U.S. anti-doping chief Travis Tygart came to Congress this week with a no-nonsense message: Push for a clampdown on the cheats who take podium moments away from genuine athletes and sully the Olympic movement. “This is not just about elite Olympic athletes,” Tygart told a House subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “This is about every kid on a playground who has an Olympic dream and asks, ‘What do I have to do to make my dreams come true?’ ”
There’s really no one in the American Olympic movement who would disagree with that message, including the U.S. Olympic Committee. It’s just that, as the New York Times reports, the USOC would like Tygart to tone it down a notch.
Why would the USOC want Tygart and the rest of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to soften their approach? Because the USOC has a different — and concurrent — lobbying mission in the works: convincing the International Olympic Committee to give the 2024 Summer Games to Los Angeles instead of Paris. And USOC officials are worried that IOC members will be put off by Tygart’s tough talk.
This is the same IOC that let Russia off the hook when it was shown that Moscow had for years engineered a state-sponsored doping program to help more than 1,000 of its athletes cheat in 30 sports from 2011 to 2015. The IOC could have banned Russia from Rio, and instead passed the buck to individual sports federations. Some of those federations banned Russian athletes, and some let cheaters compete.
But the IOC is the ultimate arbiter of venues for future Olympiads. Getting the Games could be a big-bucks coup for L.A. and the U.S., which hasn’t hosted the Olympics since 2002, when Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Games.
If La La Land got the Games, we’d sing and dance in celebration. But we have a problem with the queasiness roiling the USOC over Tygart’s tough talk. The U.S. Olympic movement should be lockstep-unified in support of stricter regulations for doping. And if that means irking IOC members, and perhaps sacrificing L.A.’s chances to win the 2024 bid, so be it.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE