Russian Athletes Involved in Doping Scandal
According to World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren, Russia has been implicated in a massive, wide-ranging doping scheme since at least 2011.
McLaren’s report details a huge “institutional conspiracy” that involves over a thousand athletes in as many as 30 different sports. The cheating went so far as to even involve “large-scale sample swapping” during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. About 600 of the athletes implicated participate in summer sports.
This scandal extends to the state level. McLaren said Friday that in addition to the Russian Sports Ministry and the country’s own anti-doping agency, FSB intelligence services were also in on the conspiracy (via the Associated Press):
“It is impossible to know just how deep and how far back this conspiracy goes. For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field. Sports fans and spectators have been deceived. It’s time that this stops.”
The Russian Olympic Committee, however, was reportedly not involved.
Which athletes were implicated?
Individual names of athletes involved have not yet been revealed to the public, but the report indicates that 15 Russians involved in the ‘14 games had doping samples tampered with, including a pair of athletes that combined to take home two gold medals.
Russians also allegedly cheated during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on an “unprecedented scale”, though McLaren says we may never know all of the details.
The WADA claims to have “irrefutable” forensic and DNA evidence that confirms that Russia had knowingly tampered with drug tests and helped swap doping samples. Tests that were sure to come back positive had been allegedly diluted with salt and coffee granules. During the Sochi games in Russia, some urine samples were replaced with clean urine.
No Russian tested positive for any performance-enhancing drugs while any of the Olympic games were ongoing, but that can be attributed to the fact that the country’s sports ministry supplied the athletes with “cocktails of steroids” that helped them avoid detection.
McLaren’s report says that doping became an institutionalized and deliberate scheme in a blatant attempt to secure as many Olympic medals as possible for Russian athletes.
How did this begin?
McLaren raised concern over a potential massive scandal involving the Russians in July, and as a result the WADA recommended that Russia be excluded from the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. The request was denied by the International Olympics Committee, however. Russian athletes would go on to win 56 medals in Rio, good for the fourth-highest total among competing nations. 19 of the medals were gold, 18 were silver and 19 were bronze.
McLaren initially opened his investigation into Russia when Grigory Rodchenkov, a former Moscow doping lab director, claimed to the New York Times that he and many other high-ranking Russian officials were deeply involved in a massive doping scandal during the games in London and Sochi.
1,700 athletes from 109 countries were caught doping in 2014, with 150 of them coming from Russia. That was by far the most from a single country.
What’s next for Russia?
The new findings may affect Russia’s eligibility at the next Olympic games, which are set to take place in the winter of 2018 in South Korea. Thomas Bach, the IOC president, confirmed that any athletes and officials involved in the scheme will be severely punished.
Two separate commissions within the IOC will look into McLaren’s findings and will determine whether and to what extend Russia will be punished.
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