Editorial: Firing a shot at the IAAF

In November 2015, the International Association of Athletics Federations made the decision to initiate a doping ban that will keep all Russian track athletes from participating in international competitions, including the World Championships – even if the majority of them have never officially tested positive. And now, with less than three months remaining until the Olympic torch is lit inside the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, hundreds of Russian athletes are left without the opportunity to compete.

Yelena Isinbayeva
Pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva never tested positive for doping, but was still banned from the World Championships last year. Photo by Malien Bravo

It was after Hajo Seppelt, a German investigative journalist, released his two documentaries “Secret doping dossier: How Russia produces its winners,” and “Doping – top secret: The shadowy world of athletics” last year, that hell broke loose for Russian track athletes. Not only were several of the biggest stars caught admitting their use of performance enhancing drugs on camera, but the film also alleged systematic state-sponsored doping throughout the whole Russian Federation, and history’s biggest doping scandal in the sport of athletics was just starting to emerge.

But by banning an entire nation, the IAAF declares that the notion of “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t apply to the victims of the Eastern European system.

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Photo by Anson Henry/CBS Sports

Although it seems like Russia never quite recovered from the cheater’s mentality that started evolving behind the Iron Curtain in the USSR in the 1970s, it’s wrong to let today’s athletes suffer because the system is useless. The severe corruption and pressure from the government has paralyzed the country’s anti-doping work, and according to The Sunday Times, a database-leak revealed that blood tests from 5,000 Russian athletes showed extraordinary signs of doping.

If that’s true, banning all the athletes who did test positive would seem like a fair deal, but the real concerning issue here is that all those 12,000 blood samples were never disclosed to the public, or even to the World Anti-Doping Association.

That means the Russian Anti-Doping Association failed to do its job, and it should be punished instead of just sweeping all athletes into the same ditch – regardless of whether or not they have tested positive.

The IAAF used its most powerful tool by suspending the whole federation, and even if the ban will keep many doped athletes from entering the result lists, it only treats the symptoms of this whole epidemic.

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Mariya Savinova was caught discussing her use of performance enhancing drugs on video. According to the New York Times she said: “Well, really, what should we do? How should it go differently? That is our system and in Russia that only works only with pharma.” Photo by: Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press

The reason why so many athletes are using performance-enhancing drugs is because they think they can get away with it – or their coaches and their team organizations think they can get away with it. If the RUSADA had done its job, the athletes who actually did cheat would have been plucked out of the circuit before it got to this point.

Punishing all the athletes from participating at the Olympics is just like deporting all Mexicans from the US because someone said the crime rates have been shown to be higher among the Hispanic population – it’s too generalizing and makes innocent people suffer more than they have to.

Now that Hajo Seppelt has found information that implies that the doping culture in Russia is, in fact, run by the government, the IAAF should see that they caught the wrong guys.

Editorial by Maria Lavelle

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