2018 Olympic Preview: The Russian Ban

russiabanSteroids have always been a big story in sports and in the Olympics as cheating athletes have been the catalyst for so many of the biggest headlines.

Usually, it comes on the heels of a great performance that is tarnished after the athlete fails a drug test.

These failed tests often result in some of the biggest falls from grace that the sports world has seen and are fodder for massive amounts of stories even years after.

Steroids in the Olympics have also been a constant source of debate as there are many times where one athlete fails while it is almost assumed that everyone else should have.

The perfect example might be Ben Johnson who won Gold for Canada in the 100m during the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Soon after he won the gold medal he was disqualified for a failed drug test yet it is widely believed that almost everyone else in that final race was using as well.

The debate about that race continues today and debates about the use of steroids and just how widespread it is in the Olympics.

After all, the Olympics are the peak of these athletes’ careers with four years of work all coming to a head in these two weeks.

If they can rise to the top during their biggest showcase it can make a world of difference for them as it takes them into the spotlight.

A successful Olympics can take someone who has been working in anonymity and give them the opportunity to become a real star.

It is everything for these athletes and with those stakes, it is understandable why athletes are tempted to get a leg up on the rest of the competition.

Obviously, they should choose not to take it but there is that temptation there and some athletes do choose to take PEDs.

That temptation becomes so much tougher when taking those steroids is easier because one branch of the anti-doping arm isn’t even watching.

That was the case in the biggest doping scandal in the history of Olympic sports which will all come to a head in Pyeongchang.

The scandal began in 2014 when a German television station aired a documentary about widespread doping in Russia.

The documentary used emails sent by an employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) outlining how the agency was promoting doping for Russian athletes.

RUSADA officials were supplying athletes with PEDs and then falsifying results when they failed tests for steroids.

These reports were sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency and there was no sense of urgency to deal with the issues in Russia.

The documentary forced WADA to take charge and they launched an investigation into the allegations.

That investigation revealed exactly what the reports had in that the Russians had been cheating for years.wolympic-sidebarolympics-sidebar

That cheating was made all the easier with the fact that the places that were meant to stop doping were only helping it along.

The only real question left after the investigation was just how far up the ladder the cheating went.

During the investigation, FSB agents were reported to have visited RUSADA staff telling them not to participate in the investigation

That meant a lot of people to wonder if this doping program came right from the top in an attempt to improve the showing for the Russians.

It likely centred around the 2014 Sochi Olympics where the Russians were looking to have a great showing at home and doing anything to get there.

The investigation never answered that question but it did reveal mass corruption in Russia and a broken system of testing.

The fact that it was so widespread led the IOC to take the harshest steps in an attempt to show what could happen if any other country attempted the same thing.

The IOC banned the Russians from competing in the 2018 Olympics removing them from the programme altogether.

There will be no Russian flag anywhere during the Olympics and the anthem will not be played while the Russians will not earn a medal this time around.

The IOC did make some considerations for the athletes who were clean allowing certain Russians to compete under strict guidelines.

These athletes will walk in under the Olympic flag and be known as Olympic Athletes from Russia.

It is a dark and bright day for doping in sports as it is a symbol of the worst doping scandal in the history of the games but also a sign that the IOC takes these issues seriously.

They handed down the greatest punishment in the history of the games but a fitting punishment for what the Russians did.

With one of the biggest countries out of the Olympics, things will certainly look different this time around.

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