Thursday, July 21, 2016

Russian Athletes are Doped Dupes of the Kremlin's Foreign Policy

It is official.  The IOC will not allow the Russian Track and Field athletes to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. They should bounce the entire Russian contingent from this and all future athletic/sporting events until such time as Russia admits to routine state sponsored  doping and cover-up and cleans up their act. Athletes who did not/do not dope will be punished along with the guilty but the Kremlin should have thought of that ahead of time.  The intent is not to punish any of the athletes but the state.  The only way to do this is to ban them all.  Period.

The athletes apparently did not have much choice:
Athletes were expected to cheat and there were consequences for those that did not. As one coach, Oleg Popov, admitted, they “have no choice but to dope otherwise the athlete is ‘out’, meaning removed from the team”. Systems were in put in place to subvert usual international norms. So, when Russian athletes failed drugs tests, they did not necessarily get caught or punished.
The interference came from the top. The Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, even issued direct orders to “manipulate particular samples” and there was “direct intimidation and interference by the Russian state with the Moscow laboratory operations”. Not only were its offices bugged but its director, Grigory Rodchenkov, was required to meet a security officer from the FSB weekly to update him on the “mood of Wada”.
But Rodchenkov was not an innocent party. As the independent commission revealed he was an integral part of the conspiracy to extort money from athletes in order to cover up positive results. Staggeringly he was also involved in “the intentional and malicious destruction” of 1,417 samples to deny evidence for the inquiry. A shadow laboratory that covered up positive doping results by destroying samples was also set up by the Russian state.
Once his laboratory was stripped of its right to conduct tests, Rodchenkov resigned, fled to the USA and turned 'state's evidence'.  He is wanted in Russia for (treason??).

The Russian official response is, of course, "Why is everybody always picking on me?" "It is a conspiracy". "It is political".  CIA, USA, etc etc.  Same old same old.

All countries have athletes and coaches who will cheat and when they are caught, they will be punished as individuals.  But when it is state policy, then the country as a whole must be punished. Russia seems to have decided that international laws or rules of any kind do not apply to them.  They need to be disencumbered of that notion.

After the blow out at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, I guess Putin et al decided that for Sochi, they better come up with something good.  If you cannot train superior athletes, then boost the ones you have and make sure no one finds out. Here is what they did for tests in Russia:

These are the results of the investigation conducted last year:
  • Russia is alleged to have 'sabotaged' London 2012 through systemic doping: Many of Russia's athletes at London 2012 had suspicious doping profiles, including 800m champion Mariya Savinova.
  • Some athletes are alleged to have refused and avoided tests: Athletes refused to take doping tests, gave incorrect phone numbers to anti-doping officials, paid money to cover up positive tests and returned from doping bans early.
  • Some doctors, coaches and lab staff were in on the alleged cover-up:Doctors and coaches provided banned substances to athletes, coaches and team officials hindered and bullied anti-doping officials, and laboratory personnel destroyed samples and covered up positive tests.
  • And so too was the Russian government: The Russian security service FSB allegedly operated a "culture of intimidation" at the anti-doping labs, and it was "inconceivable" that Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko did not know what was going on.
  • The IAAF was 'inexplicably lax' in tackling the problem: Athletics' global governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations failed to deal with the problem until it was too late, delaying its investigation of individual cases so long that suspect athletes were allowed to compete in London.
An independent investigation was conducted this year by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) led by Canadian Dr. Richard McLaren.
  • Russia decided to cheat following the "very abysmal" medal count of 15 at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  
  • Cheating was "planned and operated" from late 2011 - including the build-up to London 2012 - and continued through the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics until August 2015. Russia's sports ministry "directed, controlled and oversaw" manipulation of urine samples provided by its athletes.
  • Russian athletes benefited from what the report called the "Disappearing Positive Methodology", whereby positive doping samples would go missing.
  • It began making positive drug tests disappear from its anti-doping laboratories in late 2011
  • Before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia created a storage bank of clean, frozen urine
  • Russia's security service, the FSB, worked in a building next to the Sochi laboratory, swapping positive urine samples for clean negative ones through a "mouse hole", adding table salt to make them weigh the same
  • A key FSB agent had access to the Sochi anti-doping laboratory, disguised as a sewage and plumbing contractor
  • But, in swapping urine samples, the FSB agents left miniscule tool marks on the bottles - later found by McLaren's investigators using a microscope
  • The Moscow laboratory destroyed 8,000 samples it held dated prior to 10 September 2014
The whistleblowers who started the investigations, VitalyStepanov and his wife Yulia Rusanova, are in hiding, fearing for their lives as they have been called 'traitors to the Motherland'. 

In 2010, Vitaly began sending WADA evidence that he said showed the cheating was systemic in Russian athletics, and Vitaly's employer, the Russian anti-doping agency, was not exposing, but, in fact, enabling the cheating. Vitaly was fired in 2011. Prior to that he had held several positions, including as an adviser to the director of the agency.
In 2013, Yuliya received a two-year ban from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) because of past doping infractions. 
The WADA commission's investigation didn't begin until December 2014, and only after the Stepanovs went public in a sensational German documentary about their allegations. 

The IAAF apparently knew about Russian doping years before an done of their upper echelon is being investigated for his ties.  WADA wasn't all that anxious to get involved wither until Stepanovs went public.

Where this ends is hard to say but Stepanovs and Rodchenkov need to be careful with whom they have tea and avoid high rise apartments with balconies. Hard to avoid guns or car bombs though.


  1. I agree that the entire Russian contingent should be banned from the Olympics, not just the track and field team. There has GOT to be an appropriate penalty for STATE sponsored cheating on this scale. But they say that the IOC will probably not go this far. The corrupt IOC is part of the problem too then.

    1. Putin is counting on the IOC.
      The IOC needs housecleaning for sure. As do all the international sporting oversight bodies. They are answerable to no one and as corrupt as opportunity presents.

  2. I often wonder whether we should have an alternate version of the Olympics where anything goes. At least that way there would be no allegations of cheating, and the freak-show aspect might be more entertaining than endless arguments over who took what.

    1. It has been suggested. It would not solve the problem as clean athletes still need a venue to compete and doped athletes would continue to cheat to get accepted in that venue. all that can be done is to strengthen WADA, IAAF, IOC etc and force some accountability.

  3. sports are over rated. They are just games.
    the Ol'Buzzard

    1. Sports also give us a chance to experience events that make us feel proud of our community and give us bragging rights. Especially important to a country like Russia with a huge inferiority complex

  4. I like the idea of the "Anything Goes Games." I'm old enough to remember when the games were restricted to amateurs and money was not the biggest motivator. Although amateur was redefined rather quickly.

    1. According to The Economist, we had one of those in Moscow in 1980.


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