The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has concluded that data submitted by Russia over doping tests on its athletes included many falsifications, and recommended that the country be banned from participating in major international competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
If the punishment is finalized, the Russian delegation will miss out not only on the 2020 Tokyo Games but also the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics, and will also be banned from hosting or bidding to host international meets and using the national flag.
Russia’s doping allegations came to light in 2014 after the German public broadcaster reported on systematic wrongdoings in the Russian athletic community. WADA subsequently suspended the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and determined that the misconduct was state-sponsored.
While the Russian delegation participated in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, at least 100 Russian athletes suspected of doping were removed and none was allowed to take part in the Rio Paralympics. In the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, Russian athletes cleared of doping allegations were allowed to compete independently.
It had earlier been expected that the Russian delegation would return to the Olympic and Paralympic arena in the 2020 Tokyo Games after their suspension is lifted. However, after WADA had the Russian agency submit all data it had over doping cases, many parts of the data were found to have been tampered with or altered.
Use of banned drugs tramples down upon the fairness of sports and destroys the bodies and souls of athletes. In spite of WADA’s repeated warnings and punishments, Russia has shown no signs of improving its practices. It is of grave concern that the country has even manipulated doping data.
Ultimately, Russian athletes are likely to be allowed to join the Tokyo Games as individual competitors. However, the United States Anti-Doping Agency has suggested that all Russian athletes be banned from appearing in the 2020 event. The move poses a challenge to Russia over whether it can really clear its athletes over doping allegations.
The International Olympic Committee in January launched an international anti-doping inspection agency that is independent from governments and international sports organizations. The Russian doping scandal should be thoroughly investigated at the initiative of this new agency. The Tokyo Organising Committee of Olympic and Paralympic Games is also urged to collaborate with bodies concerned as part of efforts to organize the upcoming quadrennial event without condoning any fraudulent acts.
The Russian squad is inarguably a powerhouse that constantly vies for the top spots in terms of Olympic medal counts. As a sport superpower, Russia must be aware of its standing and break with its culture of depending on drugs.