Drug up, get left out

Michael Shipma

Sports Editor

Nothing is more infuriating for an athlete than being taunted by an opponent who has beaten you by cheating.

That’s exactly what happened to U.S. swimmer Lilly King at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Russian, two-time PED-positive swimmer Yulia Efimova won her semifinal heat in the 100m breaststroke on Aug. 7, and followed her victory with a haughty finger wag that made headlines across the country.

While the incident made headlines in the U.S. and abroad, Efimova’s antics have drawn international attention to an even greater issue.

While performance-enhancing drugs and their use by athletes have been around for years, the extent of the doping scandal at this year’s Olympics has been unprecedented.

For as long as sports have been around, there have been those who have tried to get ahead of the competition outside of the rules. However, with all of today’s technologies and fancily named anti-drug enforcement organizations, why are these cheaters making it onto the same playing field as those who made it there fair and square?

Unfortunately, that is what is going on at this year’s Olympic Games, and here’s why: the International Olympic Committee decided to forgo a blanket ban on Russian athletes at the Olympics, despite nearly a third of the nation’s athletes testing positive for illegal substances.

A statement from the World Anti-Doping Agency called on the IOC to forbid Russia from participating after it came out in a 2014 WADA report that Russia’s “Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes’ analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the FSB, CSP, and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories.”

So what does this mean?

It means that Russia knew all about the doping and did nothing. Furthermore, Russian officials encouraged and aided it in an attempt to go behind the back of the WADA and IOC.

First and foremost, why it was a good idea in the first place for countries to be allowed to drug test their own athletes is beyond all reason. With that system, there is little to no accountability on an international level.

To make matters worse, ESPN reported that the IOC is opting to allow the federations of each individual Olympic Sport to decide if Russian athletes should be allowed to compete.

Essentially, this allows for inconsistent sanctions for the same offenses across the board for athletes, and completely leaves the fate of cheating athletes at the sometimes-corrupt discretion of corporations.

So where does this leave us? What can be done to catch cheating athletes before they take the field?

As is often the case, the best solution is the simplest one: make a single organization composed of officials from all across the globe that work for the Olympics to ensure clean athletes.

Instead of opening the door for corruption and bias, it would be much smarter to have a single, accountable organization that handles drug testing of athletes.

That way, when PED-positive testing athletes come knocking on the door of the Olympic games, officials can be the ones wagging their fingers in their faces in victory.


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