Russia, Doping and the Welfare of the Olympics
In a piece for the New York Times, Jack Robertson laid out the crimes of the Russian Olympic Committee and the corruption within the IOC. Robertson, who says he was the person who conducted the investigation into Russian doping for the World Anti-Doping Agency or WADA claims he found systematic doping and that the WADA and IOC are letting it slide to protect “commercial and political interests”.
Robertson says that the problems lie not simply within the doping realm but within the “anti-doping world”. According to Robertson 99 percent of Russian athletes are taking performance enhancing drugs. He goes on to say that those who obtain success without doping are then forced to cheat by Russian officials. Robertson writes, “We discovered that when a Russian athlete rose to the national level, he or she had no choice in the matter: It was either dope, or you’re done.”. According to Robertson this goes all the way to the government into the Russian Sports Ministry. He says the Russian government worked with athletes to ensure positive drug tests and if they did fail, the government would cover it up.
These are serious accusations he is leveling against Russia. An alarming, but unfortunately not shocking revelations for those that follow international sports. Just last year, Russia’s most high-profile female athlete, Maria Sharapova was suspended from tennis for doping accusations. During the Rio Games, Russian athletes were only allowed to compete on a one-on-one basis if they cleared additional drug tests. This is the same punishment place on the Russian Olympic Athletes for 2018. But as Robertson says, even those individuals were cheating. He says that the only athletes to get caught are the “Dopey Dopers.”
These accusations put a serious taint on Russia but more importantly on the Olympic Games. The Olympics, what is supposed to be a beacon of good-faith among nations and fair play for all athletes, is tarnished.
Robertson goes on to say that the IOC and WADA know all of this. They know how far and wide the cheating on the Russian side is but are unwilling to actually punish the country. He writes, “Even now, Russia remains uncooperative. Information WADA requested has still not been turned over. Russian officials have not admitted guilt, but they have intimidated witnesses and continued to dope even during the investigation. There is currently no intelligence I have seen or heard about that indicates the state-sponsored doping program has ceased. In fact, the evidence suggests it continues. The I.O.C. knows all of this.”
This is a scandal that could end the Olympics. If whole nations allow and even assist in cheating, why would other nations or athletes who believe in clean sports participate? If the IOC will not even punish sufficiently a violator of fair-play, what is the IOC even for?
Robertson himself says his greatest disappointment is in the governing bodies of the Olympic Spirit. He writes, “Let me be clear, there is nothing to be either praised or defended in this decision, which pits clean athletes against doped ones.”
Robertson calls for a new leadership within the Olympic governing body. The current president of the IOC is a German lawyer who was also an Olympic fencer by the name of Thomas Bach. Two Americans sit on the IOC Board, Anita DeFrantz and Angela Ruggiero. There is not a single Russian on the Board. If Robertson is correct, all of those on the board are tainted. All have chosen to appease instead of standing up for clean sports. According to Robertson, “The I.O.C. needs to be reminded the Olympics can survive without Russia, but not without the Olympic ideals.”
He ends with the same plea I myself have. The Olympics are the best that sports have to offer. It gives athletes that have trained their whole life a chance at glory. Participants who rarely get prime-time coverage and a chance at advertising revenue are able to compete for the most coveted athletic prize, the Gold Medal. But the IOC, those entrusted with keeping the great spectacle fair and clean, have let us all down. If something does not change, the Olympic tradition may dwindle and go out around the world.