String of doping scandals hurt more than just athletes
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
It seems that every Olympic rotation there are always a few doping scandals that break out. However, none of them have been the size of the supposed Russian doping operation that was recently suggested by a prominent Russian Olympian as well as other prominent individuals in the scene. Yuliya Stepanova, the whistleblower and a former Russian Olympic runner, suggested that Russian government funds a doping program for their Olympic athletes and forces the athletes to be a part of it.
Since the accusation, the IOC has been doing rigorous testing on Russian Olympic athletes, both current and former. The results are mixed, which is more than enough to validate Stepanova’s claims. The IOC continues to issue penalties, and will likely continue to investigate before, during, and after the Olympics. Whether or not all of Stepanova’s claims prove to be true, the fact is that the seed of doubt has now forever been planted. If all her claims prove to be true, and Russia is running a massive doping operation, it could change the face of sport as we know it. A Russian-less world of sport could prove to be a reality.
It’s my hope that it doesn’t come to that. Alienating an entire country seems extreme, but it’s honestly something the IOC and other organizations could be looking at. If the Russian doping scandal has merit, and nothing can be done to ensure that Russian athletes come to international competitions clean, a ban seems like a likely decision. However, in my opinion, it would be a poor decision. As history has proven, alienating the citizens of one country because of their country’s actions has always been a regrettable one.
Do I believe they should be unpunished? No. Should it be proven that there really is a Russian government funded doping plan, I believe that penalties should be created and enforced that don’t involve banning every single athlete that represents Russia. There are better ways to punish unfair play such as this. Alternatives could prove to be something like a hefty fine for every athlete found to be doping under the government program, charged to the government. Refusal to pay could results in that athlete receiving an indefinite ban from international competitions. That way it allows athletes who have remained clean to continue competing while forcing out athletes who have been using performance enhancing drugs.
Another alternative is to restrict the number of Russian athletes in international competition, and lower that number every time an athlete connected to the government funded doping ring is discovered. This would heavily incentivize Russia to more carefully monitor their international athletic programs to ensure the integrity of their athletes.
No matter what happens, the damage has already been done. Russian athletes will never be looked at the same, because there will always be some doubt due to this ugly report. In the coming years, the tarnished image of Russian athletes could be restored. It’ll likely take years of hard work and clean competition, but hopefully, that will not be an issue.