Russian Federation suspended from Olympics, whistleblower in hiding
In the aftermath of the Russian doping scandal, Russian athletes competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea participated under the term “OAR”, short for Olympic Athlete from Russia, this year. Following the Russian doping scandal, 169 athletes from Russia competed after being examined and determined to be clean from performance-enhancing substances.
The permitted athletes were held to strict standards in Pyeongchang, as determined by the International Olympic Committee. These standards included wearing neutral colors as part of their team uniform and marching under the Olympics logo rather than the Russian flag. No medals won by participating Russian athletes counted towards Russia’s medal count, and numerous athletes have been stripped of their medals from past Olympics.
The consequences come after an investigation led by the IOC disciplinary commission. The final report released by the commission charges Russia with “systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system.”
The disciplinary commission based its discoveries off of an independent report from Canadian law professor and attorney Dr. Richard McLaren. McLaren was was hired by the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate claims of a state-sponsored program. These claims originated from Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, who exposed doctors and athletes taking part in the doping scheme back in 2016.
Rodchenkov provided insight into how the doping was conducted and how the team passed drug testing, confessing that he played a significant role in the anti-doping laboratory corruption until he left Russia. He was the subject of a doping investigation in 2011, then was arrested He was later released prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi by orders from Russian president Vladimir Putin, according to Rodchenkov. The former director of the anti-doping lab said that urine samples taken to test for evidence of doping were swapped out for samples taken from the same athletes before they began doping programs.
It has been known that numerous doping allegations and a few suspensions were a part of the Russian anti-doping laboratory past. However, evidence that the laboratory was run by orders of the Russian state were original to McClaren’s first report, released just prior to the Rio Olympics in Summer 2016. This new evidence allowed the International Olympic Committee to take immediate and more severe action.
In November 2015, the Russian Anti-Doping Center was declared non-compliant with the rules set by the World Anti-Doping Agency and shut down. The New York Times reported that Rodchenkov fled to Los Angeles due to fears about his safety in early 2016, just months prior to the mysterious deaths of two of his former anti-doping executives. He has taken on a disguise and has been put under Witness Protection Program in the United States.
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) was suspended from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang for their involvement in the scandal, and ROC President Alexander Zhukov was suspended from the IOC. The ROC has been fined $15 million to cover the cost of the investigation.
1,000 athletes across 30 sports reportedly benefited from the doping program between 2012 and 2015. 25 athletes from Russia have been suspended for life from the Olympics.