Will Russia Compete In The Olympics? Claims Of Doping Could Lead To An Outright Ban

The controversy surrounding the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio De Janiero intensified this week, after a report claimed there had been widespread government-sanctioned cheating at the last two Olympics. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released a 100-page report explicating the scandal, which reportedly has been going on since at least the 2012 London Olympics. The shocking details have prompted the International Olympic Committee to explore a ban on Russian athletes competing in the Olympics, which begin in less than two weeks.

Russian president Vladimir Putin fervently denied the claims in a statement released by the Kremlin Monday, accusing the international sports community of overblowing the scandal as a political maneuver. "Today, we see a dangerous return to this policy of letting politics interfere with sport," said Putin. "Today, so-called ‘doping scandals’ are the method used, attempts to apply sanctions for detected cases of doping to all athletes, including those who are ‘clean,’ supposedly to protect their interests."

According to the report, Russian government officials covered up hundreds of positive doping tests in order for their athletes to compete at several international sporting events, including the 2012 and 2014 Olympics and the World Athletic Championships in Moscow in 2013. Allegedly on orders from Russia’s deputy minister of sport, Yuri Nagornykh, the deputy director of the center of sports preparation of national teams of Russia, Irina Rodionova, and the anti-doping adviser to Russia’s sports minister, Natalia Zhelanova, doctors at the official testing labs in Russia falsified urine tests by switching out contaminated samples for clean ones using a hole in the wall at the facility.

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The IOC released its own statement on Tuesday regarding the decision to delay judgment on a ban, with possible direct reference to Putin's statement: "[The IOC] will explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the right to individual justice." The IOC also cited a need for guidance from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is expected to release a decision on the International Association of Athletic Federations' ban on Russian track and field athletes by Thursday.

The IOC also introduced other sanctions against Russia in its official statement, including a boycott of any planned sports meetings or events in Russia, a withholding of credentials from officials at the Russian Ministry of Sport at the Rio Olympics, and full retesting of Russian athletes' samples from the Sochi Olympics. If the ban is enforced, it will constitute the largest ban of athletes in Olympic history, and erase a generation of Olympic dreams. But the strong stance against doping is a message to the international sports community that's unlikely to be ignored if the IOC moves ahead with the decision.