Alex Konanykhin is the CEO of TransparentBusiness, a company which develops technology to curtail corruption in the public procurement of IT services. He defected to the United States in 1992 and became the first person to be granted political asylum in the United States for opposing corruption in post-Soviet Russia.
On Monday, Russia was banned from the 2020 Olympic Games and the 2022 World Cup over its government-engineered doping practices. As a Russian who defected to America almost three decades ago, I feel this event was the predictable outcome of the all-pervasive corrupt practices of the KGB agents who took power in Russia in the 1990s.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime relies on Nazi-like propaganda to whip up the idea of Russian superiority, of Russians being a God-chosen master race —humans “with an extra chromosome,” as was famously asserted by Putin’s Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky.
Success at the Olympic Games and other important international sports competitions is considered prime evidence of Russian superiority, and so the FSB – the KGB’s successor agency – was ordered to organize an extensive campaign to provide Russian athletes with performance enhancing drugs and then manipulating drug tests to cover them up.
The FSB got caught after Russian successes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, during which it was found to have employed a large-scale urine-switching operation to avoid the detection of its doping operations. Yet the resulting scandal and disqualifications did not dissuade the FSB from continuing its efforts to win international competitions through corrupt methods, as abandoning the myth of national superiority would constitute a mortal threat to Putin’s regime.
Today’s disqualification will be presented in Russia as the result of fear felt by the USA and other countries, whose inferior athletes cannot compete with Russians in fair competition. Such blatant lies cannot last indefinitely. The collapse of the Soviet Union is a prime example of an implosion of a lies-based society, but it also shows that propaganda can prop up a totalitarian regime for decades—long enough to keep Putin on the throne for the rest of his life. We can only hope that, in the meantime, the wars started by Russia to scratch its imperial itch don’t escalate to global conflicts.