This is the wrong kind of the ‘Own the Podium’ program: Russia could be banned from participating in international athletics, including the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics, after an independent report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) alleged a widespread state-sponsored doping program in Russian sport.
The 325-page report was led by Dick Pound, a Canadian International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and former WADA president Dick Pound, which fired at the Russian Federation for failing to be a leader in the fight against doping despite being a world leader in sport.
“The investigation indicates that the acceptance of cheating at all levels is widespread and of long standing,” reads the report. “Many of the more egregious offenders appear to be coaches who, themselves, were once athletes and who work in connection with medical personnel.”
“This ‘win at all costs’ mentality was then passed to current athletes, whether willing to participate or not. An athlete’s decision not to participate is likely to leave him or her without access to top calibre coaches and thus the opportunity to excel.”
The damning allegations highlighted in Pound’s report include:
- Corruption and collusion among elite athletes, coaches, regulatory officials, and sports agencies to systemically provide Russian athletes performing enhancing drugs.
- Russian athletes were exploited to accept unethical behaviours and practices as the norm in their sport. If the athletes were unwilling to participate in the doping program, they would not have access to neither high calibre coaching assistance nor be considered as part of the federation’s national team.
- A high percentage of Russian athletes were unwilling to participate in WADA’s investigation, which found that athletes were not filing accurate contact information for whereabouts purposes.
- Doctors, coaches and laboratory personnel are also involved. More than 1,400 samples at Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory were destroyed shortly before WADA was scheduled to arrive for an inspection, even after laboratory officials had received written notification to preserve target samples.
- Russian security services allegedly spied on the Moscow laboratory and temporary Sochi laboratory for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. During the 2014 Games, labs and offices were bugged, and spy agents were pretending to be lab engineers. The report infers laboratory staff were working in an atmosphere of intimidation and that there were many instances of inadequate testing and poor compliance to WADA testing standards.
Russia claimed 18 medals in the athletics events at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, including eight gold medals, five silver medals, and five bronze medals. The report asserts the London Games were “sabotaged by the admission of [Russian] athletes who should not have been competing, and could have been prevented from competing.”
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has issued a statement saying that it will take quick action to consider sanctions against Russia, which could lead to provisional and full suspension and being removed from participating in future IAAF and Olympic events.
“The information in WADA’s Independent Commissions Report is alarming,” said Sebastian Coe, IAAF President and former chairman of London 2012. “We need time to properly digest and understand the detailed findings included in the report. However, I have urged the Council to start the process of considering sanctions against ARAF. This step has not been taken lightly.”
“We will do whatever it takes to protect the clean athletes and rebuild trust in our sport. The IAAF will continue to offer the police authorities our full co-operation into their ongoing investigation.”
Coe has given the Russian Federation until the end of the week to respond to WADA’s report before the IAAF takes further action.
In the meantime, WADA’s findings have been sent to Interpol, which will launch an investigation into the criminal nature of the Russian doping scandal.
Russia ‘reinvigorated’ its elite sports programs following its dismal performance at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and ahead of Sochi 2014. This even consisted of hiring the Canadians that were responsible for the Canadian Olympic Team’s highly successful ‘Own The Podium’ program for the Vancouver Games.
Russia is also at the centre of an FBI investigation for allegations of bribery in its bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.