The Russian Doping Scandal

Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) compete under the Olympic Flag. Editorial credit: Leonard Zhukovsky /

Doping in sports has now become a serious global problem that threatens the integrity of international sporting events and also puts the health of the athletes at risk. Doping is the use of artificial enhancements and methods to gain an advantage over the competitors. It is considered cheating in sports and fundamentally against the spirit of fair competition. International federations such as the International Olympic Committee have come out strongly to stop the spread of this problem. Some of the actions the federations have taken against individuals and teams who have tested positive for banned substance include suspension and fines. One of the countries that has been plagued by doping scandals is Russia. The IOC has stripped off Russia a total of 51 Olympic medals for doping violations.

History of Doping In Russia/Soviet Union

The problem of doping in Russia can be traced back to the Soviet Union era. The 1980 Summer Olympic Games which was held in Moscow was considered the “Chemist Game” because of the rampant doping. During the Games, Soviet Union athletes were rescued from being caught during doping test by the KGB agency officers who posed as anti-doping officers from IOC. In 2016, some documents revealed that the Soviet Union had planned for a statewide doping system in preparation for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles before the decision to boycott the Games.

Ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, seven of Russia’s field and track athletes were suspended for manipulating their urine samples. Between 2001 and 2009, a high number of blood samples presented by the Russian athletes for testing recorded the highest values of banned substance ever seen by the IAAF. The test from the 2009 World Championship strongly indicated a systematic abuse of blood doping.

Alleged State-Sponsored Doping

In 2010, one of the employees of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, Vitaly Stepanov sent information to WADA that the agency was involved in systematic doping in athletics. Over the course of three years, he was able to send 250 emails and letter to WADA. Another email was sent to WADA in 2012 by Darya Pishchalnikova detailing alleged systematic doping program in Russia run by the state. In 2014, a documentary titled “How Russia Makes it Winners” was aired by the Germany ARD TV. The documentary accused the Russian athletes of systematic doping, prompting the IAAF, WADA, and IOC to commence investigations.

In 2015 and 2016, WADA confirmed the suspicions and recommended the banning of RUSADA and All-Russia Athletic Federation. The McLaren report further confirmed that Russia had swapped urine samples of doping athletes for clean ones during the Sochi Olympics. It also claimed that doping had been overseen by the country’s Ministry of Sports. On December 5, 2017, the IOC excluded Russia from the Olympic Games and banished its flag, uniform, and anthem from the games which were held in Pyeongchang.

Olympic Athletes for Russia

Some of the Russian athletes who have tested negative for doping were permitted to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The athletes who were designated Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) competed under the Olympic flag. A total of 169 athletes out of the 500 who had requested to take part in the Games were selected. However, Olga Graf pulled out of the competition. Two of the athletes who eventually took part in the Winter Games tested positive for doping. Bronze winner in mixed double curling, Alexander Krushelnitskiy, and bobsleigh pilot Nadezhda Sergeeva tested positive for banned substance.


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