Russia has been accused of a state sponsored doping program. Now there are attempts to ban Russia from the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. Anti-doping agencies are pressuring the IOC to take legal action against Russia in the matter. There are claims that there was a cover-up of positive tests of certain athletes who competed in the 2012 London Olympics. The question remains what evidence is there of a large state sponsored doping program? Is this really about performance enhancing drug use or political motivations?When examining the events this possible ban becomes all the more suspicious. If this complete ban goes through the IOC will have officially abandoned its policy of international inclusion. Other nations like the US or UK do not seen to value that promoting the ban of Russia in their newspapers and mass media. It is not fair nor is it wise to ban Russian athletes. Doing so, is unjust to athletes who did not use performance enhancing drugs. The World Anti-doping Agency has now brought the War on Drugs to sports and it could have devastating consequences. Sports organizations have the right to ban whatever substances they wish, but they must realize every drug cannot be detected. If this practice is to continue then eventually a vast number of nations could be banned. Suspending individual athletes from competition is fair within certain rules, bur collective punishment of a country shows a vindictive motivation.
This movement to ban Russia from the games began with the former director of Russia’s Anti-doping lab. His name is Girgory Rodchenkov who is now presented as a hero in the Western media. He claimed that the Russian government forced him to cover-up positive drug tests that were from athletes who competed in Sochi and the 2012 Olympics. Roddchenkov made the claim of an alleged state sponsored doping program to The New York Times in May. The World Anti-Doping Agency took his claims seriously, which prompted an investigation. It seems odd that all of a sudden he would reveal a program or claim it exists. This is only one person, but there are accusations from other individuals. Yulia Stepanova said she was provided performance enhancing drugs under a state sponsored program. Her husband Vitaly Stepanov corroborated her claim. The two filmed what appeared to be Russian athletes discussing doping with their coaches and gave it to a German broadcaster ARD. They told their story which became a television documentary in 2014.
Her husband was working at the Russian Anti-doping Agency. How can one be certain that all were using performance enhancing drugs? It could be possible that Yulia’s husband provided her with drugs, but not others. They could have known others using, but were not organizing as a collective unit. The fact that these whistle blowers did work in Anti-doping labs gives them credibility. There are still unresolved factors. Specifically which officials were involved in the day to day management of the program? This appears to be the actions of coaches and athletes obsessed with winning at all costs. Government officials either had some knowledge or none about the actual practice of performance enhancing drug use. This means it was not a secretive government policy. East Germany during the Cold War had a doping program dictated by government policy. Furtive it gave athletes performance enhancing drugs without their knowledge or consent. Rodenchenkov claims he switched urine samples before the Sochi Games in 2014. Although there are still questions in these series of events some have already made up their minds. Anti-doping agencies from more than ten nations are pushing for a ban on Russia participating in the Olympics. The Anti-doping agencies of the United States, Germany, and Canada have become the most vociferous. This development leads to another discussion of a motivation bigger than sports.
Russia and the West are witnessing a deterioration in relations. Particularly with the United States, Russia has found no common ground. Disagreements over Ukraine and Syria are creating conflict. This had projected itself in all areas of life. This Russian ban from the Olympics may be America’s way of seeking revenge against Russia for hindering foreign policy objectives. The United States wanted to see regime change in Syria by killing Bashar Al-Assad with rebel groups active in the country. Russia intervened on the behalf of the government fighting both ISIS and US supported rebels. The US encouraged the protests against President Viktor Yanukoych. The democratically elected government was deposed and Russia reacted by supporting rebels in the Eastern section of the country. This was then followed by a referendum by Crimea to join the Russian Federation. Washington was vexed at Moscow and then set about as presenting Russia as a danger. Part of this campaign is to present Russia and its people as malevolent. This Cold War like mindset and Russophobia has contaminated the sports world. Russians are now seen as “cheaters” or ” evil dopers.” It ignores the fact that athletes from other nations have used performance enhancing drugs. It is not a monopoly of one country, but if one only has Western mainstream media as their only source of information many would be convinced.
Russia Today provides its perspective on the ban on Russia. It provides some valid points.
This has not been the only time the West has attempted to stop Russia from being a participant in international competitions. There were attempts to stop Russia from hosting Sochi Olympic Games and the World Cup. This behavior is following a pattern. Isolating Russia will not solve anything in sports or politics.
The IOC is in the process of coming to a decision on whether or not to ban Russia officially. This raises the question of fairness, a concept that is preached, but never practiced. There is a change that individual athletes can still go to the games to compete. However, this case by case basis could take a long period of time considering there are 25 sports federations that non-users would have to go through. Time is already short and Russian athletes are eager to compete. This process should have been done months ago if it were actually trying to be fair. Then again, the Olympics has never been truly fair. It has a long history of sex and racial discrimination. Transsexual athletes are still marginalized and treated with suspicion. Sports have a long history of homophobia. A complete ban would be a regression. It would prove that the idea of Olympic inclusion is a myth and further divide sports organizations. Athletes who followed the guidelines in regards banned substances would be punished for no reason. Many athletes who trained hard are being denied the opportunity to compete over disputes not even related to doping itself. Yelena Isinbayeva champion pole vaulter athlete has harshly condemned the rulings of the IAAF. She has revealed that the organization is now under orders to prevent Russian participation in the games. Talent athletes who never used performance enhancing drugs like Isinbayeva now have to defend themselves in courts of athletic governing bodies. Athletes thought is they followed the rules perfectly nothing would ever happen to them. That belief has been proven false.
The biggest irony out of this was that Yulia Stepanova will be allowed to compete in Rio. She has confirmed her use and acted as an informant. The Doping Review Board of the IAAF has cleared her for competition. When her biological passport showed irregularities in 2013 she was banned. Then she moved to the US with her husband. Yulia will not be competing for Russia, but as an independent neutral athlete. The fact she has earned eligibility to compete demonstrates an egregious double standard. The message is if you are willing to collaborate with a particular agenda former incidents will be absolved. For others the rules will be applied differently, but it will not be the same for everyone. Yelena Isinbayeva has to fight to compete, even though she did nothing wrong. So far, there is no evidence that her biological passport was altered. This only proves that fairness is an illusion in sports.
A War on Drugs model is slowly being adopted and this could have dire consequences. It has been known that in the US the War on Drugs has fueled a prison industrial complex, which targets non-whites. It has made profits off of people’s incarceration. The sports world is now adopting this model and it will eventually cause more problems. The World Anti-Doping Agency may seek assistance from the UN to go further than just forcing sports organizations to ban athletes. They may try to give them prison time. The IOC and the IAAF may become compliant with this to improve its already negative image. Certain nations will be targeted simply because they are non-Western. There should be concrete proof of state sponsored drug programs, before it is taken seriously. Otherwise nations with vendettas against one another will attempt to get the other banned. India could try this with Pakistan or Israel with its Arab neighbors. The current system of suspending athletes who test positive works well enough. Suspending entire nations will lead to hostility. The crusade against “drug cheats” seems like a self righteous and almost egotistical campaign. It is true that performance enhancing drug use has been a part of sports through out history. According to mainstream media, one would assume that it is mostly athletes who consume these drugs. The reality is is non-athletes are taking mostly anabolic androgenic steroids. The casual non-athletic user may do it as a quick method of weight loss. Drug use may not be as extensive as previously thought. There is corruption just like other institutions. Condemning entire nations to a no competition prison reflects an extreme bias.
it is unfortunate that athletes who did not test positive have to go through an application process. Collective punishment has never been proven to be just. Russia should be allowed to compete in the Rio Games out of the principle of fairness. Fans want to see various nations compete, not a select few. The world is a vast and diverse place of different people. Exclusion will only harm possibilities of understanding and trust. Although many want to keep politics out of sports, its unavoidable. Some would like the Olympics to become a place were different nations can come together and enjoy great entertainment. The Olympics could be a platform of reducing international tension through sports activity. People who seek it to be a divisive tool or a way to exclude certain countries are doing a disservice. There are already wars and economic disputes further eroding an international community. The Olympics should not be a part of that. Banning Russia is not a rational answer to performance enhancing drug use. Updated drug testing and more competent sample analysis can help. Most importantly there needs to be a shift away from the win at all cost culture that has emerged in sports. This value drives athletes to drug use. Russia must not be banned for the sake of IOC credibility. A final decision will be made on Sunday July 24 on what legal action to take. The only hope is that Russia will be given clearance to send its athletes to Rio.