Rio Olympics: Russian Sculls Team Banned For Doping

The Rio Olympics have taken another hit with the Russian men’s quadruple sculls team being banned for doping. The World Rowing Federation announced that the team would be replaced by New Zealand after trimetazidine was found in a urine sample given by rower Sergei Fedorovtsev.

Fedorovtsev’s sample was given in an out-of-competition test on May 17. The Olympic qualifying regatta took place a week later, where Russia finished first to earn a spot in Rio. Since he tested positive from the May 17 test, the Federation said all results after that were thrown out.

“The results of all competitions in which the rower participated after 17 May 2016 are therefore automatically disqualified.”

The Rio Olympics seem to be plagued by scandal after scandal, with doping taking center stage. The Russian Olympic team, in particular, has been in the news after their track and field team became the first in the history of the Olympic games to have an entire team banned for doping.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released a report last November calling for a ban on the entire Russian Olympic team, saying they had operated a huge state-sponsored doping programme, and that they had uncovered a “deeply rooted culture of cheating.”

Vladimir Putin Condemns Ban on Russian Olympians for Doping
Predictably, Russian President Vladimir Putin was not happy with the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) decision to uphold the ban for the Rio Olympics. Russia had been arguing that they had cracked down on doping and that it was unfair to punish the Olympians who had not taken any of the banned substances. Putin has been adamant that there is no state-sponsored doping as alleged, and stated that the decision was “unjust and unfair.”

Among a host of other issues plaguing the Rio Olympics, the brand new $66 million doping control lab that was set up to test athletes was shut down by WADA six weeks before the Olympics were set to begin. While they didn’t give specific details, WADA said the lab was being closed for “non-conformity with the International Standard for Laboratories.”

The lab is expected to handle more than 6,000 tests during the three weeks of the Rio Olympics, and if it does not get up to standard before the games begin it could spell disaster. Even if the lab does manage to get up and running, the test results will no doubt be questioned.

In May of this year, after the head of the lab that performed the doping tests during the Sochi Olympics defected from Russia and revealed that he had masked banned substance results during those games, officials made the decision to re-test the samples from the Beijing and London games. When the Beijing results were revealed, 31 potential Rio Olympians from twelve countries and six sports were facing a ban from the games because their re-tested samples had tested positive. The results from the London games were not much better with 23 athletes from six countries and five sports having also tested positive for banned substances.

The doping drama is just another in a line of issues affecting the Rio Olympics. With many big names from a variety of sports pulling out due to concern over the Zika virus, body parts washing up on the beach near the beach volleyball site, budget shortfalls, and police protests, these Olympics could be a disaster.

Talk show hosts like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver have been outlining some of the issues with the Rio Olympics, with Oliver focusing on the doping issues and Colbert mocking the issues the games are having as a whole. It’s never a good thing when you are fodder for the talk show hosts, and Brazil could be humiliated on the world stage if things don’t turn around fast.

Between Zika keeping tourists and athletes away, a major budget shortfall, the doping fiasco, contaminated water, and the economic and political issues going on in Brazil, the Rio Olympics could go down as an epic disaster. Organizers only have a few short weeks to turn things around.

[Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]