Staunton, March 22 – In 1931, the US government charged mobster Al Capone for tax evasion, far from the most heinous of his crimes but one for which it could most easily get a conviction in court. That indirect judgment had the effect of ending Capone’s rule of the Chicago underworld.
Now, almost a century later, something analogous appears to be happening with Vladimir Putin who may find himself more isolated for his organization of a state system of doping by Russian athletes than he has been for his other, more serious crimes, including political murders and the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine.
This possibility is suggested by the confluence of two events this week. In the first, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said he agreed with that “Putin will use the World Cup 2018 just as Hitler used the 1936 Olympics” in Berlin (mk.ru/politics/2018/03/21/zakharova-otvetila-dzhonsonu-za-sravnenie-chm2018-s-olimpiadoy1936.html).
And in the second, officials at the World Anti-Doping Agency said that they were taking additional steps to deprive Russia of the right to host future competitions, although the officials indicated that they will not seek to take away any events, including this year’s World Cup, that Moscow has already been awarded (lenta.ru/news/2018/03/21/wada_rus/).
That would seem to limit the appropriateness of the Al Capone analogy to Putin, but there is reason to think that is not the case because the doping scandal coming on top of the Kremlin’s efforts to kill its opponents in Russia and abroad and its invasion of neighboring countries is leading ever more governments to think about various forms of boycotting the World Cup.
Britain, Denmark, Spain, Poland, Ukraine and Sweden are actively considering boycotts at least by officials; and even the governments in Italy, Spain, France and Germany have been discussing that possibility, although few think they will follow through (rusmonitor.com/budut-li-evropejjskie-strany-budut-bojjkotirovat-chm-2018-v-rossii-i-esli-budut-to-kakie.html).
Such boycotts send the kind of message that even Putin will understand, yet another indication that anyone who violates the rules of the game as often and as cavalierly as he does will not be accepted as a member of the international community in good standing however many nuclear weapons he has and however willing he is to use violence.
And it is worth remembering that Al Capone’s income tax conviction not only cost him his leadership of the American mob: it represented a major step toward the beginning of the end of that criminal conspiracy.
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