Playing to win
A World Anti-Doping Agency committee has recommended suspending Russia from international sporting competitions, including next year’s Olympics, over manipulations in an athlete doping probe which started after accusations of Russian state-sponsored doping were first exposed at Sochi Winter Games in 2014. With patience fast running out, the WADA committee has called for a four-year suspension of Russia from international competition and a decision is likely on December 9.
The continuing ban on Russian track and field since 2015 has started wearying down its defiance in the face of damning evidence. Legends like Yelena Isinbayeva have lamented that “there are more honest and clean athletes than lying and irresponsible ones… so why is it that we still can’t seem to separate these two groups — the honest from the deceitful?” While Russia hurtles towards a reckoning, global sport is fighting for its credibility with viewer interest dipping as more revelations of cheating get outed and existing sanctions fail to deter Russia. However, no one is deluded into thinking Russia are the only offenders. All the top sporting nations have had their brushes with dope cheats.
The most diabolical one involves investigation into Nike and a programme run by its celebrated coach, Salazar, who guided Mo Farah to multiple Olympic victories. Kenya, a track and field giant, is also under a cloud. Russia can’t be faulted for thinking it is also being targeted for unrelated geopolitical grouses, including those related to alleged interference in elections of other countries. But clean bodies are the bedrock of sporting credibility, and that’s why WADA is trying desperately to contain the apparent Russian menace.