Russia faces a countrywide ban from this summer’s Olympics after evidence has emerged of a four-year state-sponsored doping programme.
A report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency found the majority of urine samples from Russian Olympians tested from late 2011 to August 2015 had been tampered with. The International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s decision whether to provisionally ban Russia is due imminently as they explore their legal options ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
An independent commission was set up by WADA to look into claims by Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory. Rodchenkov claims he doped dozens of athletes, including at least fifteen medalists, in the build-up to Sochi and and the 2012 Olympics in London. He is now in hiding in the United States.
Dr Richard McLaren led the commission to examine Rodchenkov’s allegations and found that 580 positive tests were covered up across 30 different sports. WADA now wants McLaren to identify all the Russian athletes who benefited from the programme in a full report and is pushing for the IOC to ban all athletes associated with the Russian Olympic Committee. Russia’s track and field athletes are already barred from competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio after IAAF voted to ban the Russian athletic federation in June.
Any decision made by the IOC will cause upset. Clean athletes will be unable to compete under a blanket ban if it is decided to bar Russia from the event entirely, but many commentators have argued that a doping program of such a scale requires a strong return message from the IOC. The committee’s president, Thomas Bach, has promised the “toughest sanctions available” and called the findings of the report a “shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games.”
The findings of the report are far more shocking than anyone could have predicted and appear as damaging to WADA and the IOC as they are to the Russian government. As BBC sport editor Dan Roan has pointed out, it is tough to fathom how such an elaborate scheme could take place in a WADA-accredited lab – and why it took a whistleblower to unearth the corruption in the first place.
The Russian government continue to deny the claims, though it has been reported that they have fired the deputy sports minister named in the report. Regardless of what happens, it has been decades since such shade has been cast on the integrity of the athletes at the Olympic Games.
What do you think? Should Russia face a countrywide ban or should athletes outside of the allegations be allowed to compete? Post your thoughts in the comments below.