Part Two of the McLaren Report was released today, further detailing the extraordinary efforts of the Russian sport machine to hide positive doping tests by its athletes since 2011. After its release, the sports world's reaction was predictable outrage. The International Olympic Committee called the Russian doping program a "fundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic games." The report "strikes at the heart of the integrity and ethics of sport," said the International Paralympic Committee. The President and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association called doping a "threat to sport."
Unfortunately, the international sporting community is just as incapable of rationally discussing doping as they are at preventing it. Doping is cheating under the current laws of the game and should be punished, but that doesn't make it a fundamental threat to sport or anything close to it. I know this because the 2012 and 2014 Olympics happened and people enjoyed them, just like the 2008 Summer Olympics and literally every other Olympics.
People don't like doping because it cracks sports' delicate veneer of fairness. But these athletes are already competing on an uneven playing field, due to any number of factors outside of their control. Obviously, your genes play a tremendous part in what caliber athlete you are, despite being totally outside of your control. Growing up poor and malnourished is one of the greatest disadvantages an athlete can have. Being born into a wealthy Western family who can afford the thousands of dollars a year it costs to train with elite coaches is inherently unfair to everyone who can't. Some athletes must work within massively corrupt systems that hamper their development. Others train in horrid conditions, lacking of access to proper equipment or nutrition.
All of these factors are basic facts of life, so we largely ignore their dramatic effects on athletic performance. That's all fine, until we pretend artificial chemical enhancement is somehow a groundbreaking threat to athletic competition. Before you call doping fundamentally unfair, I would challenge you to tell me what fairness really is, and why any of the above things are not equally—or even more—unfair.
This is not to argue that doping is right, or moral, but rather that we need to chill the fuck out about it. It is a minor form of cheating created by our cultural obsession with excellence and sporting achievement. It's a faux-moralistic beast the Olympic movement itself can singularly lay claim to creating and cultivating. Like all other lofty Olympic ideals that serve a marketing purpose and nothing else, I refuse to accept that there is or ever has been such a thing as "clean sport," and therefore that even the most sophisticated doping scheme is nothing more than further proof of the corrupt nature of global sport. Every Olympics is a pathetic attempt to sell the world on a notion of equality and fairness that doesn't exist, has never existed, and never will come to be. That shouldn't detract from the hard work of the athletes competing, but it shouldn't be forgotten, either.