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August 2, 2008

Olympics – Track and Field: Russians Banned For Alleged Doping

 As a sports lover, I think it’s disingenuous that after a year-long investigation, that 8 days before the Olympics, results of the ‘investigation’ are announced that eliminate athletes from any country. I want to see the best compete against the best. 

The athletes now have 14 days to appeal which is not enough time because of all the red tape and bureaucracy involved.  Plus most of their events will take place within the 14 day time frame so the athletes would miss their events while they appeal.  Athletes spend a life time training and sacrificing just so that they can become eligible for the ‘big race’.  If the athletes are truly doping then they should be banned but there should be enough time allocated before the Olympics for them to appeal their cases so that the expulsion looks legitimate and not contrived.

The Russian track and field officials will wait until after the Beijing Olympics to respond to the suspension of seven female athletes, including five Olympians, after accusations that they violated international anti-doping rules. Yet the officials provided little clarity Friday on the status of the athletes, even as the Russian news media tossed about conspiracy theories.

The Russian Track and Field Federation have decided “to take no action until after the end of the Olympics,” said Dmitry Tugarin, a spokesman for Rossport, the government agency that oversees major athletics in Russia.

“They understand that the chances of these athletes participating are impossible and that there would be a lot of irritation and few results,” he said.

It was unclear if the officials’ silence indicated recognition of serious cracks or corruption in Russia’s system of anti-doping controls.

“We really do not want to create a scandal supporting one thing and then receiving evidence to the contrary,” Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister, said at a news conference Friday.

Meanwhile, reports in the news media implied that political motivations were behind the suspensions.

“It is a provocation; they’re just scared of us!” was the front-page headline in Friday’s Sovietsky Sport, one of the most authoritative and popular sports newspapers in Russia. A columnist for the newspaper Sport Express wrote that the athletes were “prisoners of some strange and very large game.”

After a yearlong investigation, the International Association of Athletics Federations, the world governing body of track and field, publicly accused the athletes on Thursday of substituting their urine with someone else’s to thwart doping controls.

With the suspensions announced eight days before the Aug. 8 start of the Games in Beijing, the five Olympians, all potential medalists, will most likely be removed from the Russian roster. It is too late for Russia to add substitutes in their events.

 Those suspended include Yelena Soboleva, the world’s fastest woman this year at 800 and 1,500 meters, and Tatyana Tomashova, a silver medalist in the 1,500 at the Athens Olympics in 2004. The athletes have up to 14 days to appeal. The suspensions could imperil Russia’s hopes of keeping pace in the overall medal race with the United States and China, its two main competitors.

Since China surpassed Russia in the medal count at the Athens Olympics, Russia has been pouring money into its Olympic programs, while looking to a rematch in Beijing. The Russians may also be without Gulfiya Khanafeyeva (hammer throw), Darya Pishchalnikova (the world’s leading discus thrower) and Yulia Fomenko (1,500 meters).

The newspaper Kommersant called the accusations the biggest scandal “in the history not only of Russian, but of international athletics.” The newspaper wrote that the Russian national team, “because of the I.A.A.F.’s decision, will likely fall short by several Olympic medals sorely needed in the fight with the United States and China.”

Soboleva told Kommersant, “This is a provocation, created especially to remove potential medalists before the Olympics.”

Russia was dealt a further setback Thursday with the news that Maria Sharapova, the world’s third-ranked tennis player, would miss the Olympics because of a shoulder injury.

Russia’s state-controlled television initially provided only thin coverage of this doping scandal. By Friday evening, however, coverage appeared to begin to shift against the I.A.A.F.

“Disqualification of athletes, especially in track and field, is not very big news, not here, not in other countries,” said Nikolai Durmanov, the former head of antidoping controls at the Olympic Committee, who retains ties to the agency.

He added, however, that the timing of the accusations — coming so close to the start of the Olympics and allowing almost no time for appeals — appeared suspicious.

“You can understand people who are using dramatic terms like provocation and conspiracy,” he said. “Until now, international sport, especially the Olympics, has been free from politics.”


Story by Michael Schwirtz/The New York Times




  1. The cards are looking very bad for Russia. Iam a little surprise by the string of bad luck they are having. The athletes affected are big names that will really hurt their medal count and as you said rivaling against China.

    Comment by duttybwoy — August 2, 2008 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

  2. Dutty — it seems a little convenient because of the timing…

    Comment by Paulette — August 2, 2008 @ 4:09 pm | Reply

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