Should Russia Be Banned From the Rio Olympics?

Yuliya Zaripova

Russian athletes are the most doped up in the world. In 2013 they racked up 225 violations for banned substances, almost 12 percent of all violations globally (compared to the United States’ 43 violations, or two percent.) But no one suspected the sheer pervasiveness of the problem until yesterday, when the World Anti-Doping Agency released a report implicating Russian coaches, trainers, doctors, officials and authorities in a systematic, government-sanctioned doping conspiracy. It’s possibly the largest doping scandal ever to rock athletic competition.

According to the report, Russia’s own anti-doping agency, which handled steroid testing for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, turned a blind eye while officials wantonly covered up, tampered with, or concealed laboratory results that might have barred some Russian athletes from global competition. Competitors were also allegedly notified in advance when their doping test would occur, a direct breach of an Olympic dictate that requires testing be random and spontaneous.

“What made these allegations even more egregious,” the report said, “was the knowledge that the government of the Russian Federation provides direct funding and oversight for the above institutions, thus suggesting that the federal government was not only complicit in the collusion, but that it was effectively a state-sponsored regime.”

The findings call to mind East Germany’s state-run doping system—a.k.a. State Plan 14.25—a decades-long program that began in the 1970s. Athletes were given performance-enhancing drugs, with or without their knowledge, to improve East Germany’s global athletic standing. Over that period, East Germany won more Olympic medals than any other nation.

The WADA report, the painstaking result of a 10-month investigation by an independent commission, recommends that the International Olympic Committee ban Russia from next summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The scandal will be the focus of next week’s World Anti-Doping Agency meeting in Colorado, out of which will likely come a ruling on Russia’s future in the Olympics.

Photo: AP Images