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Top 10 Russian Doping Scandal Facts - WMNews Ep. 57

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Sean Harris As the old adage says, 'cheats never prosper.' Welcome to and today we're counting down the top 10 crucial facts you should know about the Russian doping scandal.

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Top 10 Russian Doping Scandal Facts

As the old adage says, ‘cheats never prosper.’ Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about the Russian doping scandal.

#10: What Is the Russian Doping Scandal?
The Situation

Despite its status as one of the most successful nations in athletics history, Russia is currently serving a full suspension from the sport of athletics – which entails competitive running and jumping, like track and field - amid allegations of doping. On November 9th, 2015, an independent investigation set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency revealed an incredibly widespread problem. Allegations include the consistent use of performance enhancing drugs byRussian athletes, and the manipulation of suspicious drugs test results by anti-doping officials. The commission’s report, which was presided over by former WADA president Dick Pound, reveals a deep-rooted, state-sponsored ‘culture of cheating’ embedded throughout Russian athletics.

#9: How Was It Discovered?
The Whistleblowers

Former Russian athlete Yuliya Stepanova and her husband Vitaly, a former anti-doping official in Russia, have proved to be the most crucial and prominent voices in exposing the scandal. Yulia, a middle-distance runner, was herself banned for doping offences in 2013, following ‘abnormalities’ in her biological passport. However, since her suspension, she and Vitaly have worked to gather evidence against a Russian athletics system apparently saturated in corruption. The pair first appeared on a German documentary titled ‘Top Secret Doping: How Russia makes its Winners’ designed to uncover Russian methods, before their evidence featured heavily in Pound’s report. The couple have since been accused of betraying their own country, and have been threatened with multiple lawsuits, yet Vitaly maintains, ‘people should know the true story.’

#8: What Did the Report Contain?
The Cover-up

Pound’s 323-page report was finalized after an almost year-long investigation into Russian athletics. It reveals a high-pressure environment existing in Russia, in which performance enhancing drugs are traded, WADA regulations are ignored, and elite athletes find it difficult to follow the rules, even if they want to. One widely reported section of the report found that Moscow officials, despite WADA’s request that they be preserved, knowingly destroyed more than 1,400 lab samples. The report also alludes to a second ‘secret’ laboratory in Moscow, identical to the WADA accredited complex, in which doping data is manipulated or eradicated in order to produce falsely favorable results.

#7: Who Is Involved?
The State

While the report incriminates the athletes themselves, it also exposes the role played by coaches, senior officials and government figures. The RussianMinistry of Sport is implicated, as well as the All-Russian Athletics Federation and Russia’s National Anti-Doping Agency. The problems reportedly trickle down from the top, creating a ‘flawed’ national mind-set toward doping, and what the report refers to as, ‘an open and accepted series of unethical behaviours.’ Pound’s investigation goes as far as to suggest that any Russianathlete unwilling to participate in the system would forfeit their chance of national selection. Essentially, it’s alleged that in Russia you have to cheat if you want to win.

#6: Who Is Involved? Part II
The Athletics Association

The report extends its accusations outside of Russia as well, however, unearthing how such a sophisticated and entrenched doping culture came to be. Senior figures in the International Association of Athletics Federations are also involved, including former IAAF president, Lamine Diack. The highest profile within a band of top officials, Diack was arrested in November 2015, shortly before Pound’s report was published and shortly after he was succeeded as president by British Lord and former athlete, Sebastian Coe. Diack is accused of accepting payments in return for leniency with regard toRussian cheating.

#5: How Did Russia React?
The Response

Though the initial response out of Russia was defensive, reactions have gradually gotten more cooperative as more evidence has come to light. At the end of November 2015, the ARAF officially accepted their ‘full suspension, without requesting a hearing as was their constitutional right.’ Russian athletics also confirmed ‘they will cooperate fully and actively,’ until it is possible for them to be reinstated as a member of the IAAF once more. Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s response has also softened in time. On November 10th, his spokesman Dimitry Peskov labelled the doping claims as ‘quite unfounded.’ However, Putin quickly changed his angle and called for ‘professional cooperation’ on the matter, saying that ‘a sporting contest is only interesting when it is honest.’

#4: Did Russian Athletes Have a Choice?
The Pressure

Dick Pound’s report does conclude that some athletes willingly partook indoping. However, the investigation also found that many athletes were given no other choice but to cheat. The report highlights ‘cases where athletes who did not want to participate in ‘the programme’ were informed they would not be considered as part of the federation’s national team.’ An accusation which in turn places almost every elite Russian athlete under suspicion, the massive pressure has also been apparent since Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanova first spoke out; according to the Telegraph, the couple ‘risked their lives to expose Russia’s regime’.

#3: Is Russia the Only Country Involved?
The World

At present, and in relation to Pound’s report, Russia is the only nation directly implicated. However, Pound himself has described his report as ‘the tip of the iceberg’, insinuating that other countries besides Russia could become subject to similar revelations. ‘The independent commission wants to make it clear that Russia is not the only country with an ineffective anti-doping programme,’ says the report, ‘and that athletics is not the only sport.’ Pound looked towards Kenya in particular, which has had various doping controversies in recent times, while Russian authorities have pointed the finger at the UK before now, describing the British anti-doping system as ‘even worse’ than their own.

#2: Will Russia Lose its Medals?
The Past

There is a major possibility that, in light of November’s report, Russia will have some, if not all, of its recent medal wins rescinded and reallocated. The athletics medals picked up during the 2012 Olympic Games in London could be especially disputed, while other podium finishes throughout recent athletics seasons are likely to be scrutinized. The International Olympics Committee has confirmed that it will ‘take all necessary measures’ in relation to the allegations against Russia, which could result in a loss of medals.

#1: Will Russia Be Able to Compete in the 2016 Olympics?
The Outcome

Moving into 2016, Russia’s eligibility to compete in the Rio Olympics is severely under threat. For as long as it remains suspended from the IAAF, it will not be allowed to do so, and according to IAAF president Sebastian Coe, there is ‘no timeline’ set out for Russia’s reinstatement into the organization. Coe says that ‘Russia must demonstrate verifiable change across a range of criteria’ before its situation is reconsidered, a process that could take much longer than the few months available before the Rio Games. For the original whistleblower Vitaly Stepanova however, ‘there is a one percent chance of Russia not being at the Olympics.’ For the Stepanovas, there is an exasperated belief that Russia will have its proverbial wrist slapped, before being unfairly invited to the party in Brazil.

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