A state sponsored doping programme, laboratories destroying thousands of blood and urine samples, allegations of “sabotaging” the 2012 London Olympics, an international cover up involving high level officials from the IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations), the sports governing body. Is this what it takes to win in modern athletics?
Clearly for Russia it appears the answer to them was yes, as the latest WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) report suggests, Russia was involved in a nationwide doping programme, which allowed Russia to win 81 medals in the 2012 Olympic games in London, 24 of them gold.
Whilst this was the usual impressive performance from Russia, it is only now becoming obvious a factor in their success. Russia was especially competitive in athletics, something which is clear now was boosted by doping. Whilst it would be unfair to suggest that all Russian athletes competing were doping, it raises serious suspicion about the nations athletic achievement in the last few years.
Russian London 2012 Olympic race walking gold medalist Sergey Kirdyapkin poses with his medal. He had positive doping tests both before and after the 2012 games. Photo copyright Getty Images.
It already appears this scandal has overtaken the The Armstrong lie for the infamous crown of sports biggest doping scandal. Russia has been temporarily banned from athletic competition, although is now vowing to clean itself up in time for potential reinstatement in 90 days time.
An indication of the seriousness of this scandal is the fact the Russian sports minister has publicly said Russia were enforce reform to rectify this serious issue. He said to Russian TV “In three months we will once again go to the international federation to present ourselves as compliant with its standards. We hope our team will be reinstated.”
Even Russian president Vladimir Putin is echoing the comments of his sports minister. He said last week “It is essential that we conduct our own internal investigation and provide the most open – and I want to underline the most open – professional co-operation with international anti-doping structures,”.
The WADA report outlines how Russia’s doping programme involved everyone, from top to bottom. It consisted of coaches, security firms linked to the government, athletes, laboratories and even former IAAF president Lamine Diack.
Diack is the most serious name involved in this case, as it’s alleged he took bribes from Russia to cover up their athletes positive drug tests. If this is true, it shows the IAAF was rotten from it’s very core and needs serious reform if it is to continue with the responsibility of running professional world athletics.
Russian Mariya Savinova, left, and Ekaterina Poistogova celebrating their gold and bronze medals respectively in the 2012 Olympic Women’s 800 meter final. Only now are we uncovering another reason behind the nations success in 2012. Photo copyright AFP/Getty Images.
Russia now claims it will have it’s house in order in time for it to compete in major events such as the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Oregon, America next March. Many former athletes and people involved with athletics have called for Russia to be banned from the 2016 Rio Olympics, but will this be too severe a punishment?
Whilst it would certainly justify the sporting fraud committed by Russia, it appears the IAAF is not willing to go that far with it’s punishment. An IAAF spokesman said “Everyone within the IAAF will work tirelessly with authorities in Russia on the reinstatement of the All-Russia Athletics Federation as soon as possible as this is the best outcome for the athletes. This is the first and only priority right now for the IAAF and for Russia.”
That quote doesn’t sound too promising, as it appears Russia will likely be reinstated in time for the major competitions next spring and summer. Whilst some may argue that this current suspension and the worldwide shame is enough of a punishment, personally if Russia is to learn from this it needs to be punished further.
A suspension from the World Indoor Athletics Championships would be an adequate punishment for me, although banning a world superpower such as Russia would be landmark punishment in modern athletics.
For now Russia must focus on sorting itself out so that they can be reinstated to the IAAF. How many Russian athletes will now be stripped of medals is hard to tell, although it’s clear their cheating cannot go unpunished.
The future of Russian athletics hangs in the balance, as it can recover from this major scandal, but it will find it hard to recover from a second similar scandal. For the good of it’s athletes and it’s credibility, Russia needs to metaphorically walk the straight and narrow now.
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