Arena: How fair is the Olympics?

Following a report stating that Russia operated a state-sponsored doping program from 2011-2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency conducted an investigation and determined that Russia's sports center controlled the manipulation of urine samples provided by athletes to hide the evidence. Despite the scandal, the country will not receive a blanket ban from Rio 2016--a decision that has added more fuel to the fire leading up to the already controversial games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to give each individual sports organization the autonomy to determine if Russian athletes are clean and should be allowed to compete in the games. The investigative report was led by Canadian law professor and sports lawyer Dr. Richard McLaren, as he looked into allegations made by the former head of Russia's national anti-doping laboratory.  According to BBC, "McLaren sent a random amount of stored samples from 'protected Russian athletes'" at Sochi 2014 to an anti-doping laboratory in London to see if they had scratch marks around the necks of the bottles, indicating that they had been manipulated. He said "100% of the bottles had been scratched," but noted that it would "not have been visible to the untrained eye". President Thomas Bach of the IOC condemned the scandal and said that it is a "shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games" and that he would enforce the "toughest sanctions available" against those implicated. Grigory Rodchenkov--the director of Russia's anti-doping lab during the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics--claimed he doped numerous athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, saying that Russian intelligence services helped create ways of opening and resealing urine sample containers. In his interview with the New York Times, he also said that he was forced to dope athletes because the laboratory would have stopped receiving funding if he refused. 

How did it all work? As per the New York Times interview, he said that Russian athletes took photos of the serial numbers of urine samples and texted them to the Russian sports ministry. At night, Rodchenkov was assisted by a colleague who handed the samples through a small hole in the wall and disposed of the urine that would have shown traces of performance enhancing drugs, replacing it with clear urine. It was a process that he perfected and after years of experimenting, he said that he developed a combination of three anabolic steroids — metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone-- that many of the most competitive Russian athletes used leading up to the  Olympics in 2012 and throughout their athletic careers. While he was the mind behind the plan, Rodchenkov refused to administer the drugs himself. Originally, Rodchenkov developed the drugs to help athletes recover from hard workouts and physical strain. In fact, he even wanted to reduce the chance of getting caught by speeding up the absorption process by mixing the drugs with alcohol. "Dr. Rodchenkov’s formula was precise: one milligram of the steroid mixture for every milliliter of alcohol. The athletes were instructed to swish the liquid around in their mouths, under the tongue, to absorb the drugs." This man divulged all of the information in the interview, but he seemed more confident and prideful than upset about the repercussions of one of the biggest scandals in sports history. He was proud of his ability to poison these athletes and thereby win the gold for his country; all through manipulation of a process that is supposed to protect against such devious tactics. 

The reaction in the world of sports has been devastating following the news of the IOC. Stricter rules have been put in place in order to hopefully deter other athletes from doping during the games. According to NBC, "the international sports federations were ordered to check each Russian athlete’s drug-testing record, with only doping controls conducted outside Russia counting toward eligibility, before authorizing them to compete. Final entry is contingent on approval from an independent sports arbitrator." While this statement may seem promising at first glance, the precautionary attitude is seen as a step backward rather than forward by many countries and sports organizations. Most people wanted the IOC to ban all Russian athletes in order to prevent this scandal from reemerging in the future. Athletes who are clean feel as though they are not being treated fairly because their competitors are getting away with a performance that makes the competition impossible. Athletes are no match for performance enhancing drugs that boost every ability in a naturally gifted competitor. Russia had the highest number of athletes doping in 2014, according to WADA statistics. Yuliya Igorevna Stepanova is a Russian runner who admitted to taking four different steroids that her coaches and mentors helped her cover up and encouraged because it was normal for athletes in Russia. Her whole team was taking drugs to enhance their performance, and she unfortunately walked into an environment where drugs became necessary to compete. This leads people to question the integrity of the games as a whole. Who are the real winners if others are already at the finish line before the games start? It sends a message to aspiring Olympians that there is a more effective substitute for proper training and an ambitious work ethic. It will taint the reputation of the games for a long time.