The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has faced scandal after scandal within sport over the past decade, contributing significantly to political debates and controversies within international sport. Since 2014, there has been the continued idea that the use of performance-enhancing drugs is not only amongst a small number of athletes, but is actually ingrained into their system. Some have even accused the ROC of running a state-sponsored doping programme.
It is important to provide you with a small back story as to how doping allegations have escalated since 2014. Russia won a surprising number of medals at the Sochi Olympics and soon after, a former Russian athlete claimed that 99% of athletes had used performance-enhancing drugs. It was further decided that Russia were only allowed to compete as a contingent i.e. “athletes from Russia” and not representing the nation as a whole (hence ROC).
The recent Beijing Winter Olympic games triggered doping allegations to resurface, particularly in regard to the 15-year-old individual figure skater, Kamila Valieva who not only won gold at the games but also created history as the first ever female figure skater to perform a quadruple jump. With her success comes questions in regard to doping. On February 8th, a Swedish lab reported to the authorities that the December sample of Valieva’s urine contained a prohibited substance trimetazidine. It is a heart medication considered banned by the World Anti-doping Agency. However, it was shortly ruled after that the athlete was cleared to compete in the individual figure skating competition.
In addition, the ROC have also been creating a negative and abusive culture surrounding its’ athletes within their training system. Their attitude to sport is at risk of spreading a dangerous culture amongst other countries who wish to compete for the same gold medals. Is there a reason why Russian athletes can perform skating stunts which no other nation can accomplish? It would be difficult to plainly use the explanation that their athletes are just better. Many see 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva as an example of Russia’s corrupt and abusive system. Not only is she a minor consuming performance-enhancing drugs but she is known to be coached by Eteri Tuberidze, who has famously coached many students who have proceeded to win gold medals at numerous Olympics. However, she has also been accused of abusive coaching practices which includes over-training and diet restrictions. Many believe that these skaters are pushed to their absolute limit by Tuberidze to obtain gold medals but once their bodies mature due to puberty; they are tossed aside, and they move onto the next young athlete.
It is this toxic environment which suggests that the ROC should be prohibited from competing in international sporting events like the Olympics. Though Russia as a nation cannot compete; they are still able to send athletes under the ROC pretense. This current rule may not be enough to deter Russia from performance-enhancing drugs and more importantly, the culture of abuse that Russia is spreading. Maybe it is time to temporarily ban all athletes from Russia?