Russian Doping Scandal

A report says that Russian athletes were given government support and assistance to cheat. The World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, has called for Russia to be banned from the upcoming Summer Olympics in Brazil. Doping allegations have been made against both summer and winter athletes across most sports Russia competes in.

According to the Associated Press, the report calls on the International Olympic Committee, IOC, to ban all Russian athletes from this summer’s Olympics. Canadian Richard McLaren was the author of the WADA investigation. It discovered that 580 positive tests by Russian athletes were covered up in almost 30 different sports.

Richard McLaren
The president of WADA, Sir Craig Reedie, described the extent of the findings as “a real horror story,” according to the British Broadcasting Corporation. Russia’s track and field team are already banned from competing in the Olympics, based on an earlier ruling by the International Association of Athletics Federation. The 68 members of the team are awaiting an appeal.

The McLaren report claims that Russia hid hundreds of positive drug tests of its competitors leading up to international sporting events over the last five years. The majority of cheating took place during the Russian hosted Winter games in Sochi in 2014. In that tournament, Russian athletes won more medals than any other country.

The method used to cheat was to secretly swap steroid-tainted urine with clean samples. McLaren called the system the “disappearing positive methodology.” IOC president Thomas Bach has called the findings an attack on the integrity of sports.

A large world power like Russia has not missed an Olympics since the 1980s, when as the Soviet Union, it boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. Banning Russia would have political ramifications as well. The country spent billions to host the Winter Games in 2014. The IOC was one of the main beneficiaries of the funding.

The IOC has stated it will consider the legal ramifications of a total ban before making any decisions. The Olympic organization says it plans to retest all Russian athletes that participated in the 2014 Sochi games.

There is intense debate on whether there should be collective punishment or it should be limited only to individuals found cheating. Some organizations are calling for severe punishment, while others are urging restraint. While WADA has called for an immediate ban, the president of the Gymnastics International Federation is arguing against tarring all athletes. Gymnastics was not listed as an offending sport in the McLaren report.

The IOC said they are planning further actions. They will not organize or plan any sporting events in Russia through 2019. Disciplinary action will begin against officials named in the McLaren report. McLaren has been requested to continue the investigation and name individuals who cheated. But the immediate issue is the fate of athletes getting ready to compete in the next few weeks.

Russian Sports officials
The investigation started based on claims by the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov. He alleged widespread doping was occurring leading up to hosting the Sochi games by Russian athletes and assisted by the government. Rodchenkov is now living in the United States.

In its defense, the Kremlin has said that the claims are based on “a whistleblower with a scandalous reputation”, reports The Guardian. President Vladimir Putin blamed anti-Russian politics. Despite the denunciations, Russia has suspended the deputy sport minister who was originally appointed by Putin.

Only two Russian athletes have been exempted from the potential nationwide ban. They have been living and training in the United States. More than 400 others could be forced to watch the Olympics in August instead of participating in it.

Russia is scheduled to host the World Cup in 2018, one of the world’s largest sporting events. The latest controversy has created concerns about players in that tournament as well.

[Photo by David J. Phillip/AP Images]