Russia needs to be banned from Rio

Date: May 27, 2016 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

RUSRussia is making a mockery of international sport.

Consider what would happen to an Australian coach if his charges returned nearly 30 positive drug tests over a period of a few years.

Chances are such a thing would never get to that stage as Athletics Australia would step in and remove his accreditation before the numbers surged to that ridiculous level. Remarkably, in Russia that was not the case.

The penny eventually dropped for the country’s athletics officials in March last year when they finally handed the national race walking coach, Viktor Chegin a lifetime ban from the sport.

Unfortunately, by that stage he had produced several world and Olympic champions and sundry minor medallists.

Among Chegin’s squad of drug tainted walkers was Sergey Kiryapkin, who ‘won’ the 50km event in London and two world championships.

Australia’s Jared Tallent, who crossed the line second behind Kiryapkin four years ago at the London Olympics, has been rightly upgraded to the gold medal.

Tallent’s story of initial denial on the world’s biggest sporting stage is just one of many as a result of wholesale Russian cheating.

In August 2013, Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko trumpeted the opening of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Anti-Doping Centre in Moscow. It was intended to be the cornerstone of Russia’s bid for clean sport. The reality has proven be starkly at odds with that claim.

In November last year WADA announced that the facility had been responsible for a concerted and deliberate cover-up of positive tests along with the destruction of around 1400 samples.

As a result, its track and field athletes are currently under an international ban.

The WADA report recommended that five athletes be given life bans. Amongst them was the 2012 Olympic 800m champion, Mariya Savinova.

Earlier this month, whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the now unaccredited Moscow laboratory, made stunning allegations about how the lab operated during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

He spoke of a separate room within the drug testing facility in which tainted urine samples were exchanged with clean urine. He alleged that steroids were dissolved in whisky for the male athletes and martinis for the females as a way of accelerating the absorption rate and thus reducing the prospects of detection through testing.

Rodchenkov asserted that at least 15 Russian medal winners at Sochi were given banned performance enhancing substances. In the end the host nation topped the medal tally with a total of 33 medals, 13 of which were gold.

Yesterday, news emerged that 14 of the 31 positive results returned from the retested samples from the Beijing Olympics involved Russians.

The IOC says the 454 retested samples were focused on athletes who were potentially in the mix for selection at this year’s Olympics.

While Russia comprised 14 of the 31 positives, the remaining 17 are spread across 11 nations.

Whilst the Russian Olympic Committee says it will not name the 14 athletes until their B-samples have been tested, Moscow-based Match TV has revealed the names of the alleged culprits which include ten medallists.

Among them is Yulia Chermoshenskaya who won gold in the 4 x 100m relay; javelin silver medallist Maria Abakumova; and high jump bronze medallist Anna Chicherova, who went on to claim the gold medal at the 2012 London Games.

The IOC has announced that it will be retesting random samples from the London and Sochi Olympics ahead of August’s Rio Games.

The IOC has also promised “swift and decisive action” into the allegations that have been raised about the possible corruption at Sochi.

If the investigation and retesting of the Sochi samples can be completed ahead of the opening ceremony at Rio, and should they indicate widespread drug use, there would be a strong case to ban the entire Russian Olympic team from the Games.

Currently there is irrefutable evidence, from November last year, of the broad use of performance enhancing drugs in Russian athletics, hence the current ban.

As of yesterday there is a strong indication that it has spanned back as far as the Beijing Olympics eight years ago.

Aside from track and field, two other sports involving Russian athletes have been responsible for positive tests from Beijing. Should the Sochi retests indicate widespread drug use among Russian Winter Olympians it will provide clear evidence of a systematic doping program across much of Russian sport.

There is every indication that the current practices within Russian elite level sport are on a par with the dark days of the old Eastern Bloc.

That era was a total blight on the Olympic Games and myriad other major international competitions with many worthy athletes denied their rightful place in the sun.

On 17 June when the IAAF makes its determination on the immediate future of Russia’s track and field athletes it must uphold the current ban and refuse entry to the squad at the Rio Olympics.

Should the forthcoming follow-up testing of more recent Olympics turn-up widespread doping across other sports, the entire Russian Olympic team should be removed from the Rio Games.

Such a stance by the IOC and its constituent sports federations would result in extreme bleating from Vladimir Putin down.

But it is a move that would has to be taken if it can be found that sport in Russia is being systematically manipulated.

We hear ad nauseum from the world’s leading sports officials how they are vehemently opposed to drug use and cheating.

It is incumbent they act in accordance with their trumpeted beliefs and not cower to those who are laughing in their face as they stockpile their ill-gotten gains

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 26 May 2016, soliciting 19 comments