DOPING has always been an unwelcome presence in sport, but recent revelations have pushed the issue back into the limelight. Last year the World Anti-Doping Agency launched a commission into allegations of doping in Russian athletics, and published its findings earlier this month. The results shook the sport to its core.
The report accused Russia’s anti-doping agency of hiding tests, destroying samples, taking bribes and bullying doping officers and doctors. A number of the athletes suspected of doping participated in the London 2012 Olympics, and it is suggested in the report that the International Association of Athletics Federations did nothing to prevent this, thereby implicating them with the scandal. WADA recommended that Russia be banned from athletics competitions, including the Olympics next year, until they ensure that doping is no longer a part of Russian athletics. It was also suggested that several athletes and coaches should be given lifetime bans.
The fallout from this commission was extensive, with the IAAF following WADA’s recommendation and provisionally suspending the Russian Athletics Federation, who accepted this without requesting a hearing. A five-person inspection team will now observe Russia as they look to regain their IAAF membership. However, two of the Russian athletes facing lifetime bans completely denied taking banned substances and threatened to take legal action, showing that there may not be full cooperation with the investigation.
It’s not just Russia that’s under scrutiny. Argentina, Ukraine, Bolivia, Andorra and Israel have also been deemed non-compliant with WADA’s codes, and six other countries including France and Spain have been placed on a ‘watch list’.
Dealing with all of this is Lord Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF. Recently elected in August, he has already had many issues to deal with and his credentials are really being tested with this scandal. Even he is now being questioned about whether or not he knew about Russia’s malpractice during the Olympics, showing that this may be a problem endemic at the highest level.
Though athletics is currently embroiled in this scandal, other sports have also recently been affected by doping. For example, Dinamo Zagreb’s Arijan Ademi failed a drugs test after his side’s victory over Arsenal last month, and has subsequently been banned for four years. Tyson Fury has recently stated that boxing has a ‘big problem’ with doping, and steroid abuse in Welsh grassroots rugby has been described as ‘off the scale’ by an anonymous player.
It’s clear that there is a big issue with doping in all sports, all over the world, at the highest levels. Authorities need to introduce more stringent tests and consequences need to become more severe for there to be an end to this troubling issue in sport and ensure that everyone is on a level playing field. What the IAAF, Seb Coe and other authorities do next is crucial.
Featured image: Human Kinetics