Forcing a nation’s athletes to take collective responsibility for the illegal doping activities of some individuals is not the fairest of solutions, say Russian athletes.
Russia's pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva competes at the National track and field championships at a stadium in Cheboksary, Russia, June 20, 2016. Photo: AP
Russian track and field athletes have been denied the opportunity to participate in the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Members of the executive committee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), meeting in Lausanne with the heads of international sports federations on June 21, supported the decision of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) banning the Russian track and field team from participating in the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
IOC President Thomas Bach noted that every Russian track and field athlete could become a part of the national team, if he or she is allowed into the Olympics. If Russian athletes are allowed to participate in the Games, they will compete under the Russian flag.
Under the banner of the unknown
The exclusion of Russian athletes is the worst possible scenario for the country. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said that, in his opinion, the suspension of the Russian track and field athletes is, to some extent, the fault of the All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF). He believes the organization is “not properly governed, it was not a good partner for the IAAF, and of course, there are also subjective reasons.”
In general, the minister says that the situation around Russian sports today is being politicized, even as sports are becoming more popular within the country.
“We will deal with this situation," he said. "I think that, due to these latest events, Russian sport will become more stable, today it is growing, it is becoming more and more popular, and we simply cannot deviate from this path: People love sports, many are engaged in sports, millions of children go to sports schools – it will not go away, and as to the political situation? …Well, this is what some people wanted.”
On a grand scale
The doping scandals, which have shaken athletes from Russia in recent years, are global in scope. Russian experts in this area, with a certain amount of obstinacy, are refusing to discuss the subject, explaining that they are not members of the commissions involved in the investigations.
“In Russia there is a problem with doping, and this is widespread,” Yevgeny Slyusarenko, the deputy editor-in-chief Championat.ru, a sport publication, told Russia Direct. “That is all I can say with certainty. The rest is just speculation. The reality is that Russia finds itself in a difficult political situation.”
Based on this, one can only speculate about what the future holds.
Many athletes are not even tested for doping, while others are under almost twenty-four hour surveillance. One should check for prohibited substances not at competitions, but during training sessions, Mikhail Vinogradov, an expert from the Center of Sport Innovative Technologies and Training of National Teams (Moskomsport), told Championat.ru.
Checking everyone without exception is very expensive, and thus, the results are not reliable. Moreover, many countries give little importance to taking samples outside of competitions. This is an already confirmed fact – in the years 2006-2012 no one in Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco was tested for doping outside of competitions. Moreover, these athletes win many top awards in track and field athletics. There are also winning athletes from countries where no national organization monitors doping violations.
Guilty ones named
Slyusarenko strongly believes that you can find perpetrators of doping in any country, if you look hard enough. Now the Russians are under the gun.
Nikolay Gulayev – Olympic champion in speed skating, former state coach in the Russian Speed Skating Federation and vice-president of the Russian Speed Skating Federation – said that collective punishment for doping is pure nonsense.
“This was not the decision of the IOC, but the decision of the IAAF," he told Russia Direct. "In my opinion, this was a 100 percent one-sided political decision. There are no democratic principles found here. This is an unfair decision, and Russian athletes are suffering as a result. I do not understand who will profit from this.”
The athlete is sure that not only the Russians are engaged in doping, so why is all the blame and attention placed on them?
“When one of the national anti-doping organizations, RUSADA, lost its license, a huge number of international experts were already testing our athletes – and everything was in order. In the final analysis, we only have rumors and speculation,” he added.
However, who will be benefitting from this, the specialist does not venture to say. One thing is clear – this is having an impact on the reputation of athletes in general, and not just Russians.
“All these scandals primarily have a negative impact on the image of world sports in general, and not only in Russia. This is not the way to be developing Olympic sports. Nevertheless, I agree that violators should be held accountable, but to punish the entire team because of this – is this fair?” summed up Gulayev.