Russia’s Continued Cheating in International Sports

The sad joke continues.

AP (“US to receive gold medals in the wake of figure skater Valieva’s Olympic disqualification“):

Members of the U.S. Olympic figure skating team learned late Monday they will receive gold medals now that Russian skater Kamila Valieva has been disqualified for doping at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee received word that the IOC would award the gold to the U.S. for the team competition, which was thrown into turmoil after Valieva’s positive test from six weeks before the competition was revealed.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of an email sent from the IOC to the USOPC saying it “is now in position to award the medals in accordance with the ranking, which has to be established by the International Skating Union” — the federation in charge of running the event at the Olympics.

The USOPC confirmed that CEO Sarah Hirshland had received the news that the Americans were declared the winners.

The IOC said it had “great sympathy with the athletes who have had to wait for two years to get the final results of their competition. The IOC will contact the respective (national Olympic committees) in order to organize a dignified Olympic medal ceremony.”

Still uncertain is how Valieva’s disqualification will affect the silver and bronze medals. Japan finished third and is likely to move to second. Depending on how a scoring rule is interpreted, Russia could still finish third — ahead of Canada — even after deducting Valieva’s points from the two events she skated in during the team event.

The Americans to receive the gold medals are Evan Bates, Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, Madison Chock, Zachary Donohue, Brandon Frazier, Madison Hubbell, Alexa Knierim and Vincent Zhou.

It has been a long two years for all involved. Last summer, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum marked the 500-day milestone since the Olympics by displaying the empty boxes the skaters received that were supposed to contain medals that were not handed out in Beijing.

Over the weekend, Chock and Bates won their fifth U.S. title and were asked about the pending decision.

“I think two years is too long for this decision to be made, and we may never know why it has taken this long,” Bates said. “We’re just looking forward to getting some closure after a long waiting period.”

There was no immediate word on where a medals ceremony might take place. The USOPC said it was starting the process of finding a suitable time and place to award its skaters the gold. Skating’s world championships are in Montreal in March.

Valieva will end up empty-handed. The decision earlier in the day by the Court of Arbitration for Sport banned the Russian for four years dating back to Dec. 25, 2021 — the date of the positive test. The sanction vacates Valieva’s results after that date; it will end about two months before the next Winter Games in Italy.

Russian authorities criticized the ruling.

“Of course, we don’t agree with this. From my point of view, of course, it’s politicized,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

That matter of the slow timeline and the ultimate awarding of the gold medal to the American team is of only modest interest to me. The quality of sport that makes it exciting is its immediacy. Even if the medals had been awarded before the Games concluded, the thrill of the moment would have been lost.

What baffles me is why Russian athletes are allowed to compete, period. That Soviet and other Communist bloc athletes were routinely cheating for decades was so widely understood that it was quite literally a joke. Russia continued to be the foremost cheater is international sports in the post-Cold War period. As the lead to the “Doping in Russia” entry at Wikipedia puts it,

Systematic doping of Russian athletes has resulted in 48 Olympic medals stripped from Russia (and Russian associated teams), four times the number of the next highest, and more than 30% of the global total.[1] Russia has the most competitors who have been caught doping at the Olympic Games in the world, with more than 150.[2]

Doping among Russian competitors is distinct from doping among nationals of other countries in that, rather than doping being an individual choice it is state-sponsored and systematic, with the Russian state being found to have supplied steroids and other drugs to athletes. Due to widespread violations of anti-doping regulations, including an attempt to sabotage ongoing investigations by the manipulation of computer data, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2019 banned the Russian Federation from all major sporting events, including the Olympic Games, for four years.[3] In 2020 the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced the ban period to two years following an appeal by Russia. Competitors from Russia meanwhile may take part in international competitions under a neutral flag and designation.[4]

This, too, has been a sick joke. Despite repeated “bans” of Russian teams, their athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics and other international competitions under the thin pretense that they’re not part of a Russian team but “independent” competitors. Which makes no sense at all. Most obviously, if Russia is systematically cheating, then their athletes are tainted. Further, the very nature of the Games is that the athletes represent their countries. Indeed, the coverage of the Russian athletes rightly ignores the pretense that they’re “independent,” with the medal counts treating them just as any other delegation.

We have decades of evidence of routine cheating by Russia. They should be permanently banned from international competition, both as teams and individuals.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    In most countries, sports organizations are only loosely connected to their national governments, if at all. They are organized and run by self appointed and self organized committees that, once in power, fall inevitably into corruption. It’s why I only invest emotionally in up and coming sports, which don’t yet attract the negative influences associated with the more prestigious events.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: The problem with that is that, as the Wikipedia entry notes,”Systematic doping of Russian athletes has resulted in 48 Olympic medals stripped from Russia (and Russian associated teams), four times the number of the next highest, and more than 30% of the global total.[1] Russia has the most competitors who have been caught doping at the Olympic Games in the world, with more than 150.[2]”

    It’s true that, as you state,
    “Doping among Russian competitors is distinct from doping among nationals of other countries in that, rather than doping being an individual choice it is state-sponsored and systematic, with the Russian state being found to have supplied steroids and other drugs to athletes.” But that’s all the more reason to ban Russian athletes from competition.

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: I wasn’t clear. You were wondering why the Russians haven’t been banned. I was (ineptly) pointing out that the International Olympic Committee is a self appointed and self perpetuating organization that is corrupt. The Russians know how to exploit corrupt organizations.

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  4. Bill Jempty says:

    Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc used to do the same. Just a few quickies

    Bobby Fischer and the 1962 Candidates tournament in Curacao. BF alleged that the Soviet players ended most of their games against one another in short draws (to save energy) in order to thwart Fischer.

    In later Interzonal tournaments, the precursor to the Candidates Matches/Tournaments, when doing the draw of players to set up in what order competitors played one another, tournament officials either gave some players a number automatically or if they didn’t switch the rounds around so two soviet players/Eastern Bloc players from the same country wouldn’t meet in the final round. This was done at the 1970 Palma De Majorca interzonal which Fischer famously ran away with.

    Also at that interzonal, Yugoslav Grandmaster Milan Matulovic was paid to throw his last round game against Soviet GM Mark Taiminov so Taiminov could qualify for the Candidates matches. Taiminov qualified, then got squashed 6-0 in his match vs Bobby Fischer.

    It is claimed by Frank Shorter and others, that East German Olympic marathon winner (76 and 80) Waldemar Cierpiniski was helped by the East German doping program.

    Interestingly, the East German helping of athletes was the premise of a late 70’s medical drama episode. Some swimmer, born male, but living and competing as a woman, was defecting. Can’t remember the show’s name but it was after the famous Medical Center episode, and before I went in the Navy in June 1979, where Robert Reed played a M2F TS.

    Edit- THe television drama was Westside Medical and the 1977 episode was titled ‘The Mermaid’

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  5. al Ameda says:

    This Olympic-level cheating stuff goes back about 50 years. I remember the scandal associated with (Soviet Bloc) East German swimming team doping up, and over the years there’s more.

    International Cycling? Well, least an American did the heavy lifting as far a blood doping. Turned out that many many other Euro-cyclists were in on the PEDS too.

    But hey, I try to look at the bright side:
    At least there are no Russian nationals in American Major League Baseball.

    Every silver lining has a touch of grey.

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  6. Kenny says:

    I commend to you the 2017 documentary, “Icarus.” American filmmaker Bryan Fogal begins by trying to learn how to dope to win an amateur cycling race, and then basically stumbles into an international doping scandal with his cameras rolling. It’s a fascinating watch.

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  7. DK says:

    They should be permanently banned from international competition, both as teams and individuals.

    I don’t know about permanent, but a 20-year blanket ban seems appropriate given the systematic issues.

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  8. Gustopher says:

    @Bill Jempty:

    Bobby Fischer and the 1962 Candidates tournament in Curacao. BF alleged that the Soviet players ended most of their games against one another in short draws (to save energy) in order to thwart Fischer.

    I recommend the Behind The Bastards podcast’s episodes about Bobby Fischer. It’s a great listen.

    Bobby Fischer: Chess Nazi

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