Russia’s culture of sports cheating

News that Russian athletes have been using performance enhancing drugs comes as no surprise. The scale of the doping, however, as detailed by an independent commission has stunned even the most cynical observers. Russia’s “culture of cheating” involved systematic efforts by the highest levels of the Russian state sports administration and equally determined efforts to hide and cover up those actions. As a result, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last week provisionally suspended Russia as a member — which will keep Russian athletes from joining international competition for an indefinite period. That is the right decision. There can be no meaningful athletic competition when athletes can systematically cheat. Until Russia can provide assurances that its athletes are clean, they should be banned.

The investigation against Russia was spurred by a German documentary released last December that alleged that Russian athletes, coaches, trainers and state officials conspired to dope Russian competitors and then cover up those efforts. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the international body responsible for ensuring that sports are free from performance enhancing drugs, established an independent commission soon. It released its report earlier this month and even the most jaded sports fans have been shocked by its findings.

The report concluded that the German allegations were true. There was a widespread conspiracy to administer and cover up athletics doping and the the Russian Ministry of Sport, the All-Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) and Russia’s National Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) were involved. Not only were athletes willing participants, but those who refused to cheat were often barred from national teams.

Initially, Russian officials denied the charges, calling the campaign politically motivated. The head of the All Russian Athletics Federation, Vadim Zelichenok, said the report looked like a “political hit job.” President Vladimir Putin dismissed the charges as “groundless.”

They changed their tune when the evidence was revealed and the possibility of suspension of all Russian athletes from international competition, perhaps even including the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, became real. The Moscow lab was closed and testing will be done elsewhere. A number of athletes, coaches and doctors have been suspended and could face additional charges.

Full article: Russia’s culture of sports cheating (The Japan Times)

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