Outlawed Olympians

Russian athletes banned amidst allegations of state-sponsored drug abuse


Story by Joseph Rodgers, staff writer

Stroke after stroke in the fierce water. Submerged after diving several meters. One foot after the other sinks into the track. The Olympics is the pinnacle of all sports events in all of human history. Even to participate in the games is a great honor. However, what about the unhonorable?

Outcries are pouring from Russians and from Russian sympathizers over a partial team ban from the Summer Rio 2016 Olympics as well as other worldwide sports events due to an scandal concerning cheating with substance abuse.

In the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the athletes from Russia had an outstanding, and unusual, victory by winning 33 medals, ranking them first in the medal count. After the 2014 Olympic games, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released a report that accused the country of a state-sponsored doping program, which means the large majority of Russian athletes not only doped and cheated, but were encouraged to do so. The report also revealed that Russia manipulated, bribed and schemed to avoid being caught by steroid tests.

“It’s a shame and it’s wrong on all accounts,” football coach Barry Norton said. “You want those accomplishments to be earned the right way. If everything is fair, you get the clear-cut, perfect athlete that should win. I really hope medicine can advance so we can get rid of these types of problems.”

As a result, around 120 Russian athletes were banned from the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. Full team bans include track and field, weightlifting, and the Paralympics.

“You have to do something to get [the officials’] attention to eliminate this type of thing,” said Norton. “Some [professional] athletes are willing to do whatever is necessary to extend and maintain their career. Producing an income is much more important to an athlete than simply to win.”

A high moral value remains at home with many Texas High athletes speaking out and condemning the doping scandal.

“I don’t think cheating of any sort is acceptable. Politically, I feel like the [Russian] Federation is caring about themselves and their country rather than their athletes or their integrity for certain reasons,” said junior Will Harrell.

Critics of the doping scandal may agree with partial bans, but some are opposed to full team bans because of unfairness towards the Russians.

“I don’t think anyone should be called a ‘winner’ if they are cheating,” sophomore Megan Brown said. “I think whoever is caught using serious drugs should be watched and drug tested before being a part of the Olympics. However, I do not think it is fair that the [International Olympic Committee] banned the entire team. The actions of a few doesn’t define them all.”

There have only been three Texas High athlete doping cases in the past five years. If another case appeared, the punishment would be suspension from school and removal from the athletic program for at least a year.

“I personally believe that hard work, discipline, and God-given talent is enough to win anything you want,” Harrell said. “That would be the extent I would go to.”

While the integrity of sports has always been challenged, new concerns have arisen about the Olympics as a whole. Health, safety, and political issues such as the Zika virus, unsafe water pollution, threat of a terror attack and local unrest have many minds doubting the purpose of the games in the 21st century.

“We just need to trust the moderators and respect their decisions.” Norton said, “Really the Olympics were a bigger deal when I was a kid, and there has always been cheating with the example of Lance Armstrong. I think we just need to find a way to eliminate these types of problems.”

Despite the acts of doping, sober athletes did prevail at Rio 2016. American Olympic swimmer Lilly King won two gold medals in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke and the women’s 4x100m medley relay. She beat Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, who was previously banned twice for doping and failed a steroid test earlier this year. After her defeat by King, Efimova shook her finger at the victorious athlete and was booed.
“You’re shaking your finger ‘No. 1’ and you’ve been caught for drug cheating,” King told NBC in an interview. “I’m not a fan. It’s unfortunate that that’s going on in the sport right now, but that was [Efimova’s] decision and [boos] are what’s going to happen.”