Staunton, December 14 – The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation has announced that it will move the 2017 IBSF World Championships from Sochi to “another location which will be determined in the coming days” (ibsf.org/en/news/19906-press-release-ibsf-decided-to-move-the-ibsf-world-championships-2017).
The Federation’s executive committee said that it had made the decision “to allow athletes and coaches from all Nations to participate in a competition that focuses on sport rather than accusations and discussions – whether justified or not” and because “the current climate” would make it impossible for the Russians to host such a gathering.
Not surprisingly, Russian officials are outraged (echo.msk.ru/news/1891896-echo.html and echo.msk.ru/news/1891868-echo.html); but even more than that they are afraid that the IBSF decision will lead ever more athletic organizations and foreign countries to demand that Moscow be stripped of the 2018 World Cup, a competition Vladimir Putin cares far more about.
Calls for that to happen have increased in the wake of the release of a new report that documents far more than any in the past that the Putin regime engaged in a state-sponsored program of doping that involved more than 1,000 athletes (meduza.io/feature/2016/12/09/novyy-doklad-o-dopinge-v-rossii) and a drumbeat of scandals over the behavior of Russian soccer louts.
Consequently, instead of just denouncing the IBSF decision as unjustified and the doping report as a falsification, Russian officials have taken two steps during the past few days that suggest that Moscow is very much afraid that it could lose the 2018 competition, something that would give the Kremlin a black eye in the most public of places.
On the one hand, the Putin regime has called for putting in place the toughest anti-doping arrangements in the world, a call that many welcome but that others see as either slamming the door after the horse has run or yet another public relations campaign designed to hide what Moscow in fact is likely continuing to do.
And on the other, there has been a new and much-ballyhooed crackdown on Russian football fanatics with some coaches even being compelled to apologize, again welcome if it leads to real change but not so much if it is just another statement designed to muddy the waters (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5850253FC1CB2 and
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