This is not the first time a sport’s anti-doping movement has come under scrutiny, but with what has come to light in the last year and last week, the World Anti-Doping Agency has some big decisions to make.
Just last week Russia’s former anti-doping director, Grigory Rodchenskov, came forward and admitted that he ran an organized doping program for Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, by helping switch tainted samples for clean ones.
Now the International Olympic Committee and WADA are partnering to carry out a full-fledged investigation planning to retest Sochi samples stored in Lausanne, Switzerland. It’s unsure how many tainted samples are still intact, though.
Russia’s track and field team is dealing with a suspension from global competition. Track and fields governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federation, banned the country after an investigation detailed state-sponsored doping, corruption and coverups in the program. The federation has yet to make a decision on whether the ban will be lifted prior to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
If the investigation into the Sochi Olympics turns out to be true, I think the IOC needs to ban Russia as a whole from competing this year. Russian authorities have gone on record saying they support the crackdown but that only specific individuals should see the repercussions. In this case, however, it wasn’t individual athletes choosing to make the wrong decision. It was supported and encouraged, and if it weren’t for members of the state hiding the truth, the athletes would have been caught then not now.
Fast forward to this week and retesting stretching back eight years has caught 31 athletes from 12 different countries and six different sports for doping prior to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The IOC has opened disciplinary proceedings for the athletes who were planning to take part in the 2016 Games. And it doesn’t stop there. Retesting of samples for athletes from the 2012 Summer Games in London hoping to compete in Rio will also take place, opening the possibility for more athletes to be banned.
These findings are horrible for the international sports community and for the World Anti-Doping Agency. While the association prides itself on being the “organization for clean sport” and “protecting clean athletes,” without a crackdown after recent findings it may need to find a new slogan.
Athletes competing on the global stage open their bodies to drug testing with hopes of competing on a level playing field. When certain athletes are taking performance enhancing drugs, it’s not a level playing field.
I see where WADA and the IOC are currently standing as a crossroads. The way they choose to handle this situation could go two very different ways. One option is to crack down and crack down hard. Make athletes who cheat realize they are never safe. Make athletes realize that doping isn’t worth it due to the intense repercussions. The other route is going light on Russia and other individuals who have disobeyed the rules. If the organizations fail to crack down this time around, athletes will continue to take the risk and more athletes will start to do so.
The question is will the playing field be balanced by cutting down the number of athletes doping or will it be leveled by more athletes choosing to take performance-enhancing drugs?