The fall of Russia

first_imgEver since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia has consistently been a major power in world athletics. Its combined strength on the track and in the field crystallised in 2013, when the World Championships were held in Moscow. Powered by vociferous home support, Russia topped the medal table with seven gold medals in their haul of 17. Just two years later at the World Championships, Russia plummeted to ninth with just four medals, including two of the golden variety. The reasons for the fall of the Russians have become clear in recent months. Sadly, as indicated by a recent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report, there was manipulation of the drug testing process in Russia. The fall was fast. Even as recently as 2014, Russia placed fourth on the medal table at the European Championships. Great Britain, the top team, took home just one medal more than the Russians. In Beijing, host of this year’s World Championships, the Russian effort paled in comparison to past performances. Many fans made the comparison and wondered. The answers have emerged from a WADA team that visited Russia and it isn’t a pretty sight. NEW ATHLETIC CHIEF Since then, Russia has appointed a new athletics chief and fired coaches who have been implicated. When the full WADA report is published, it will show how much more needs to be done to completely clean up things in Russia. If that’s the end of the trauma athletics has to face, that would be acceptable. The worry is that French investigations of ex-IAAF President Lamine Diack will unearth problems elsewhere. All we can do is wait and see. Athletes who lost medals to drug-powered Russians will also face a long wait. When Marion Jones of the United States of America (USA) finally lost her gold for the 2000 Olympic 100/200 double, no one would guess that even now, some of those medals would not be awarded. With Jones out, the gold fell naturally to Ekaterina Thanou of Greece. She ran into drug-related troubles in 2004, but Tayna Lawrence, who crossed the line third in 2000, hasn’t got the gold yet. So those affected by the Russian misdeeds may need to be very patient. – Hubert Lawrence has made notes by track side since 1980.last_img read more

Call for earthquake airlifts

first_imgMUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan – The top U.N. relief coordinator warned Thursday that bold initiatives like the Berlin Airlift are needed to save as many as 3 million people left homeless by the South Asian earthquake as winter approaches in the Himalayas. The World Health Organization, meanwhile, reported three quake survivors died of tetanus, reinforcing fears that disease and infected injuries could drive the 79,000 death toll far higher. Jan Egeland, the U.N. relief coordinator, appealed to NATO and other potential donors to step in with an army of helicopters to fly in relief supplies and evacuate perhaps hundreds of thousands of people. “The world is not doing enough,” Egeland said in Geneva. “We should be able to do this.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week He called for “a second Berlin air bridge” – nonstop flights reminiscent of the U.S. and British airlift of essential supplies into West Berlin in the late 1940s when Soviet troops blocked the city’s road links to the West for nearly 11 months. At one point, cargo planes landed in West Berlin at the rate of one a minute. “We thought that the tsunami was as bad as it could get. This is worse,” Egeland said. “The race against the clock is also like no other one. There is a terrible cutoff for us in the beginning of December, maybe even before, when there will be massive snowfalls in the Himalaya mountains.” NATO was expected to approve today the dispatch of medics and hundreds of military engineers to clear roads and help reconstruction. However, allied commanders said it would be hard to muster enough of the light helicopters needed for flying in remote mountain areas to mount the campaign envisioned by Egeland. The quake has helped some leaders put aside long-standing enmity, with Pakistan’s President Gen. Pervez Musharraf saying he has accepted aid from India and Israel because of the desperate need. “My priority goes to the people of Pakistan, the people who have suffered,” he said in an interview on CNN. “The reconstruction effort is monumental.” Helicopters loaded with food and other supplies and soldiers on foot fanned out from the shattered city of Muzaffarabad in the heart of the earthquake zone in a frantic attempt to get help to remote villages damaged in the Oct. 8 tremor. “There is a continued need for more helicopter capacity, to move in the inaccessible areas,” Hilary Benn, British secretary of state for international development, said during a tour of the area. “The terrain here is very difficult and winter is approaching.” The first of 20 additional U.S. military helicopters will arrive next week to help, U.S. Rear Adm. Mike Le Fever said. The choppers shipped from the U.S. Air National Guard are being reassembled in Afghanistan, he said. A dozen U.S. military helicopters are ferrying in supplies and evacuating people from remote areas in Pakistan. Five more helicopters, normally used by the U.S. State Department for drug surveillance, also were shifted to relief efforts. Dozens of Pakistani and other foreign helicopters also are flying missions to aid survivors in isolated villages. Abdul Aziz, whose wife was killed in the magnitude 7.6 quake, decided it was better to seek help rather than wait. He walked seven hours to Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan’s portion of Kashmir, with his three sons and daughter. The girl had a broken bone and all suffered from exposure and malnutrition. Aziz said 150 of the 220 people in his village died. “I will not go back to that village where I lost my wife, my relatives and my friends,” he said. The WHO said there had been 17 cases of tetanus reported in the quake-stricken area, three of them resulting in deaths in the town of Balakot in North West Frontier Province. Sarfaraz Tan Afridi, leader of the WHO team in the province, said his team was trying to immunize as many people as possible. Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause fever, high blood pressure and severe muscle contractions. It can lead to death, especially among the elderly. People are infected when the bacteria, found in the ground and feces, enter through cuts and scratches. The Pakistani government’s official casualty toll stood at 49,739 dead and more than 74,000 injured, but central figures have lagged behind regional numbers. The regional figures, from officials in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province and Pakistani Kashmir, added up to about 78,000 dead. India reported 1,360 deaths in its part of Kashmir. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more