popularity and image at home an abroad (e.g. Putin the ‘hockey player’ and ‘judo black belt’, the success of sporting mega-projects like the Sochi Winter Olympics, etc.) the West, it seems, is now using sport to try to damage Putin’s reputation. In the final analysis, these doping allegations are serious, but in some ways unsurprising. The Russian state has tried to revive the nation’s sporting fortunes under Putin and provide more support to sportsmen and sportswomen (something missing in the 1990s). This support has included financial rewards for successful athletes and trainers (such as cash prizes). In short, the money invested in Russian sport in recent years has created the conditions for corruption, meaning that this latest sporting scandal is as much about individual financial gain as the regime’s desire for medals and legitimacy through sport. The political consequences are unclear, but if the theme of corruption and sport continue to feature as the West’s line of attack on Putin, then these revelations are unlikely to be the last.



One Response

  1. […] doping has come to be seen as a metaphor for the way Putin’s Russia operates; a place where the end justifies the means and winning is the […]

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