Will Russia be Excluded from the 2016 Olympic Games?
The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro may not include Russia, after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission has determined that Russian athletes used illegal substances. The release of the commission’s report has led to speculation that the Russian Federation will be banned from the next Olympic games in 2016.
An independent commission convened by the WADA concluded that Russia undertook a program of state-sponsored doping for its athletes at the 2012 summer Olympics in London, as well as other international athletic events, like the Chicago Marathon. The inquiry took 10 months, and was created after a German radio station aired a piece that accused Russia of state-sponsored doping. The radio piece featured admissions from athletes, coaches, and others, and claimed that the government had helped to cover up test results that would have excluded Russian athletes from various events.
The report claims that coaches, athletes, trainers, doctors, and the lab in Moscow that is responsible for testing Russian athletes’ samples were all involved. The report mostly focused on track-and-field athletes–a group responsible for a large number of the inquiries. According to a New York Times description of the report:
It detailed payments to conceal doping tests and arrangements by which athletes were made aware of when they would be tested, in violation of code which dictates they be spontaneous, and also the destruction of samples.
The report also said that members of Russian law enforcement agencies were present in the Moscow lab and involved in the efforts to interfere with the integrity of the samples, creating ‘an atmostphere of intimidation’ on lab processes and staff members.
The findings also criticized Russia for a “deeply rooted culture of cheating at all levels” and said that the Russian athletes who competed despite doping essentially sabotaged the 2012 Summer Olympic games because they shouldn’t have been allowed to compete in the first place. Russian athletes won 24 gold medals in those games.
Richard W. Pound, who was a co-author of the report and a member of the commission, stated that the commission’s recommendation is that the Russian Federation is suspended from bringing athletes to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio. The report also recommends that five of the athletes and coaches implicated be banned from their sports for life.
However, whether or not we’ll be seeing Russia at the 2016 games will be left up to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). In light of the allegations from the WADA report, the president of the IAAF, Seb Coe, said:
We need time to properly digest and understand the detailed findings included in the report. However, I have urged the Council to start the process of considering sanctions against All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF).
This step has not been taken lightly. Our athletes, partners and fans have my total assurance that where there are failures in our governance or our anti-doping programmes we will fix them.
We will do whatever it takes to protect the clean athletes and rebuild trust in our sport. The IAAF will continue to offer the police authorities our full cooperation into their ongoing investigation.
While Russia’s absence from the 2016 Olympic Games would surely be missed, and could affect viewership and ratings, if a suspension is what it takes for the country to crack down on doping, that may be the path the IAAF chooses.