World Facts

State Run Doping Scandals

Some states not only enable but encourage doping in athletes.

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Doping refers to the use of prohibited performance-enhancing drugs in competitive sports. Doping is unethical and banned by numerous global sports organizations like the International Olympic Committee (IOC). East Germany, Russia, and China have all been the focus of state-run doping scandals in recent years.

East Germany

East Germany was the pioneering nation in state-run doping. The country managed a decade-long program called the State Plan 14.25 which involved the administration of various performance-enhancing substances like anabolic steroids and testosterone to their athletes. State-authorized doping started during the Cold War when a win for the Eastern Bloc was considered to be an ideological conquest. Ewald Manfred authorized blanket doping in the country in 1974. Doping ended in the state after the fall of communism in 1989. Llona Slupianek was the first athlete to test positive for anabolic steroids in Helsinki in 1977.

Russia

Russia has a long history of doping and it has had 51 medals stripped by the IOC. Doping dates back to the Soviet era when KGB officials posed as anti-doping authorities to help undermine the drug tests and rescue their athletes. Some documents which were obtained in 2016 revealed a statewide doping system in the field and track for the 1984 Summer Olympics.

In 2010, Vitaly Stepanov informed WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) of alleged doping in Russia, but his claim was dismissed. After sending over 250 letters to WADA, Stepanov finally contacted German broadcasting company ARD which aired his documentary on how Russia was creating champions. He claimed that officials were supplying the drugs to athletes in exchange for 5% on their winnings. The officials went as far as falsifying tests to help them win.

The documentary resulted in an investigation which saw the Russian Anti-Doping Agency being prohibited by IAAF from testing their athletes and the IAAF council banning Russia from field and track events in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The committee concluded that any Russian athletes who wanted to participate in the 2018 games must apply and be tested before being allowed to compete under the designation of OAR (Olympic Athlete from Russia) in the Olympic Games.

China

China held a state-authorized doping program on its athletes from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. The program helped the number of Chinese swimmers in the top 25 world rankings from 38 to 98 by 1992. The country won twelve out of the sixteen medals in the 1994 events. Twenty-eight swimmers tested positive for doping from 1990 to 1998. Their performance improved until 1998 when HGH (Human Growth Hormones) were found in swimmer Yuan Yuan’s luggage. Yuan had more than enough HGH to supply the entire women's swimming team for the whole tournament. Xue Yinxian, the former doctor of the gymnastics team, claimed that during the 1980s HGH and steroids were considered to be part of a scientific training program and the athletes.

State-run doping has been an issue for over a century now with numerous nations being caught up in the scandal. Chen Zhangho, the Chinese Olympic team’s doctor, explained how he tested steroids, blood doping, and hormones in over fifty athletes during an interview which the Sydney Morning Herald published in 2012. Chen also accused France and the United States of doping when China was using the performance-enhancing drugs.

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