The Olympic Doping Scandal: Corruption Tarnishes A Great Sporting Nation

December 7, 2017

The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from participating in 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea after its investigation into a doping scandal extending over more than three years.

The IOC also suspended the work of the Russian Olympic Committee until they agree to comply with all of the the IOC’s instructions. Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko and his Deputy Yuri Nagornykh have also been banned from attending any of the Olympic games in the future.

The Russian Olympic committee is now obliged to reimburse the expenses to the IOC for investigation and to sponsor the Independent Testing Authority, which will cost Russia $15 million.  In addition, all authorities that took part in the Sochi Olympics will not be invited to attend the games in South Korea.

WADA and the Doping Free Sport Unit have agreed that some Russian athletes without a history of doping violations will be allowed to participate in the Olympics under a neutral flag and will be classified as Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR).  However, athletes are forbidden from wearing their country’s flag and, if they make it to the podium, will be honoured under the official Olympic Anthem.

Today’s investigation began after the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and up until now has caused 10 Russian medals to be revoked.  Grigory Rodchenkov, director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, claimed that Russia ran a state-backed doping programme supported by the FSB which provided performance-enhancing drugs and created the framework for concealing the results by switching urine samples.  The McLaren report stated that more than 1000 athletes were involved in the doping conspiracy between 2011-2015.

Earlier WADA had requested Russia to admit that doping was the initiative of individual athletes and not a part of state policy and also to give access to the samples of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, a request that the Russian government refused to comply with.

Despite the fact that many in the West expected Russia to boycott Olympic games after the decision was made (which could result in an 8-year ban from all Olympic participation), Russian president Vladimir Putin revealed that there would be no boycott from the Russian side and the he won’t stop athletes participating under a neutral flag if they wish to do so. Putin also added: “Firstly, we are partly to blame for this, we gave them a reason [to doubt us]. Secondly, I think that this reason was used in a dishonest way since collective responsibility is not a part of any system of International law.”

Some have called the decision a political provocation, taking into account the current relationship between the USA and Russia, and Russia and the Western world at large after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.  For now it is up to individual Russian athletes to decide whether they want to participate under the neutral flag, although the majority of state TV channels have already claimed that they will not broadcast the Olympics without the Russian Olympic team.

Open Russia founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky commented: “Olympic triumph was an important issue that Putin used to strengthen his image as a powerful leader.  But as with any other issue he has taken up over the years, this one turned out to be another poorly thought-out scam. As a result the country and its people now have to pay for the deception of criminals in the Kremlin.  People suffer, sport suffers and the prestige of the country suffers. I believe that the only right and fair decision would be a clear statement by the authorities: “If we are not able to protect the interests of our team in the court, there will be no obstacles for Russian athletes to participate in the Olympics under a neutral flag.”

Whether the Russian flag is present on the podium and its athletes’ attire or not, Russians will still know who their athletes are and what they are capable of.  While claiming that the real problem is with negative perceptions of Russia in the West, the Russian authorities forget that it was they that sacrificed their country’s integrity to acquire glory at any cost.  This time they have to accept that they’ve lost the game.