Russia's 'Deeply Rooted Culture Of Cheating' Revealed

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Russian athletics are in hot water this morning when WADA's Independent Commission announced their recommendations to declare RUSADA (Russia's Anti-doping Agency) code non-compliant and that the IAAF suspend Russia from all international track and field events.

In December 2014, German television channel ARD released the documentary "Top Secret Doping: How Russian Makes Its Winners" which made some astonishing accusations of widespread and systemic doping in Russian athletics, specifically in track and field. The World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA immediately created an Independent Commission to investigate the allegations.

Then in August of 2015, ARD aired yet another documentary titled “Doping – Top Secret: The Shadowy World of Athletics” adding even more fuel to the fire for WADA to investigate and act on these accusations.

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Today the IC (Independent Commission) has released their findings and their recommended actions and it's not looking good for Russian sports. While they focus specifically on track and field in Russia, the IC states "there are reliable indications that sports in Russia, other than athletics, are affected by doping." The IC goes on to say "it is obvious [Russian testing] has been insufficient as well as tainted."

Moscow anti-doping laboratory implicated

The IC recommendations were mainly focused on track and field in Russia, but their recommendations to WADA included actions that could have major effects in other Russian sports. Specifically, they recommended that the accredited Moscow anti-doping laboratory lose its accreditation and the laboratory's director, Grigory Rodchenkov, be removed from his position and placed on WADA's Prohibited Associations list.

Grigory Rodchenkov
Grigory Rodchenkov

The Moscow lab is currently the only WADA accredited anti-doping lab in Russia and the accusations surrounding Grigory Rodchenkov could have effects on other Russian sports. The IC found that Rodchenkov aided and abetted doping, took bribes to hide positive tests, and even destroyed testing samples to avoid WADA audits.

...there are reliable indications that sports in Russia, other than athletics, are affected by doping.
Russian Ministry of Sport's involvement

One of the more troubling and wider reaching revelations in the IC's report is that the actions of the Moscow laboratory and RUSADA were at least indirectly directed by the Ministry of Sport in Russia, specifically through the presence of Russian Security Services intimidating the laboratory staff.

Between the involvement of the Moscow laboratory, RUSADA, and the Ministry of Sport it would be naive to assume this is a problem specifically constrained to track and field in Russia. It remains to be seen exactly what the fallout is from this report and what will happen with not only Russian track and field but the rest of their international sport.

'A Deeply Rooted Culture Of Cheating'

The IC report also concludes that Russia has "a deeply rooted culture of cheating" which largely came from the coaches (most of whom were athletes themselves). Athletes who weren't on board with the doping were denied access to the best coaches or removed from national teams in retaliation.

In the past 20 years Russia has won nearly 400 medals in the Summer Olympics including 78 from track and field events. It's difficult to read the IC's report without wondering exactly how many of those performances were related to this systemic and widespread doping in Russian sports. 

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If this were to affect Russia's ability to send weightlifters into international competitions, we could miss some of the sport's most competitive lifters in the prime of their careers. Apti Aukhadov (2013 World Champion), David Bedzhanyan (2014 World Championships Bronze medalist), Artem Okulov (2014 World Championships Bronze medalist) and others could see their careers shortened due to the potential sanctions on Russian athletes.

Now we wait to see what actions WADA will take to address the IC's findings and what, if any, effect this report will have on not only track and field but other international sports Russia competes in.

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