In a June 16 New York Times op-ed, Professor Dionne Koller writes that the International Olympic Committee’s recent decision to welcome a team of 10 refugees from troubled or war-torn nations exemplifies the best of the Olympic movement and comes at a time when that movement’s fundamental values seem under siege.
Koller said that of all the threats to the Olympics’ integrity, the most damning is state-supported doping in Russia, which has been documented and reported by, among others, a Russian couple, Yuliya Stepanova, an 800-meter runner, and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, a former anti-doping official.
Fearing for their lives, the couple left Russia. While Stepanova continues to train on her own and earned an Olympics-qualifying time, she cannot run for her country in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
Koller said that while Stepanova was not forced to flee a conflict zone, she was forced to flee Russia nonetheless — and that, moreover, her “moral actions have helped to preserve the integrity of the Olympic movement itself.”
Therefore, said Koller — the director of UB’s Center for Sport and the Law — the IOC and the International Association of Athletics Federation must use their authority to make sure Stepanova is able to compete.
Wrote Koller in “An Olympic Antidoping Champion“: “To maintain its credibility as a proponent of clean sport, the International Olympic Committee must grant Ms. Stepanova the right to compete in Rio independently of Russia. … It would make a mockery of the Olympic movement to deny an athlete who has taken enormous personal risks for the cause of clean sport the ability to participate in the Rio Olympics.”