December 27, 2016

In December, a report dropped alleging that Russia had engaged in a massive doping conspiracy during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. When it was rolled out, World Anti-Doping Agency investigator said, "For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field. Sports fans and spectators have been deceived."

McLaren went on to describe the program as "a cover-up that evolved over the years from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalized and disciplined medal-winning strategy and conspiracy."

At the time and throughout the investigation, Russia denied all allegations, dismissing them outright. But now it seems they're ready to concede the point, according to a New York Times report.

Over several days of interviews here with The New York Times, the Russian officials said they no longer disputed a damning set of facts that detailed a doping program with few, if any, historical precedents.

“It was an institutional conspiracy,” Anna Antseliovich, the acting director general of Russia’s national antidoping agency, said of years’ worth of cheating schemes.

A lab director tampered with urine samples at the Olympics and provided cocktails of performance-enhancing drugs, corrupting some of the world’s most prestigious competitions. Members of the Federal Security Service, a successor to the K.G.B., broke into sample bottles holding urine. And a deputy sports minister for years ordered cover-ups of top athletes’ use of banned substances.

It turns out the same intelligence service who likely is responsible for the hacks that impacted our 2016 election had a hand in this conspiracy, too.

But even as he and other officials signaled their acceptance of the fundamental findings of Mr. McLaren’s investigation, they were largely unconciliatory, suggesting that cheating to benefit Russia had served to offset what they perceived as preferential treatment for Western nations by global sports authorities.

Have you seen the Fancy Bear records?” Mr. Smirnov said, invoking medical records hacked by a cyberespionage group believed to be associated with G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence agency suspected of hacking computers at the Democratic National Committee. The medical records revealed that hundreds of Western athletes had been given special medical permission to take banned drugs for legitimate therapeutic reasons.

“Russia never had the opportunities that were given to other countries,” Mr. Smirnov said.

“The general feeling in Russia is that we didn’t have a chance,” he added, acknowledging that anabolic steroids like those taken by Russian athletes have never been deemed medically excusable by regulators.

While they're no longer disputing the findings, they will not agree that the conspiracy was state-sponsored, leaving Russian President Vladimir Putin off the hook, despite the fact that it's difficult to believe a former KGB agent now leading that country could possibly have been left out of the loop on what appears to be a deep, long-standing, and vast conspiracy. Protect the leader at all costs, I guess.

How long will it take before they also deny Putin's involvement in the hack of our 2016 election while acknowledging their role in it? And why is everyone so blasé about Russia's interference? I continue to believe we should be lighting our hair on fire, be out in the streets over it, and threatening impeachment of any elected official standing in the way of a Select Committee to investigate it publicly.

But for now, we at least have this concession. It's not hard to see the patterns emerge.

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