Russian Doping Scandal: Why It Matters That Russia Is Suspended from Track & Field at Rio 2016 Olympics
The Russian secret service intimidated workers at a drug-testing lab to destroy more than 1,400 samples of positive-drug tests. Shortly after this scandal and many more were uncovered in a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report last week, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) voted overwhelmingly and appropriately to suspend Russia from participating in track & field for the next Olympics in 2016, unless Russia can demonstrate major change in their approach and controls.
According to WADA, Russia has more doping violations than any other country in the world. With 200 violations across 30 different sports, 42 of those violations come from the sport of track and field. Russian doping violations make up 12 percent of the entire world’s doping violations. This week, WADA released a 323-page report exposing the most extensive doping program cover-up since Germany in the 1970’s. The lengthy report lists athletes, coaches, trainers, doctors, and other members of governing bodies that worked to cover up positive drug test results. After this report was released, the IAAF met and made an overwhelming majority decision to suspend Russia from track & field for the Rio 2016 Olympics, with Russia receiving no vote in the matter. In the past couple years, doping has become a huge issue in the sport of track & field. More and more doping allegations have been proven to be true, and more and more Olympic and world championship medals are being taken away from those athletes caught cheating. Whether or not competitions are fair will play a huge role in track & field down the line. It is important that Russia is suspended from the next Olympics and that, even if they do restructure their controls, they still serve the suspension for Rio 2016, as it will promote the importance of clean sport for all.
Approaches and Results
After a WADA report released exposing a very corrupt Russian drug-testing system, an IAAF conference led by president Sebastian Coe voted 22-1 in favor of Russia being banned from track & field in the next Olympics (Rio 2016), with the Russian representative not able to vote.
“This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated,” Coe commented.
Russia will be stripped of hosting the world race walking and world junior championships next year, and of participating in not only the Olympics, but also the World Indoor Championships and the European Track & Field Championships in 2016.
Russia is one of the major superpowers in track & field, finishing just second behind the United States in the medal count at the 2012 Olympics in London.
In order for the suspension to be lifted, Russia must fulfill a list of criteria set by the IAAF. The old, corrupt system leaders must be ousted and new leaders must be put in positions of power and conduct fair drug tests for all athletes. An inspection team is also being established.
WADA is considering imposing lifetime bans on five Russian coaches and five athletes, including the gold and bronze medalists in the women’s 800 meters at the 2012 London Olympics.
Also, all that has come to light sparked a criminal investigation into the former president of track and field’s world governing body, Lamine Diack of Senegal, over allegations that he accepted bribes to allow at least six Russian athletes to participate in competitions, including the 2012 Olympics.
Internal Origin, Strengths – Russia will be penalized for their transgressions, and they will learn their lesson by having to sit out. They will learn that if they want to compete at the highest level, win medals, and make their country proud, they will have to do it the fair and the right way: through pure hard work and sacrifice. Having Russia sit out of track & field in the Olympics shows the seriousness of the issue, that the IAAF and WADA are not messing around.
Internal Origin, Weaknesses – Russia may be allowed back into the Olympics for track & field if the IAAF decides that major changes in their system have been made. If this situation occurs, Russia may not truly learn their lesson. Even if they have to sit out one Olympics, we cannot be too sure that they will change the system. In order to change the system, corrupt leaders of organizations must be ousted and athletes involved in doping must receive lifetime bans. If the leaders that are promoting performance-enhancing drug use under the table stay in power, we can guess that Russia will continue to cheat the system on the world competition stage. The Olympic ban is not fair to Russian athletes that are competing clean (although based on studies, it seems like that number is very low). They have worked very hard for this big moment for a long time, and to have that chance taken away from them because of corruption within their country that they were not a part of seems unfair. On the other side, the Rio suspension might not seem serious enough. There is potential that with one missed Olympics, the penalties are not intense enough to strike immediate change in the Russian track & field system. As discussed previously, those corrupt committee members may not be ousted in that time and will still be in power, promoting doping.
External Origin, Strengths – Through this example of what happens when you do not participate in sport fairly, we have an opportunity to teach young people the right way to compete. We can promote clean sport around the world. Also, it is a warning sign and a red flag to other professional athletes and athletic governing bodies in other countries competing on a global stage. If they are also cheating the system and using performance-enhancing drugs, this penalty for Russia might spark a change in the way their system runs and cause them to clean up their acts. Now, a worldwide doping investigation is being started as well, so awareness is certainly being drawn to the issue.
External Origin, Weaknesses – Corrupt people in the IAAF and other global-athletic governing bodies in positions of power that promote performance-enhancing drugs are potential threats to keeping the sport clean. If they stay in power, there will be improper regulation and no fix to the system’s current flaws.
It was the right decision for the IAAF to suspend Russia from competing in track & field at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The decision right now rules that if Russia makes major changes within their system, the suspension will be lifted. The suspension should not be lifted, even if Russia makes major changes. It can be lifted for future Olympic games, but Russia needs to sit one Olympics out to truly learn their lesson. All professional athletes and members on professional committees need to encourage clean sport for all generations and ages of participants and fans of the sport of track & field. Since the highest level of athletics sets the tone, there should be harsh repercussions when the rules are broken and the sport is tarnished.
Implications and Recommendations
It is important for the running community, fans of track & field, members of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), members of the WADA, the Russian Athletic Federation within the IAAF, the IAAF committee as a whole, the Rio 2016 Olympic committee and officials, and all Olympic and world championship committees and officials to be aware of the serious cheating going on in the sport of track & field. This suspension was meant to create awareness around this topic. It is important to reinforce the IAAF decision that just received an overwhelming majority vote on the Russian doping scandal in track & field. For young people who dream of being professional athletes in the Olympics, it is important for the current athletes to set an example in sport.
The poison in the system needs to be sucked out, and that poison starts with the corrupt leaders of global track & field organizations. We need positive officials encouraging the professional athletes to compete clean, and, in turn, we need positive support among professional athletes to hold each other accountable for fair play. If we continue to encourage clean sport and foster discussions about clean sport, the sport will stay clean for future generations. As the oldest sport in the world, track & field has been around since ancient Greece. We want to make sure it stays around for just as long, the way it was back when there were no drugs and success was based simply on pure talent, hard work, and desire. The sooner we clean up the sport’s act, the sooner can get back to running some good, old laps around “the Oval Office.”
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Douglas, S. (2015, November 11). “The Russian Doping Scandal: How Did We Get Here?” http://www.runnersworld.com/performance-enhancing-drugs/the-russian-doping-scandal-how-did-we-get-here
“IAAF bans Russia over doping scandal.” (2015, November 13). http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-14/iaaf-bans-russia-from-rio-olympics-over-doping-scandal/6940686
Luhn, A., & Ingle, S. (2015, November 15). “Russian athletics begins purge of doping scandal coaches and officials.” http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/nov/15/russian-athletics-begins-purge-of-doping-scandal-coaches-and-officials
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