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Russian, Maria Lasitskene, the Tokyo Olympic Games gold medallist in the high jump, penned an open letter to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. In that letter, she completely missed the point of the ban on Russian athletes due to the war going on in Ukraine. Additionally, she insults Bach, burying deeper any chance of reconciliation.

In that letter, she demands the “right” to compete as hers.

Clearly, the pressure of the ban is getting to her and the Russian Olympic Committee; talk about showing your cards.

Russian sport and government is more concerned with its ego and brand as a nation than it is about the safety of its athletes (ala proven systematic doping).

Lasitskene will be kept out of the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, because of a World Athletics decision to ban all Russian athletes.

The 29-year-old, who has won or medalled at every major international competition she has entered, has been among the few Russians allowed in international events in recent years. This is despite the sport’s suspension due to the long-running doping scandal in Russia.

She wrote, “…it was “high time” that national flags and anthems were removed in sport in general…”

The above line from the letter is a paradigm-shifting notion that detracts from the matter at hand. Why introduce a radical new idea not directly related to the primary issue? She is ill-advised.

“I have no doubt that you will not have the courage and dignity to remove the punishment from Russian athletes,” she wrote.

“After all, then you will have to admit that all these months you have violated the IOC Charter, and the charters of International Federations have turned from real documents into useless papers. 

“But I ask you stop shifting responsibility for what is happening in the sports world from yourself to supposedly ‘taking care of Russian athletes’.

“It is not for the IOC President to deal with such things.”

Au contraire, Bach in fact displayed courage and was quite dignified in the process of taking the radical step of banning the athletes.

She arrogantly tells the president of the IOC what his job entails. In the art of negotiation, the process should be to make a conciliatory approach, then seek open dialogue; you cannot win mediation from a position of weakness. She fails to build a solid case backed by well-researched evidence. Additionally, it appears Lasitskene does not possess an understanding of the legal and administrative processes for making such decisions. Nor does she appear to realize that her gold medals are likely more important to her Russian sports federation than they are to her.

On Feb. 28, Bach recommended the banning of athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus for their participation in the war, which is in contravention of the Olympic Truce.

The IOC’s banning of Russia from international competition, related to the war in Ukraine, should be addressed to the Russian government by the athletes. Bach’s and any political leader’s tactic is to perhaps engender civil unrest to influence change. Even in the communist-not-communist regime, civil unrest has influence. The ban is not unlike government trade sanctions. Governments typically bend to chaos and civil upheaval. She has approached the wrong person in the wrong way. She should stick to jumping, when she may return.

Furthermore, Russian athletes who were competing under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) nomenclature were indeed being looked after by the IOC, including her. They shouldn’t have. There should be no ROC. The systematic doping (unrelated to the war) was enough reason to ban all Russian athletes, not just their flag and anthems. She was fortunate to be able to compete in Tokyo at all.

Shortly after the ban (due to the war) was declared, ROC President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said that the IOC should meet with Russia halfway to end the ban.

“The actions of governments should not interfere in sports, in the Olympic Movement,” said Pozdnyakov.

“In this regard, I see the attempts of Mr. Bach to preserve Olympic values. 

“This is not a step towards our athletes. 

“A step towards our athletes will be the cancellation of the recommendations made against Russian athletes at the end of February.”

Like Lasitskene, Pozdnyakov appears to not possess the skill necessary to partake in the art of negotiation. Telling the IOC president what his job entails is only asking Bach to dig his heels in.

So, as it appears the pressure is getting to Russian athletes and the ROC president.

If Pozdnyakov was honest about the meaning of athletes to Russia, he would know that the purpose of the athletes and their successes is of giant ego strokes for Russian sports and political leaders, nothing more. The athletes are pawns. Russia cares less about their well-being than they do about the bans, made salient by the proven systematic doping.

The letter as well as the statements by Pozdnyakov further demonstrates Russia’s immaturity wrapped in false tribalism of its nation’s brand.

Finally, Lasitskene writes, “…I just want to be honest to myself, my fans and other young athletes. I want to receive that which is rightfully mine — the right to perform. That’s what I’m fighting for!”

No one has the right to perform. It is a privilege and therein lies a foundational issue with her argument.

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