The Act in Question:

The recently discovered Russian doping scandal has been a hot topic amongst many within the past few weeks. It was just discovered that Russia has been funding and pressuring many of their best athletes to engage in illegal doping acts. Both athletes and their superiors were involved in what is considered to be the most extensive state-sponsored doping program. Members of Russia’s secret service were intimidating workers at drug testing labs to hide athletes’ positive test results. As well, these officers disguised themselves as lab engineers during the Olympics in Sochi; in order to ensure performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) remained undetected. To protect against random, unexpected testing, Russian athletes used fake identities in order to keep a clean record. Other athletes have been caught giving bribes to anti doping officials, resulting in the submission of many counterfeit urine samples. Since athletes, coaches, trainers, doctors and various Russian institutes have been involved, this event has grown into a worldwide disgrace.

Russia is the leader in sports doping:

June 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency released statistics on doping across 118 countries. Russia was the highest contributor of violations, having 225 across 30 sports (42 from track and field)

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The Repercussions:

As a result of Russia violating the rules set forth by the WADA, the entire Russian track and field team has been suspended from participating in any sanctioned international event. As well, these athletes will be prohibited from competing in the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, if Russia does not put in extreme efforts to improve their anti-doping protocols.

The Conflict of Interest:

There is a major conflict of interest within a country, with regards to sport. Every country is responsible for ensuring that all their athletes are not using PEDs. However, at the same time, they want their athletes to be the top performers. This puts countries in a rather awkward position, as it becomes their responsibility to expose their own athletes in the event of illegal actions. With regard to Russia, it is evident that they put a greater importance on their athletes winning, instead of making sure they are drug free.

In my opinion there is a big distinction between helping an athlete hide their doping results, versus promoting athletes to engage in doping activities. I strongly disagree with both acts, however I believe that promoting athletes to use these drugs is much worse. This is because when a country promotes their athletes to use PEDs, there is a lot of pressure placed on athletes to do something that is illegal and could ruin their careers.

In Coping with Doping, Jan Boxill states, “All who compete should have the same chance to excel”. However, since many athletes on the Russian team were doping while their competitors did not know, the playing field was distorted. No longer did everyone have the same chance to excel; doping was putting the Russian athletes at an unfair advantage. As well, many issues can occur within the team dynamic as a result of doping. This is due to the fact that the doping athletes will be performing at much higher levels compared to those who are opposed to taking drugs. The clean athletes will fear being removed from the team, as there is the potential for their performance results to be much lower than their teammates.

As well, the pressure to use PEDs can cause anxiety and stress for athletes as many do not want to cause harm to their bodies. One of the values regarding the spirit of sport is living a healthy lifestyle. This value is completely demolished when athletes start taking PED’s, as they can have serious negative effects on health.

The Athletes:

It is challenging to decide whether or not the Russian track team should be punished for these doping allegations. On one hand some of them willingly engaged in taking PEDs and were knowingly cheating. However, on the other hand, there was so much pressure constantly being put on them to do so. As a professional athlete there is a lot of pressure to impress your coaches and to perform to the best of your abilities.

If you were given an easy, illegal route to be the best athlete and were promised that nobody would find out, would you do it?

I understand why these athletes chose to dope, as the pressures must have been frightening and very overwhelming. However, I still believe they should be prohibited to compete because it is extremely unfair to clean athletes who put in hard work to achieve their goals. These athletes should remain suspended, until Russia proves there is no doping amongst their athletes. I think this is what needs to be done for the world to trust these athletes again. However at the same time it is unfair that in order for them to compete again they have to wait for Russia as a whole to clean up their act. Once individual athletes are clean they will still be prohibited from competing until WADA approves Russia as a whole.

What about the innocent athletes?

There are many athletes on the Russian track team that were not involved in doping. However, the punishments are not being dispersed on an individual basis, they have been given to the entire team. This leaves many clean athletes being punished for acts which they did not commit. These innocent athletes should be separated from the doping ones and should be allowed to compete in the next Olympics. These are the athletes who have put in the hard work and devoted their lives to playing fair and competing on the basis of pure skill. They should not have to pay for the mistakes made by their superior Russian supervisors, leaders and teammates. Just because they were born in Russia, does not mean they should be associated with this mess.

There are many stories in the media that ultimately conclude with harsh thoughts towards these Russian athletes. I recently read the words of an anonymous Russian athlete who is being banned from competing. She stated, “I am clean but nobody believes me. I am a Russian athlete so everyone’s view outside my country is that I must be cheating”. It is hard not to conclude that it is unfair for those who truly are innocent to be banned from competing after all their hard work. There needs to be a way to distinguish between the athletes who used illegal substances and those who didn’t.

For further knowledge:

  • Click HERE for an extensive report on the Russian doping program
  • Click HERE for a 60 second summary of the scandal

What are your thoughts?

Do you think it is fair for all of the Russian athletes to be banned from competing?

Should athletes be held responsible when it was their coaches and superiors pressuring them to dope?

What could be done to prevent this from occurring in the future?

Leave your comments below!

Works Cited:

  1. “Athletics: Russia Doping Crisis in 60 Seconds.” BBC Sport. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
  2. “Russia’s Doping Scandal Could Prompt Major Changes to Global Drug Testing.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. 
  3. Mather, Victor, and Christopher Clarey. “Russia Suspended From World Track and Field.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Nov. 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
  4. Ruiz, Rebecca R. “Drugs Pervade Sport in Russia, World Anti-Doping Agency Report Finds.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 Nov. 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
  5. Savulescu, J., Fobby, B., & Clayton, M. (2004). Why We Should Allow Performance Enhancing Drugs In Sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 38, 666-670.
  6. Corlett, J., Brown, V., & Kirkland, K. (2013). Coping with Doping. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport,40(1), 41-64.
  7. The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, n.d. Web. 22 Nov.2015.

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