Alan Hubbard: Britain's "three men in a vote" deserve a place on the rostrum for fair play

Team TTO in Rio 2016
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There are three Brits who certainly won’t be on Vladimir Putin’s Christmas card list this year.

There is little doubt that Lord Coe, Sir Philip Craven and Adam Pengilly are personas non grata in the Kremlin after the stance they have taken over the participation of Russian competitors in the Rio Olympics.

Coe, as President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the only sports federation to bar all Russian athletes over the doping issue, Craven, as the President of the International Paralympic Committee, which imposed a blanket ban on all Russian Paralympians, and skeleton racer Pengilly, the only International Olympic Committee (IOC) member to raise his hand in support of expelling Russia’s Olympic squad en-bloc for their pharmaceutical fraud on sport.

You can be sure Putin is not amused that it is this British trio who have stood more or less alone in taking a stand on what Lancastrian Sir Philip memorably described as "a disgusting medals over morals mentality".

Whatever else GB achieves in Rio, the actions of what you might call our three men-in-a-vote have made an indelible impression on the 2016 Games.

For Coe it is a personal vindication of his determination to weather the maelstrom that has engulfed his elevation to the top job in world athletics.

Almost from the moment he was elected last year, he has been subjected to a well-orchestrated media campaign which none too subtly inferred he had turned a blind eye to the corruption that had swamped his sport - that he knew what was going on as a vice-president but cynically let it all wash over him in order to get elected.

There are those close to him who believed - and still do believe - that it was a semi-political vendetta designed to undermine him but Coe, although privately badly shaken, stuck to his guns and played the long game.

His handling of the Russian doping scandal brought out the shrewd politician in him that Westminster rarely witnessed in his days as an MP.

There is some irony in that it was in Moscow 36 years ago that he won his first Olympic gold medal, holding aloft his index finger as he crossed the line in the 1500 metres and waving it pointedly in the direction of the British media.

Some had doubted him then. When he took his VIP seat at the Rio opening ceremony last week, he could have been forgiven for holding up not one, but two fingers to the media section, in particular those who had subjected him to so much vilification these past few months.

But many had misread him - notably the Russians who had voted for him over his rival from Ukraine, Sergey Bubka.

Perverse as it may seem, I believe the strength he has now shown in his leadership of the IAAF actually will stand him in good stead to eventually succeed Thomas Bach as the next President of the IOC if he fancies the job. We shall see.

Bach has disappointed me. I thought he was made of sterner stuff but as I wrote here before, his was a Copacabana cop-out. All Bach and no bite.

Only Pengilly, 39, a devout Christian and an IOC member as a representative of the Athletes’ Commission, was brave enough to go against the President’s desire for compromise.

Coe, of course, is a household name globally. Few outside of his sport, where he was a World Championship silver medallist, will have heard of Pengilly.

And the Bolton-born Craven is hardly a celebrated figure among the masses despite being President of the IPC since 2001.

A keen swimmer, cricketer and tennis player, in 1966, at the age of 16, he fell during a rock-climbing expedition at Wilton Quarries, Bolton, the accident leaving him without the use of his legs.

Subsequently he represented Great Britain in wheelchair basketball at five Paralaympics, and also competed in athletics and swimming at the 1972 Games.

He won gold at the wheelchair basketball World Championships in 1973, and bronze in 1975, as well as two gold medals in 1971 and 1974 and a silver in 1993 at the European Championships. He also won gold at the European Champions Cup in 1994, and gold at the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games.

But it is as an administrator that he has forged an illustrious reputation, underlined by spearheading the move to do what the IOC should have done and impose a total ban on the Russian Federation from Rio, a move that surely would have invoked wrath from within Russian sport towards its corrupt leaders and may have even brought Putin and his shifty, compliant Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko to their senses.

What 66-year-old Sir Philip said of the proven systematic doping within Russian sport should be engraved on a plaque in Lausanne.

“I believe the Russian Government has catastrophically failed its Para-athletes," he said. "Their medals over morals mentality disgusts me.

"The complete corruption of the anti-doping system is contrary to the rules and strikes at the very heart of the spirit of Paralympic sport. It shows a blatant disregard for the health and well-being of athletes and, quite simply, has no place in Paralympic sport.

"Their thirst for glory at all costs has severely damaged the integrity and image of all sport, and has certainly resulted in a devastating outcome for the Russian Paralympic Committee and Para-athletes.

“I have deep sympathy for Russian Para-athletes who will miss out on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. They are part of a broken system and we sincerely hope that the changes that need to happen, do happen.

"Russia has some top-quality athletes across all sports and we look forward to the day when we can welcome the Russian Paralympic Committee back as a member, safe in the knowledge that it is fulfilling all its obligations in order to ensure a level playing field for all.”

Well said, and said by a Brit. He, Coe and Pengilly deserve a place on the rostrum for fair play.

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