The Russian Athletics Doping Scandal

 

Recently, there was a huge scandal about Russian athletics and doping.  There are allegations of drug doping and blood doping.  Drug doping is taking an illegal substance like erythropoietin (EPO), which increases your oxygen levels in the blood you already have.  Blood doping is taking out a portion of your own blood so your body will re-create that blood.  When you put the blood back in, you will have more blood, giving you more oxygen, which results in better performance.  Both of these doping techniques increase your oxygen levels in your blood, which leads to better performance.  Both of these methods of doping are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC); though not everyone abides by the rules.

There is an article that starts with a video of a Russian official talking about the scandal and then the article goes on to talk about the specifics of what the Russian officials and athletes did to enhance the athletes’ performance (click here to view the full article).  What are your thoughts on the actions and reactions of the Russians once getting caught?

The Russian officials argue that the athletes shouldn’t be punished now when they are clean because these issues happened years ago and haven’t been repeated since.  They feel the whole situation was dealt with in a biased way and everyone is overreacting.  How do we know the athletes are clean now?  Perhaps they have just come up with better ways to hide the evidence of doping.

The Russians are feigning ignorance to any illegal doping, yet it is hard to believe that they were unaware of not only the doping itself, but its illegal nature in elite sports.  In one breath they are denying it all together, and the next they are saying that the doped athletes should not be penalized for actions taken years ago.  This is a complete contradiction of their earlier stance.  If they are lying and trying to absolve themselves of any wrong doing now with proven scientific evidence proving their use of illegal doping, how can we trust them going forward?  Are we too in the wrong for letting them continue without stronger penalties?

Immediately after allegations of altered drug tests and false positive results, the International Athletics Foundation (IAC) Chief resigned and temporarily closed the laboratory after WADA suspended its accreditation.  The laboratory’s head has also resigned since these accusations came out, claiming he resigned so he could take all the negativity with him; preserving the integrity of the Russian team and the lab testing facility.  Sounds to me like they are sacrificing the laboratory’s head in an attempt to resolve themselves of any wrong doings.  The investigation leads directly to the Russian teams so it was only a matter of time before they got caught.

The laboratory testing was extensive, processing over 20 different sports’ tests annually; making us wonder if doping is more prevalent in sports than we realize.

Two Canadian Olympic athletes have spoken up about the recent news of the Russian doping scandal, and are not happy about it.  To see just how frustrated and mad they are, click here.

Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff was one spot away from competing in the finals for the 1500m running event at the 2012 Olympics.  That one spot was taken by a Russian Olympian – one that has since been charged with doping!

Hilary Stellingwerff 2012

Hilary Stellingwerff 2012 (The Canadian Press).

Think about how devastating this would be if you were in Hilary’s position.  Imagine training your whole life, are so close to competing in the finals for a chance to win an Olympic gold medal, an OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL, and you were robbed of that opportunity by someone’s unfair advantage because they were doping.  It’s more than unfair, it’s unprofessional, unsportsmanlike, and unacceptable!

The second Canadian athlete who spoke out about the doping scandal was an Olympian named Evan Dunfee.  He competed in the race walking event. And like Hilary, was robbed of his podium opportunity by a Russian Olympian who has since been noted for doping.  Evan thinks that because some of Russia’s athletes doped, Russia should be banned from all Olympic sport to make them realize how serious the world, WADA, and the IOC are about not doping.  He thinks that if Russian athletes can’t abide by the rules of NO doping, then none of the Russian athletes should be allowed to compete.

Is banning Russia as a whole from the Olympics the solution; or would banning only the athletes who doped be a better idea?  Or would improving drug tests so they are more reliable be the answer?  Or perhaps banning the coaches that encourage doping be banned from the Olympics?  It is a touch call as you cannot penalize clean athletes from competing just because other teammates dope.  The answers are still unknown; but strong penalties are being established and enforced to eliminate doping of any kind in elite sports going forward.

People cheat because they think they won’t get caught.  Look at the Tour de France cyclists and accusations that they all blood dope.  Would you cancel the Tour de France?

It is truly amazing to see the accomplishments of clean athletes, in spite of the unfair advantage of the cheating, doping athletes.  Hard work, dedication, and integrity still matter but, unfortunately do not guarantee a podium position when up against “super-powered” doped athletes.  It is unfair for the athletes who compete based on their natural ability and hard work.  It is unfair for the clean athletes on the Russian team who are tainted by the corruption of a few teammates and coaches.  It is unfair to the public who watched with admiration the top tier athletes in the world.  It is even unfair to the athletes who do dope, as they are sacrificing their careers for short term glory.  How do we know that clean athletes are clean?  Maybe they are just better cheaters.

Doping drugs like EPO are very difficult to detect so it makes catching the cheaters complicated.  This could get mixed up with people who naturally produce more EPO and are unfairly categorized with the cheaters.  Hard work and dedication to their chosen sport is critical to success, and athletes should be allowed to compete with whatever natural advantage they have because everyone is unique and brings different attributes to the competition.

To clarify, I’m talking about artificial advantages.  Natural advantages like longer arms in swimmers or people who naturally produce more red blood cells are allowed to compete with no penalty.  I think you should be allowed to compete with what you’re born with and use it to your advantage.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a society today where cheating is so irresistible to athletes.  Doping is so accessible and when they’re able to get away with it, it seems like an easy solution.  This is negatively impacting the sport culture because it is almost rewarding the cheating athletes when they win.

I think that the people and authorities involved with the altered results should not be allowed to go near any results again.  And those athletes will have more drug tests than the rest of the athletes.   And I think the athletes who are found guilty should be allowed to compete today, but be stripped of their medals that they won while doping.  The medals should then be given to the runner up because they rightfully deserve that medal.  We need to take action to prevent further cheating in the future and give medals to the athletes who rightfully deserve them.

Additional readings:

http://www.cbc.ca/sports/wada-russian-lab-suspension-1.3311923

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/11/us-athletics-corruption-russia-sports-idUSKCN0SZ2GZ20151111

References:

Brennan, Samantha. “Part 2: The Case for Allowing Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports.”      Western University, London. 7 Oct. 2015. Lecture.

Davis, Toby. “IOC Wants Cheats Punished in Wake of Doping Report.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <Davis, Toby. “IOC Wants Cheats Punished in Wake of Doping Report.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/11/us-athletics-corruption-idUSKCN0SY1NG20151111&gt;.

“Russian Doping Scandal: Were B.C. Olympians Shortchanged?” British Columbia. CTV News Vancouver, 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <http://bc.ctvnews.ca/russian-doping-scandal-were-b-c-olympians-shortchanged-1.2652444&gt;.

 

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