So, to the surprise of absolutely no-one who follows sport, the recovery operation got underway.
Much like the political spin doctor who tries to convince us that no, the minister wasn’t discovered to have been lying, actually, he was just misquoted, Yelena Isinbayeva – and, you suspect, her "people" - set to work on that thoroughly modern PR media exercise: convincing the world that your ears have deceived you.
Russia’s recently-passed law to criminalise those deemed guilty of “promoting homosexuality to under 18s”, and Isinbayeva’s related comments, are at best outdated, at worst laughable.
She’s endorsing a policy that speaks of denial on a farcical scale, which views homosexuality as effectively a subversive pressure group, determined to corrupt the country’s confused and vulnerable youth.
As an exceptional, decorated and globally-famous athlete, we’d liked to have believed (and maybe assumed?) that Isinbayeva is more open-minded, less homophobic.
Some have called her comments "offensive". But that’s a complicated term these days, and you could do worse than defer to the Australian comedian Steve Hughes on the subject: "You’re offended by what I say? So what? Be offended. Nothing happens…"
It’s not the fault of the Western world that Russia still regards homosexuality as worthy of criminalisation. The UK did too, once. Then it changed the law, 46 years ago.
But what is really offensive here is the way Isinbayeva’s comments are being re-packaged as a product of her poor grasp of English.
PR fire-fighting exercises – that is to say, image handlers or agents of high-profile figures and sports stars gauging the negative fallout from a controversial interview or unguarded comment, panicking over the threat to future perceptions and earnings, and getting them to "apologise if offence was caused" – seem to be a defining feature of the image-obsessed age. Isinbayeva hasn’t apologised, but she, her management, sponsors and the IAAF clearly became aware that her comments had generated poor publicity far from Moscow.
So to counter it, and presumably in an attempt to retrieve the affections of those she fears she may have offended, a statement was drafted via the IAAF containing the open-goal explanation: that English is not her first language and her comments got lost in translation.
Come off it.
Isinbayeva, as argued convincingly by Eurosport’s Reda Maher elsewhere on this site, seems to be currying favour with Russia’s high-profile conservative elite. Her comments do smack of toeing the party line, and were pretty much an audition for a Kremlin-based post-Athletics career. This latest controversy is just another example of a politician or sportsperson saying exactly what they meant – but it going down badly.
The big persuasion industries, advertising, propaganda and PR, may have changed and become more sophisticated over the years, but so have we, their audience. It’s why media students learn that whilst applicable at one time, the 'hypodermic needle' theory of communication - broadly speaking, that any message transmitted via mass media is likely to be absorbed, wholesale and unfiltered, by a submissive public – is largely obsolete now. People question, people wonder, people become cynical. Perhaps that’s why so much PR is crass, ill-thought through and, ultimately, pretty desperate.
The satirical British TV comedy show Have I Got News For You delights in exposing the stupidity, obfuscations and downright lying of high-profile figures and political elites. A few years ago a Minister in Gordon Brown’s Labour Cabinet, Geoff Hoon, was secretly recorded by journalists posing as lobbyists in order to expose the duplicitousness of those in power. Hoon was recorded saying he was, "looking forward to translating my knowledge and contacts…into something that, bluntly, makes money."
"My comments were misrepresented," he’d said in a statement afterwards.
"Yeah" said the show’s host, comedian Lee Mack. "That’s the old journalistic trick of misrepresenting someone… by writing down exactly what they say."