Russia suspended from athletics 24-1

November 15th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

CNN reports:

The International Association of Athletics Federations voted Friday to provisionally suspend Russia as a member amid a doping scandal, the IAAF reported on its website.

The action will keep the All-Russia Athletic Federation, the nation’s leading athletic association, out of international competition for an indefinite period that may include the2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

“This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated,” IAAF President Sebastian Coe said.

“Today we have been dealing with the failure of ARAF and made the decision to provisionally suspend them, the toughest sanction we can apply at this time,” Coe said. “But we discussed and agreed that the whole system has failed the athletes, not just in Russia, but around the world.”

The 24-1 vote was taken by teleconference. Russia was not allowed to vote

This is the right call, as noting short of this will convince the Russian Government that it needs to take action over drug cheating, rather than cover it up and facilitate it.

Very sad for the clean Russian athletes. They need to hope that enough changes occur so that they can compete in the Rio Olympics.

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Will Russia be banned?

November 10th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An international anti-doping commission recommended on Monday that Russia’s Athletics Federation be banned from the sport over widespread doping offences – a move that could see the powerhouse Russian team excluded from next year’s Rio Olympics.

The commission, set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), found a “deeply rooted culture of cheating” in Russian athletics. But it also identified what it called systemic failures in the global governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The international police body Interpol said it would coordinate a global investigation into suspected corruption and doping in athletics.

The commission said in its report that the London 2012 Olympics had been “sabotaged” by the widespread inaction of international and national anti-doping authorities.

“For 2016 our recommendation is that the Russian Federation be suspended, in fact one of our hopes is that they will volunteer that, so that they can take the remedial work in time to make sure that Russian athletes can compete under a new framework if you like,” Dick Pound, president of WADA, told a news conference in Geneva.

Russia finished second behind the United States in the medal table at the 2012 Olympics, with 17 medals, eight of them gold, and has long been one of the chief players in track and field.

Russia really is regressing to the old Soviet Union, which of course was world leaders in doping.

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Guest Post on Accepting Drugs in Sport: the Case of Pro-Cycling

October 30th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Mike Wilkinson, a former Ironman tri-athlete and a keen Tour de France follower:

The downfall of Lance Armstrong in the sport of professional cycling now seems complete.  Yet, as the dust settles, many are left wondering what’s next for pro-cycling: can it recover its credibility?  Or will it once more be tarnished by the brush of doping?  There seems little cause for hope, unless the Armstrong scandal helps the public reach a new acceptance of drugs in particular sports like pro-cycling.

Much has been written about Lance Armstrong. including allegations that he’s brought the sport into disrepute.  Although I’ll say that we can hardly expect successful pro-cyclists to behave like Mother Teresa, I have little to add about the man’s career.  I think, however, that there’s one important thing to keep in mind: the significant role of drugs in professional cycling goes well beyond just Lance Armstrong.

Before Armstrong, so many of cycling’s big names have tested positive for drugs.  They include Armstrong’s former rival, Jan Ullrich, five times Tour winner, Miguel Indurain and even the man who’s arguably the greatest road cyclist of all time, Eddy Merckx.  

Drugging does not seem confined to just individual athletes, either.  In 1998, the year before Armstrong won his first Tour de France, pro-cycling went through the Festina Affair.  It started when a team car that was stopped by the authorities at a border crossing and was found to be packed to the gunwales with EPO and other performance-enhancing drugs.  The case sent shockwaves throughout the sport and resulted in the trial of 10 people, including cyclists, team doctors and team managers   There were plenty of calls for pro-cycling to clean up its act following that fiasco, too.

But why is doping so rife in pro-cycling?  For my part, I think people need to appreciate just what the sport involves.  In the Tour de France, for example, competitors ride approximately 3500 kilometres.  Over that distance, the winner sets a phenomenal average speed of around 40kmh. And even with that pace, riders get just two rest days through the 23 days of the race  

I don’t doubt how hard it is to be a professional sports person in any code, but surely there are few sports where competitors operate so near the upper bounds of human endurance.  Cyclists must face a massive temptation to seek performance from wherever they can find it.

Some are calling for some sort of amnesty in which riders can come clean.  Whether or not that happens, you have to wonder just how long it will take for riders will start doping or not.  When someone in a race performs well, everyone else is going to think that person’s doping and they should, too.

Do others share my scepticism that the sport can clean itself up?  Yes, including some pretty important people.  One big name sponsor Dutch bank, Rabobank, has been involved in cycling for 17 years.  Yet, after the Armstrong scandal, it announced it was ending its sponsorship of both men’s and women’s professional cycling, saying that it was “no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport.”

What does it mean for something to be a fair sport?  Surely, it’s that players know the rules and abide by them.  What if the rules were changed so that a level of doping was acceptable?  If everyone was able to take drugs, wouldn’t the sport still be fair?

While cyclists might by themselves reach this point, it’s doubtful that the general public would accept any sort of doping.  This is my reason for writing this post for Kiwiblog and not for some cycling forum.  Isn’t it time that we woke up and ask whether, for some particular sports, a level of doping might be ok?

For my 2c I think it is desirable that top titles are won by those who are the best athletes, not have the best chemists. However it would be great to have a “main” Olympics and a “freak” Olympics where anything goes from drugs to biotechnology – and have the winners from both compete against each other :-)

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