Marat Bariyev: ‘I don’t think we are beaten for nothing. There is a reason’

A member of the Russian Olympic Committee on sports summaries of 2020

Marat Bariyev: ‘I don’t think we are beaten for nothing. There is a reason’
Photo: Maksim Platonov

Deputy of the Russian State Duma, ex-Sports Minister of Tatarstan Marat Bariyev told Realnoe Vremya in an interview what concerned Vyacheslav Fetisov, why sports Russia lack unity and what competition the republic joined the elite of Russian sport with.

“The IOC can’t ignore recommendations and decisions of WADA, as this will give rise to a new conflict”

In 2020, Tatarstan hosted two world championships — kuresh and belt wrestling managing to meet the regulations of the COVID-19 era, while participants in these competitions managed to solve problems with the closure of borders. What do you think of it?

It seems to me that Tatarstan and Russia in general demonstrated good organisation and discipline amid the pandemic. As the fact of hosting such big events speaks about foreign athletes, coaches’ trust in our republic, it indirectly talks about the trust in our health care, law enforcement agencies and so on. This is about the situation in 2020.

Secondly, they trust us because they are familiar with the high organisation level of competitions — accommodation, food, logistics and so on, everything that has been tested in the last 15 years. It is the level of work of one of the most professional organising teams in the world that exists in Kazan now. This is why sporting events held here are “doomed for success”.

Why does then the IOC want to prohibit Russia from hosting competitions, whereas there is a handful of countries willing to host them, while China in general prefers to refuse all plans in the country?

The IOC can’t ignore recommendations and decisions of WADA, as this will give rise to a new conflict it won’t be easy to find a solution from. At the moment, there has been obtained permission for athletes without doping history to compete...

The matter with Yuliya Yefimova immediately arises.

There can be questions here. But the Olympic Committee is deciphering the rule of the IOC not only regarding Yefimova but a number of athletes who had issues with doping tests in the past. Consultations are held.

But I think that the IOC has already met us halfway by cutting the term of possible disqualification recommended by WADA by half and permitting us to demonstrate elements of Russia’s symbols during competitions. In this respect, our capabilities look bigger than in Pyeongchang. As soon as I raised Russia’s flag in the stands, security guards immediately rushed towards me.

But elements of an unfair attitude to us still remain. The whole government and the whole Duma were banned. My colleagues come to me and ask: “What’s my fault? I have nothing to do with WADA, the Russian Olympic Committee, sport, I am not even going to the Olympics, but why am I disqualified and why is this information spread around the world?” These questions haven’t disappeared, they accumulate, and I think all this will translate into a statement of the Russian government.

The Olympic Committee is deciphering the rule of the IOC not only regarding Yefimova but a number of athletes who had issues with doping tests in the past. Consultations are held

“We were said: ‘Now we will do everything, solve problems, no need to concern’”

Yes, we would like to hear the official stance of the Russian government in this respect.

I think we will hear it soon. To be more precise, my colleague Vyacheslav Fetisov is perplexed. We talked with him for long, and he says to me: “So I am one of the founders of WADA, I had been chairing athletes’ commission there for long before I stepped down as Russia’s sports minister. Also, I am a two-time Olympic champion, seven-time world champion, and now I am banned from going to the Olympics, world championships. And those because of whom all this story happened...”

Who are they? Talking about Vitaly Mutko, he fought for his honour and decency and challenged the decision of the IOC on his lifelong disqualification through trials.

Yes, and I think neither will we forget this situation and make a corresponding statement.

But Mr Bariyev, we remember that the principle of corporate responsibility was applied to all Russian athletics five years ago. Everybody who has competed in international competitions was disqualified, from A to Z, including those who retired, joined other national teams and even died. And weren’t we indignant about this discriminatory decision, while the realisation of the total unfairness took place when this affected somebody personally.

I remember this situation well because people said in the 2015-2016s: “Now we will do everything, solve problems, no need to concern.” This was delivered this way, we were asked to resign voluntarily together with the athletics management, including executives. Everybody resigned so that there won’t be any complaint about the new federation. But unfortunately, three new presidents have changed since then, but there is no result.

Nobody makes such statements now that “we will do everything ourselves”. And there is no trust in such words, therefore everybody will think of themselves, how to get out of the situation. I mean people began to care for themselves, their understanding

“Our football should go back to the old scheme of the Russian championship”

What do you remember 2020 for except for Olympic problems and COVID-19?

Bad luck of Russian football clubs. I want to claim that our football should go back to the old scheme of the Russian championship. Firstly, spectators will return to the stands, they left them because the season starts too early and ends too late. And not everybody can afford watching football at the stadium in warm VIP lounges. This will especially be seen at the end of the championship if we host it in November according to the old scheme, as there is still intrigue in many matches. Moreover, all successes of national football at club level were achieved when the championship was held in spring and autumn.

You mentioned the confusion of Fetisov about corporate responsibility. I read his latest interviews where he complains about the sports ministers who worked after him. But Mr Fetisov was the person who hired Rodchenkov. Doping scandals in biathlon (Akhatova, Yuryeva, Yaorshenko) and athletics (Lysenko, Khoroshikh) broke out under him. Even the pre-Olympic scandals in 2008 with seven banned female athletes took place under Fetisov de facto. And I have a simple question: why does he omit that period of his work focusing on others’ mistakes?

I don’t know if he remembers this or not, but if he doesn’t, there will be found people who remind him of it. He is constantly reminded of same Rodchenkov, for instance. I think he worked by making mistakes too. But he recognises these mistakes and thinks what has to be done to avoid them in the future. As Mr Fetisov says, when he stopped ruling elite sport, he offered to occupy his seat at WADA but didn’t receive support. At last, we lost this seat. And at least, this means a source of information is lost and the possibility of influencing on decision making. This is why we are in such a situation now.

By the way, I noted that WADA has been existing for 21 years, while few Russians have worked in its subdivisions. Moreover, in the last summer Olympics, we have been the fourth country in the sports world.

It seems we aren’t insistent enough, and this refers to the Sports Ministry, the Olympic Committee, RUSADA, all sports subdivisions that must be a united front and be represented in international sports organisations and then try to solve some problems.

Why are ready to burden Putin with every trifle? Mr Putin even had to solve the problem of rising prices for some products. It isn’t his level, corresponding people working in a sphere, including sport, our Russian sports federations should assume this duty and responsibility


“Why are ready to burden Putin with every trifle?

But we don’t have a united front.

This is another issue. A lot of problems probably arise for this reason because there isn’t a united front in sport in general. Even the recent events during the preparation for the president’s Council and actively discussed issues of harmonisation of legislation in physical culture and sport — they all require coordinated actions. At the same time, there is a misunderstanding in the sports environment, while this is an indicator of uncoordinated actions.

Moreover, it isn’t enough to simply have our person in an international sports agency, it is necessary to defend our position. And when this doesn’t exist, this means there is no systemic coordinated work.

Who does it depend on? On Putin?

No, why are ready to burden Putin with every trifle? Mr Putin even had to solve the problem of rising prices for some products. It isn’t his level, corresponding people working in a sphere, including sport, our Russian sports federations should assume this duty and responsibility. Professionals should work there for this purpose, not only managers or the same people who ended up on good posts thanks to cronyism so that they will be noticed then or because these people are wealthy. It is the Ministry of Sport, the Olympic Committee, Association of Summer and Winter Sports that have huge potential, another thing is that it isn’t realised.

To pay tribute to current Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, I can put an example of his work at FISU. When we started to deal with hosting the Universiade in Kazan 15 years ago, FISU had no Russian. When our issues were discussed, we were behind the doors, and only then people who felt affection for us shared information about what the discussion was about. Moreover, FISU didn’t treat us well at that time. With time, Mr Matytsin became a member of the Executive Committee, vice president and finally chaired FISU. When Matytsin was still a member of the Executive Committee, our representative already worked in most FISU commissions. While now our representative work in all commissions, and a fly can’t pass by without considering Russia’s opinion.

Ideally, this is how it must be in international sports organisations, but for this purpose, it is necessary to work, show great sports results, plus, by demonstrating our managers’ professionalism so that they will work, not stay for show.

You have noted that the recent rule on Russia looks softer compared to Pyeongchang and in general softer compared to what might have happened. I have already noted for myself that even for Nazi crimes Germany paid only by missing two Olympics in 1948. And now, if we have a look at the decisions regarding Russia, we will suffer some inconveniences at the fourth Olympics already.

“Thanks” to Nazi Germany, the world lost two Olympics in 1940 and 1944 that didn’t take place. But I don’t consider such a comparison correct because the decision on two Olympics has been made now. As for the decision on Rio and Pyeongchang, we ourselves didn’t perform the tasks we were given, particularly handing over information about the Moscow anti-doping laboratory. This is why we sowed distrust among our opponents, the whole sports world. And I don’t think we are beaten for nothing — there is a reason. But the punishment might have been bigger or smaller, while now it is the way it is. If we had reacted and solved problems then, we would probably have had no problems.

There is some bias towards Russia, and nobody questions it as it is seen with the naked eye. But at the same time we ourselves give them reasons. And after eliminating them, we should work to find mutual understanding

“Ukrainian representatives in general are very friendly to Russia

But talking about opponents, we shouldn’t forget such characters as, for instance, Igor Zhdanov, Ukraine’s former sports minister and today’s member of WADA Board Council. And according to his statements, it isn’t an opponent but a real enemy.

Nevertheless, Ukraine has enough people who treat Russia very well, worry about the situation we are in and about our relationships. As for Zhdanov, I can only remind you of a saying that there is a black sheep in every flock. Ukrainian representatives in general are very friendly to Russia. The case is that they can’t openly express their position everywhere. We will see in 2021, during the Games of CIS Countries, how Ukraine will be engaged in this competition.

Can Sung Yang’s local victory help Russia solve further problems? Including through discrediting judges to make decisions against us like it was in the situation with China.

There is some bias towards Russia, and nobody questions it as it is seen with the naked eye. But at the same time, we ourselves give them reasons. And after eliminating them, we should work to find mutual understanding. In this respect, it is necessary to unmask those specialists, coaches, organisers who work dishonestly so that they are imposed those sanctions that are possible.

At a recent ceremony of Athlete of the Year, two pupils of young coach Aleksandr Padyorov were honoured, while I remember him as one of the participants in the opening ceremony of the 1st Summer Spartakiade of Students of Russia in 2003. Can these competitions be called as a starting line for Tatarstan to join Russia’s sports elite?

They can as integrated competitions. Though six months earlier, in December 2002, we hosted the Russian Figure Skating Championship, then its competitors suffered from cold very much (Editor’s Note: the thermometer went down to -34 degrees). All the would-be elite athletes competed — Irina Slutskaya, Navka and Kostomarov, Totmyanina — Trankov. The competitors were accommodated in Safar Hotel, which was the best then where we additionally bought radiators.

In 2003, we already hosted this Spartakiade Moscow refused, and we unexpectedly became its hosts together with Saratov. Moreover, the refusal was made in spring. These competition’s initiator Vyacheslav Fetisov turned to Mintimer Shaimiyev, Rustam Minnikhanov then, and they backed the Spartakiade we prepared for for just a couple of months. The toughest thing was to find accommodation for all competitors — I remember very well they totalled 6,000 people.

Hosting that Spartakiade, we reminded people that there was such a region as Tatarstan and its capital Kazan. A lot of executives of federations, great athletes who saw our capabilities were our guests. And when we wanted to host the international Universiade, this was already an advantage for us.

While once we used to travel and learn the experience of the same Saratov, Samara, how powerful Volgograd was during those years! And now Tatarstan is in the top 3-4 strongest regions of Russia in the developing of both winter and summer sports.

By Dzhaudat Abdullin. Photo: Maksim Platonov
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