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The 2016 Summer Olympic games are less than 2 weeks away.  Athletes have competed in their respective Trials and are set to take take center stage in Rio de Janeiro on August 5th.  In Brazil they will be representing themselves, their families and their countries.  And for some, the opportunity to represent their country is the greatest opportunity of them all.  Olympic athletes are often worshipped as superheroes in their native lands.  It’s no secret that sending athletes who perform well at the Olympics has been the source of national pride; an opportunity to boast to the rest of the world about the elite talent that comes from one’s home soil.  The vast majority of the time, that desire to showcase one’s national talent leads to healthy, fair competition.  It breeds hard work, ingenuity and sacrifice.  But eeevery so often, a country’s desire to be the best in international competition leads the country and its athletes down a dark road; a road of lies, cheating and doping.  Unfortunately, it has recently come to light that Russia had been led down such a dark road. 

Headlines have been swarming with accusations that Russia’s athletes were in the midst of one of the largest state-sponsored doping schemes the world has ever seen.  Evidence was presented, investigations occurred and decisions were issued that would have an enormous impact on Russia’s athletes and international competition as a whole.  But do you really know what’s going on?  I, for one, can admit that initially I wasn’t aware of the full extent of what had been revealed.  With all the coverage on protests, elections, violence and Zika that has been flooding my senses, I really hadn’t had time to delve into the inner workings of Russia’s doping empire.  Last night though, I had the chance to catch up on things. What I learned was, without exaggeration, shocking.  And being the good blogger that I am, I know it’s only right that I share what I’ve learned with you.  So today, with 5 simple questions and 5 simple answers, I’m going to break down what in the world is going on in Russia.  Trust me, it’s really bad and really far reaching.

The start of the Olympic Games is in 10 days, will Russia be competing?

While the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) called for a complete ban of Russian athletes from the 2016 Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), via its Executive Board, decided that a full-on ban went too far against the principles of individual culpability, justice and the presumption of innocence.  So rather than ban all Russian athletes from competing in the Olympics, the IOC has determined that Russian athletes may compete only if they can essentially prove that they are clean by passing rigorous standards.  The decision was reached in an effort to balance the fact that doping has been widespread among Russian athletes, that every innocent person deserved the opportunity to compete and that the Olympics are quickly approaching.

Here’s how an athlete who desires to compete in the Summer Games under Russia’s flag can do so.  She must prove the following to its International Sports Federation (IF)*:

  1. That she and her participation meet standards and principles outlined at the Olympic Summit on June 21, 2016.

  2. That a thorough review of her anti-doping record, taking into account only reliable adequate international tests and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules, proves that she has never been sanctioned for testing positive for any banned substances.

  3. That her name was not associated with the WADA Independent Person (IP) Report by Prof. Richard McLaren.

  4. That an expert from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has reviewed and agrees with the determination that she can compete.


Well that’s a lot to prove.  What is the WADA IP Report by Prof. Richard McLaren?

It’s the report of WADA’s investigation into allegations that Russia was involved in state-sponsored manipulation of the doping control process.  The investigation was conducted by Prof. Richard McLaren who works independent of the WADA.  Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the WADA-accredited laboratory in Moscow (Moscow laboratory), made the initial allegations.

What kind of stuff did the WADA Investigation uncover?

The investigation showed, beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The Moscow laboratory operated since 2011, for the protection of doped Russian athletes, within a State-dictated failsafe system, by getting rid of athletes’ positive drug tests; i.e. athletes tested positive, and they ditched the results.

  2. The Sochi laboratory (set up for the 2014 Games) operated a unique sample swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the Games; i.e. they swapped dirty pee for clean pee.

  3. The Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes’ analytical results and sample swapping, with active help from the Federal Security Service (FSB); the Center of Sports Preparation of National Teams of Russia (CSP); and, both Moscow and Sochi laboratories.

  4. The Russian National Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) was involved in the scheme; and, that some of the key people involved, in particular the deputy sports minister, were members of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

  5. State oversight and directed control of the Moscow laboratory in processing and covering up urine samples of Russian athletes was applied to all sport disciplines whose urine samples were being analyzed by the Moscow laboratory, including 20 Summer and Paralympic Games’ sports.

  6. The Minister of Sport manipulated the 2014 Sochi Games; the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow; the 2013 World University Games in Kazan; and, put measures in place to circumvent anti-doping processes before the 2012 London Games.

Based on those and other findings the WADA made the following recommendations:

  1. That the IOC and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) consider declining entries for Rio 2016, of all athletes submitted by the ROC and the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC), but that any exceptional entry of a Russian athlete should be considered by the IOC and IPC for participation under a neutral flag and in accordance with very strict criteria. Ban em all.

  2. That the IFs from sports implicated in the McLaren Report consider their responsibilities under the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) as far as their Russian National Federations (NFs) are concerned.

  3. That Russian government officials to be denied access to international competitions, including Rio 2016.

  4. The Russian National Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to remain classified as non-compliant under the Code and its staffing and independence to be further reviewed by WADA.

  5. That the accreditation process of the Moscow laboratory) to be stopped.

  6. That the FIFA Ethics Committee to look into allegations concerning football and the role played by a member of its Executive Committee, Minister Vitaly Mutko.

  7. That Prof. McLaren and his team to complete their mandate provided WADA can secure the funding that would be required.


Who is Yuliya Setpanova?

Based on WADA’s recommendation that limited exception be made for Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag, Yuliya Setpanova petitioned the IOC to do such.  Setpanova is an 800m runner who originally approached the WADA in 2010 with allegations about Russia’s doping scheme but was told that WADA had no investigative powers. She took the story to investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt, whose explosive 2014 documentary set in motion the chain of events that led to Richard McLaren’s report into Russia’s state-sponsored doping program.

Although she played a pivotal role in uncovering the scheme, the IOC declined to let her compete under a neutral flag because she had previously been sanctioned for the use of banned substances and had (at one time) benefitted from Russia’s scheme.

So what happens now?

Now? Well it looks like the Russian Olympic team will be noticeably smaller than in prior years. Any inkling of doping indiscretion or existence of past doping indiscretions will disqualify Russian athletes from competition. It’s also likely that the WADA investigation will continue and implicate additional athletes and future games. So this isn’t the last we’ll hear of things.

While the IOC’s decision doesn’t sit well with the vast majority of the Olympic athletic community, I always lean towards giving people the opportunity to separate themselves from the guilty pack. The evidence says that everybody and their grandma was involved in the doping scheme, but if a woman can move mountains to prove she wasn’t a member of the cheating crew, she should be allowed to compete. What will be interesting to see is just how many can move those mountains.

*An IF is the international non-governmental organization recognized by the IOC as administering and managing one or more sports at world level.

What do you think? Should the Russian athletes be allowed to participate if they can prove their innocence or is the cheating too far reaching that everyone must be banned? Let us know what you think! And follow on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


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