World-renowned Canadian sportscaster Brian Williams, who covered 14 Olympic games between both CBC and CTV/TSN, said that he was disappointed with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to allow some Russian athletes to compete as neutrals in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Russia, as reported, was banned from Pyeongchang after an investigation by the World Anti-doping Agency into state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Russian athletes who haven’t tested positive for doping, however, will be able to compete as neutrals without the use of their national flag or anthem under strict guidelines.
Williams, who was in Red Deer speaking at a paid event for Farm Credit Canada, said before his speech to the Red Deer Express this ruling is equivalent to allowing Russia to compete anyway.
“This is state-supported doping. This would be no different than if the Canadian Prime Minister, if Canada was caught cheating ‘en masse’ in Vancouver, used the Mounties to change urine samples and intimidate people,” he said.
He added the fact that former IOC member and Russian Minister of Sport Alexander Zhukov’s lifetime ban from the Olympics suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely knew of the widespread doping among Russian Olympic athletes.
“When it is the Minister of Sport, don’t tell me that the highest level of government didn’t know what he was doing. This was state-supported,” he said.
Williams said due to this scandal, no Russian athlete should have been allowed to compete in Pyeongchang.
“People say to me, ‘If they kick them all out, what about the innocent athletes?’. I’m sorry but it is their country and their fellow athletes that let them down.”
Williams added he recently spoke with former Canadian IOC member and Montreal Lawyer Dick Pound, who said it was important for the IOC not to give Putin a back door. In this instance, Williams believes they have.
“They aren’t letting Russia compete in uniform but they are going to get more attention without the Russian flag. When they come in under the Olympic flag and play the Olympic anthem, everyone is going to know it is the Russians,” he said.
He added he believes the IOC started in the right direction with sanctions against Russia, however they didn’t go far enough.
“Sochi happened because the Russians did not do well in Vancouver. They were hosting four years down the road and wanted to make sure they did well and they did win the most medals, but many of them were dishonest medals.
“If that isn’t enough to kick them out, I don’t know what else is,” he said.
The Russian scandal is the latest in difficulties for Pyeongchang after the NHL decided not to send athletes and the fact that tensions have risen between North Korea and the west. Williams feels the Olympics will be a success, despite the international controversy.
“I feel bad for the South Koreans in many ways because they paid all this money to get the Olympics and the facilities, but then they get some body blows,” he said. “The NHL is not going, then this Russian story and when they got the rights, the tension between North Korea and the west — particularly the United States — was not at the level it is today.
“They have taken some blows but I am sure the Olympics will be fine, they always rise above it.”
He added the reason they will succeed is because the Olympic Games is about the best athletes in the world.
“As I always say, the Olympics are about the athletes and not the fat cats that run it,” he said.