Friday 18 August 2017

Even without the Russians there will be no shortage of Rio dopers

President Vladimir Putin on Friday called for a new anti-doping commission to be created to shape Russia's future strategy, as the country faces possible exclusion from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
President Vladimir Putin on Friday called for a new anti-doping commission to be created to shape Russia's future strategy, as the country faces possible exclusion from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Eamonn Sweeney

A Rio Olympics with Russia in it will be a sham Olympics. We all know that. Because one of the things which was striking about the report into Russia's non-compliance with the conditions for reinstatement by the IAAF was the fact that sports other than athletics were mentioned. It was pretty obvious that this was not merely a problem for athletics.

So it wasn't that great a surprise to see last week's report by the Canadian law professor Richard McLaren reveal that the Russians hid hundreds of positive doping tests before the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 Winter Olympics and that this was a state policy embarked upon following disappointing results at the 2010 winter games.

Yet the effrontery of the whole caper and its systematic nature can still provoke a sharp intake of breath. From 2011, any positive sample was reported to the Russian Deputy Minister of Sport Yury Nagornykh who then gave the order to report it as negative or place it in quarantine.

At the same time Grigor Rodchenko, who was the head of the laboratory which was supposed to detect drugs, developed a doping cocktail which would be more difficult to detect, while the Russian Security Service, the FSB, worked out a method which enabled samples taken at championships where independent observers were present to be tampered with.

A total of 577 positive samples were either reported as negative or quarantined. Track and field led the way with 139 but there were over 100 in weightlifting and more than 40 in paralympic sports, thus raising the question of whether it's fair to allow Russian athletes to compete in this year's Paralympics either. Other sports figuring prominently included wrestling, canoeing, cycling and swimming.

It's obvious that the full might of the Russian state was thrown into the service of doping. And it worked. Russia's Winter Olympic tally in 2010 had been three gold, five silver and seven bronze. Four years later, it had soared to 13 gold, 11 silver and nine bronze.

The picture painted by McLaren is so bleak it beggars belief that the IAAF are the only federation to have banned the Russians. The athletics ban was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week, a decision which places huge pressure on the International Olympic Committee to ban Russia entirely. Knowing what we know, who'd be able to stomach watching a Russian weightlifter, swimmer or canoeist mounting the podium?

Yet at the time of writing, the IOC continue to prevaricate despite the recommendation by the World Anti-Doping Agency that Russia be banned entirely from the games. IOC president Thomas Bach is a friend of Vladimir Putin and forcefully defended him against American criticism of Russia's anti-gay stance during the last Winter Olympics in Sochi. You can't help feeling the IOC are probably less than thrilled at having McLaren's report dumped into their lap at this juncture.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is suggesting it's all some kind of anti-Russian frame-up being engineered by the US. A ban will certainly further damage political relations between the Russians and the Americans, something which will also be weighing heavy on the minds of the IOC.

While it's impossible to have any sympathy for Russia in this matter, there is also a certain irony in the fact that the current world-ranked number ones in the men's 100m, 200m and 400m are former dopers Justin Gatlin and LaShawn Merritt of the US. Usain Bolt's current injury makes it likely that the glamour event of the track programme will be won by Gatlin, who's been banned not once, but twice, for drug offences. We'll also see plenty of medals going to Kenya and Turkey where there is obviously a large amount of doping going on. The authorities there may not be taking the same proactive stance as the Russians but there are obviously blind eyes being turned in many other nations.

Even without the Russians, there will be plenty of dopers on the podium in Rio.

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