What the Russian Olympic Ban really means
Russian athletes are banned from competition in the 2016 Olympic Games after evidence of widespread doping and systematic corruption was found within Russia’s track and field establishments. The result of the Russian ban may only open the door for other issues to come to the forefront during the 2016 games.
As early as the 2008 Olympic Games there have been reports of Russian athletes doping. On November 9, 2015 what has come to be known as the Russian Doping Scandal become front page news after an investigation of allegations of state-sponsored athletic doping. The result of the year long investigation? A lengthy, 323 page report and proof of long-standing state-sponsored doping including the deliberate destruction of positive dope tests, bribery, and the use of false identities to avoid testing altogether.
The International Association of Athletics Federation ,IAAF, banned Russians from international competition. In June the International Olympic Committee, IOC, backed the IAAF ruling and have banned Russian athletes from competing in the upcoming games.
This ban has removed “dirty” Olympians who competed in the 2012 London games from competing at Rio like poster child of the doping scandal, Mariya Savinova. The 2010 and 2011 World Champion, European Athlete of the Year, and 2012 gold medalist has received a life time ban from the sport and actions have been taken to re-allocate her medals as well as those of the other Russian dopers to their rightful owners.
For athletes who have competed cleanly in the sport and lost to dopers, the ban comes as a relief as they prepare for the games this August. However, for athletes whose careers have ended and are unable to compete in the upcoming games the constellation prize of medal re-allocation brings little closure. The real momentum taken from them is the experience of a podium spot at the Olympics and the memories that could have been.
“There’s no ceremony that happens, your national anthem isn’t playing, your flag isn’t being raised – that moment cannot be replaced, Even if a medal shows up in my mailbox.” Alysia Montaño
Alysia Montaño, the 5th place finisher in the womens 800 in 2012 constantly found herself losing to Savinova. Montaño recently missed her chance of going to Rio during the U.S. Olympic Trials where she fell during competition. The long time supporter of clean competition knew she was competing against dopers during London and saw Rio as her chance to finally show what clean athletes can accomplish. She states “You can’t ever get back those moments, you can’t ever replace those feelings that I would have been able to experience at the time.”
Russian athletes have taken action against the ban. Those who have made marks to compete in Rio have sent appeals to compete as neutrals. Out of over 60 applicants only two have been cleared for international competition by the IAAF, long jumper Darya Klishina and 800m specialist and Benedict Arnold of the Doping Scandal, Yuliya Stepanova. The duo are currently awaiting clearance from the IOC to confirm their spots as neutral athletes in the upcoming games. Pleas from Russian athletes such as two-time Olympic gold medalist Yelena Isinbaeva argue the ban is unjust to Russian athletes who have competed cleanly during their careers.
“Track and field is about individuals. We are not a team sport. Every athlete is responsible for themselves, for their behavior, for their deeds. So why should I be responsible for the mistakes of others?” Yelena Isinbaeva on the IOC Ban
Many argue Russia is only one country whose dopers have been caught but, until the other doping states are brought to light the corruption within sports will continue. Others argue that the removal of the doper athletes from this upcoming Olympics will not create a “fairer” field. The issue engulfing the upcoming games will be the intersex dilemma. Caster Semenya, the South African middle distance runner whose name rose to fame in 2009 after a world championship win and questions regarding her gender is the favorite in the 400 and 800 at Rio and possibly a medalist in the 1500. With the games a less than a month away, genetic female athletes are beginning to speak out against the IAAF’s decision to allow Caster to run in the female division while no longer on estrogen hormones.
“It challenges and threatens the integrity of women’s sports to have intersex athletes competing against genetic women” Shannon Rowbury 1500m American Record Holder on Caster Semenya
The current gender testing of intersex athletes and those suspected to be is humiliating to those involved and degrading, but the question of whether or not it is fair to allow individuals with elevated testosterone (a male sex hormone, when in high amounts it is considered to be positive dope test ) to compete is yet to be answered fully.
Will the allowance of intersex athletes be the next doping scandal? Time will tell. It is apparent the issue is not coming to a close anytime soon as more and more cases like Caster are seen every day. Pandora’s box is on the verge of opening, its estimated delivery? Rio, August 2016.