When it comes to the topic of doping in sports, most people may tend to think of Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds due to the baseball scandals surrounding performance-enhancing drugs from earlier this century. But many American sports fans may not realize that the use of PEDs has caused a major scandal in Russia – to the point where the nation may be banned from all major sports.
So what is the controversy surrounding Russia and doping? Let’s take a closer look at what Russian athletes may have done, what may happen if they’re found guilty, and the history behind it.
Russia’s past problems with performance-enhancing drugs
In 2016, the World Anti-Doping Agency (also known as WADA), released a report with a shocking conclusion: they recommended the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “consider banning Russian athletes from the Rio 2016 games.”
The report alleged that Russia had “operated a state-sponsored doping program” during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The Russian government carefully managed the handling of the athletes’ test results and samples to prevent them from being caught for using, the report claimed.
According to WADA, the state-sponsored doping program was “planned and operated” from late 2011 until August 2015. This would have included the time before the London 2012 Summer Olympics and run through the Sochi 2014 Winter games.
While other doping scandals have occurred in sports in the past – the BALCO ordeal with Barry Bonds comes to mind – this is the first credible accusation that the actual government of a country assisted in athletes’ PED usage in any way, shape, or form. Were this true, it would compromise the results of all Russian athletes over an indeterminate period of time.
The current allegations against Russia
In January, Russia handed over data from their laboratories to WADA as a way to get reintegrated after a three-year suspension due to the doping program.
During a recent investigation, WADA reported that there was deleted data from the evidence turned over by the Russians. From a BBC report:
“But on Monday Wada said its executive committee had been informed that a formal compliance procedure had been opened over the discovery of ‘inconsistencies.’
‘This is hypothetical at the moment, but if the experts maintain their current view, then the compliance review committee will make a recommendation to send a notice to Rusada asserting ‘you’re non-compliant’ and proposing consequences,’ said Taylor.”
Essentially, WADA wants an explanation for why the data Russia handed over was incomplete. The best-case scenario is that Russia mishandled their own data, betraying a lack of competence. The worst-case scenario is that it’s a cover-up.
What could happen if Russia is found guilty of these doping allegations
There are a few scenarios that could happen from here for Russia:
- They could “locate” the missing data, turn it over, and be exonerated because it reveals no wrongdoing.
- They could turn over the missing data and have it reveal malfeasance.
- The missing data could simply not be handed over.
Only one of those scenarios promises a happy ending for Russia, as their non-compliance up until this point is surely damning in the eyes of WADA. According to the BBC report, the punishment could be severe:
“In a case with a ‘critical non-compliance’, there is now a starting point for the sanctions that can go up and down, and they do include sanctions against Rusada and options include no events hosted in Russia, and they do include no participation of Russian athletes in world championships and up to the Olympics.”
What this means is that Russia essentially could be barred from international competition for a long time. How long, and to what extent they’ll be punished, depends greatly on what information Russia turns over in the ensuing weeks as well as what that information reveals.