Russia Does It Again

In my project, I discussed performance enhancing drugs in a fair amount of detail. I talked about a few examples throughout, but I didn’t elaborate too much on Russia’s history of systematic cheating. For one of my earlier experiments, I outlined a podcast series in which one of the episodes (but not the one I wrote a script for in the sample excerpt) was designed to talk about the country’s history with state-sponsored doping and cover-up evidence of PED use by Russian athletes. Some of you may remember that IOC sanctioned Russia for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and Russian athletes that were determined to be unaffiliated with the scandal were specially cleared and allowed to compete under the designation “OAR”, or Olympic Athlete from Russia. The country of Russia was officially not allowed to participate, and athletes could not fly the Russian flag.

However, there was an agreement reached that, if RUSADA (Russia’s anti-doping program) could prove it had turned a new leaf, Russia would be permitted to enter in the upcoming Olympics and other world championships. However, recent WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) investigations revealed that Russia was still not in compliance with its standards and placed further sanctions on the national athletic programs. This time, the ban on international sport is for four years, which means that Russia will not be able to officially compete in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020 or 2022, as well as the 2022 World Cup and many other sports’ world championships. Russia has announced that they are appealing the ban, but their history and current proceedings indicate that the appeal will not be successful.

Here’s a link for a brief overview https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/dec/19/russia-confirms-appeal-against-four-year-world-anti-doping-agency-ban-athletics

It is important to note, however, that this ban on Russian participation is not, in fact, a full ban on Russian participation. The sanctions are meaningful—they can’t host international competitions, such as the planned 2022 Wrestling World Championships, and Russian athletes may be likewise prevented from competing in international competition. However, in an attempt to dissociate the state’s transgressions from individuals who may not be involved, WADA will allow athletes who can prove they have not been implicated or affected by the state programs that initiated the ban to compete under a neutral flag, as in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. So in reality, although Russia is officially banned from international competition, many of its athletes will still be permitted to compete over the next four years, just not under a Russian flag. As a result, the sanctions are regarded by some as more of a slap on the wrist than anything, and not actually doing much, if anything, to punish Russia or compel them to start complying with WADA rules. It will be interesting to see what percentage of Russia’s athletes make the cut to compete under the neutral flag for upcoming events, and whether we will ever see a RUSADA that fully embraces WADA’s requirements or if they will continue the pattern of organized deception that has plagued their reputation for years now.

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