The Great Russian Scandal

Riley Sims, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Russia has been banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang County, South Korea following a 17-month investigation into a doping scandal from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The doping was covered up by the Russian government and authorities. While the team is banned from the games, Russian athletes who are clean can compete under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia”, and the Olympic Hymn will play at any medal ceremony for Russian athletes.

Many Russians are not pleased about the outcome, including Russian President Vladimir Putin who said it will be humiliating for athletes to compete without any national symbols. The All-Russia State Broadcasting company will also not broadcast the games, as a result. Russia was close to being banned from the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee did not have enough time to finish the investigation and left it to individual sports to decide.

“Supposedly they can participate,” said AP U.S. History teacher Jason Gray, “as a Russian athlete but not for the Russian government, but then I wouldn’t be surprised if the Russian government pressures them to not participate because they don’t want to add to that disgrace of them being banned.”

The investigation started as result of the testimony from whistleblower, Grigory Rodchenkov who was the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory and claims that the scandal was backed by the Russian government. The Kremlin, which is the working residence of the president, has denied the claim and even issued a warrant for Rodchenkov’s arrest. Rodchenkov fled from Russia back in 2015, and has been under American witness protection.

Rodchenkov recorded his whole life in his diary. He recorded his blood pressure, errands he ran during the day and many details about the doping scandal. His job included making a drug cocktail for athletes to drink during the games. The athletes would give clean urine samples months in advance, and Rodchenkov would store them at the lab where he worked and swap out their drug urine for the clean urine.

While the scandal has negatively affected Russia, other countries are benefiting from its punishment. The IOC also fined the Russian Olympic Committee $15 million, which will go toward drug-testing international athletes. So far the IOC has given lifetime bans to 25 Russian competitors and has stripped Russia of 11 medals, which caused them drop from first place on the medal table to fourth. The U.S. praised the IOC for its decision to ban Russia.

“Russia has traditionally had a huge pool of people to pull from, and now they will not have that group to throw out there,” said World History and UIL current events sponsor Chris McMillan. “So it gives the United States a massive edge.”

Olympic officials say it’s possible they’ll lift the ban in time for the closing ceremony so the Russian flag can fly in the final hours of the Olympic Games.

“I feel somewhat bad for the Russian athletes who might be not cheating but who are being now, possibly, prevented from participating,” said Gray.