Russia’s overdue Olympic ban is no cure for anti-doping impotence


IT HAS taken seven investigative reports and seven years. But at long last the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided on December 5th to punish Russia for running a state-sponsored doping programme, by banning the country from taking a team to next February’s winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Russian athletes hoping to compete will have to do so carrying the Olympic flag and singing the Olympic anthem—if they can prove that they are clean. Though many countries have been excluded from past games for political reasons, and a couple have been suspended from individual sports for cheating, the exclusion of an entire national team for doping is without precedent. Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, was bullish when announcing yesterday’s sanctions, which “should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system”.

The punishments are well-deserved, but Mr Bach’s claims that they will end the scandal and mark a new chapter in sport’s war on drugs are…Continue reading

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Redeeming Mary Magdalene

EVERY generation of artists has brought its own sensibilities and experiences to the depiction of canonical Christian stories. Giotto, an Italian painter, set Bible scenes in medieval Tuscany. Rembrandt gave his a hint of mercantile 17th-century Amsterdam. “Mary Magdalene” is similarly a retelling of some of the faith’s main events …

The mysterious reggaeton bangers of Mexico’s election

FOR evidence that modern democracy has lost its pep, look back to the age of cheery campaign jingles. The art form dominated elections from America to the Philippines after the second world war. Australian political parties used them well into the 1980s. It is tempting to believe that melodious campaigns …

The maddest March: at last, a 16-seed upsets a number one

THE line separating the improbable from the impossible is hard to pin down. The annual single-elimination tournament to crown the champion of North America’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in men’s basketball is known as “March Madness”, thanks to the steady diet of upsets it produces. Every year, a few …