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Russian Track and Field Team Banned from Olympics for Doping

The International Association of Athletics Federations banned Russia’s track and field team for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as a result of extensive doping and corruption charges.

The governing body’s announcement comes as no surprise given that in 2015 the IAAF barred the Russian track and field athletes from other competitions after the World Anti-Doping Agency found systemic doping and corruption by Russian athletes and sports officials.

The New York Times reported that Russia denied committing any violations, but did not contest the suspension back in November.

In response to the IAAF decision on Friday, the Russian ministry stated that “we now appeal to the members of the International Olympic Committee to not only consider the impact that our athletes’ exclusion will have on their dreams and the people of Russia, but also that the Olympics themselves will be diminished by their absence.”

Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov said the proposed ban would affect some 100 track and field athletes on Russia’s Olympic team. He added that the team’s exclusion from the international competition would be a “blow to the Olympic movement.”

Aside from the athletes doping—the use of prohibited drugs or methods to improve training and sporting results—the Times reports that Russian security service personnel participated in the intimidation of testers and tampered with doping sample packages. At least one athlete provided a fake urine sample using a “container inserted inside her body.”

The Russian team’s illegal practices surfaced after a number of  whistleblowers fled to the United States fearing for their safety.

Grigory Rodchenkov, who now lives in Los Angeles, worked for years at the direction of the Russian government to help their athletes perform better with illegal enhancement drugs and practices. He told the Times that for the 2012 London games, Russian athletes imbibed a cocktail that he crafted, consisting of three banned substances, which included anabolic steroids and liquor. They stopped taking the cocktail one to two weeks before the competition in order to prevent detection in their system.

Russian officials refute Dr. Rodchenkov’s revelations, calling him a “slander of a turncoat.” But Rodchenkov insists, “If you’re fighting doping, Russia should be withdrawn from the Olympics.” He adds, “Doping is everywhere. Many people in Russia don’t want to tell the truth. Lies and fear are absolute.”

Ironically, Russia’s flag bearer at the 2012 Olympics in London, tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, earlier in the month was suspended from her sport for two years for testing positive for the banned substance meldonium. She is appealing the World Anti-Doping Agency’s decision.

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