As if further proof were required, the news that 14 Russian athletes slated to compete at this summer’s Olympic Gameshave returned positive urine samples for banned substances should now put the debate to bed: there is absolutely no way Russia’s track and field stars can be allowed to compete in Rio this summer.
Rocked by recent revelations of Russian doping at the 2014 winter games in Sochi, and following in the wake of Dick Pound’s damning independent report, released earlier this year, which accuses Russia of “state-sanctioned” doping, the International Olympic Committee were correct to order the re-testing of 454 urine samples taken at the 2008 games in Beijing. The latest advanced testing techniques uncovered evidence of doping in the samples of 32 athletes, 14 of whom were Russian.
We have also now learnt that 23 athletes from the 2012 London Olympics – which the World Anti-Doping Agency has said was “more or less sabotaged by Russian athletes” – have failed drug retests. Again, eight were Russian. The Russian Sports Ministry has suggested that the athletes themselves are solely to blame, but it’s important to remember the Pound Report concluded it would be “naïve in the extreme to conclude that activities on the scale discovered could have occurred without the explicit or tacit approval of Russian government authorities” and that it was “impossible” that the Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, “was not aware of the problem”. The Russian government has never apologised for its role.
Russia is not the victim of doping, it is the protagonist. This is a country where a “shadow lab” was set up in order for dirty samples to be switched in the dead of the night during the Sochi 2014 games. It is a country where a training centre linked to 25 doping cases is still part of Russia’s track and field system. The coach, Viktor Chegin, may have fallen from grace, but several of his athletes are still competing and would be in the running for medals if they are allowed to go to Rio. Are we seriously saying that they were part of a different culture to the dopers they trained alongside every day? Pull the other one.