Welcome to the first segment of Scoring for Liberty, a column dedicated to discussing political topics in the sports realm with libertarian commentary. Topics to be discussed include the economic effects of sports franchises, publicly funded stadiums, and general political statements of athletic organizations.
Tuesday, Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea due to what the International Olympic Committee described as “systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system.”
Investigation from the World Anti-Doping Agency found that “Doctors and officials would provide athletes with banned substances to increase performance, then switch their tainted urine with clean samples to skirt IOC testing.”
Last year, the committee found that over 1000 Russian athletes were lined to an organized, state-sponsored doping scheme. Due to the severity of the usage and manipulation, the Russian Olympic Committee was immediately suspended, and Russian athletes may only attend the event if they can prove that they are clean and they must participate under the title “Olympic Athlete from Russia.”
Any gold medalists from Russia will also have the Olympic fanfare played in place of the Russian national Anthem. Though, the most shocking punishment was the $15 million fine given to the Russian Olympic Committee.
Why does this matter to libertarians? The IOC is a non-profit independent agency and can decide to allow whoever they please into the Olympics, but the problem is those that violated the committee’s standards will not be the one’s taking on the financial burden.
The ROC is considered a public organization, so the citizens of Russia will ultimately pay the price through taxes for the corrupt actions of some athletes and government officials. Being a government agency demonstrates the dangers of cronyism and lack of incentive structure that allows government to provide subpar services. Olympic committees have the capacity to be private organizations and provide the public clean, quality athletes and services.
The United States Olympic Committee is a private non-profit organization that receives no federal funding (although it was federally created). Instead, the committee generates income through donations, corporate sponsors and money generated from domestically hosted Olympic games.
They use this money to obtain the best athletes and incentivize winning medals through their Operation Gold Program. Winners of gold medals receive a bonus of $25,000 per medal and silver and bronze garner $15,000 & $10,000.
Endowments established by the committee also provide grants to athletes, an Elite Athlete Health Insurance program and opportunities for athletes to train in the Olympic Training Center.
In the U.S. model of an Olympic committee, no cost would fall onto American citizens for any misdeeds committed, and because the USOC is funded primarily through donation and corporate sponsors, they have more incentive to provide athletes that meet Olympic guidelines.
Truly, my heart goes out to the people of Russia who will not be able to show pride in their country at the 2018 games and must now bear the burden of corrupt government officials and athletes. It’s situations like this that demonstrate why the message of liberty must be spread to reduce the size of government and stop the citizens of the world being punished for the actions of their elected officials.