Doping Ruins Trust

Sarena Malsin, Sports Editor

Call me a biased athlete and sports editor, but sports competitions are one of the last bastions of positive and wholesome interaction be­tween countries. They pro­vide this incredible escape for everybody to care about something within a smaller scope than global politics. They serve as a funnel for visceral energy and national pride — all in an environ­ment influenced by the basic positive values that athletic participation and competi­tion impart on people. They occur on a national stage, so people internalize these val­ues to show respect to their international counterparts and represent their own countries well.

At least, these values are usually internalized. If they aren’t, there are many regulatory bodies in place to nudge athletes and sports teams in the right direction, intending for their mandates to be followed out of the mu­tual good faith that arises from athletic competition. But what’s disappointing is that despite the positive and relatively innocent environ­ment for friendly competi­tion the international sports world provides, this oppor­tunity is often squandered by dishonesty and poor sportsmanship.

Ten years ago, baseball was ruled out as an Olympic sport because of the United States’ reluctance to com­ply with doping tests. Some years after that, Lance Arm­strong, formerly an inspira­tional icon, was outed for using steroids for interna­tional cycling races.

The most recent marring of the international sports stage is sending a ripple ef­fect of distrust and implica­tions of guilt. As a result, fans, athletes and everyone else are once again ques­tioning the future of inter­national sports. The World Anti-Doping Agency commission, a regulatory body in the sporting world, recently released a re­port naming Russia, Argentina, Ukraine, Bolivia, Andorra and Israel as having breached the Agency’s codes, making them “non-compliant.”

Most of the “non-compliant” coun­tries have been so named for not re­sponding to WADA’s requests for infor­mation or for using shady, off-market laboratories not officially accredited, but Russia is the only one to have been accused of state-sponsored doping, making athletic dishonesty essentially a government-sanctioned effort in­stead of the result of foul play by an overly competitive individual.

The report said that the head of the Russian laboratory — whose accredita­tion has obviously been suspended — destroyed over 1,400 blood and urine samples that would have otherwise violated WADA’s standards. The report also states that Russian regulatory of­ficials were paid to cover up these dis­honest practices, and were guilty of extortion to ensure no sensitive infor­mation would be released.

Though this scandal is by no means the first of its kind, it has definitely tak­en sports corruption to a higher, more disturbing level for a number of reasons. First, it has turned into an internation­al, politicized slight, drawing friendly international sporting rivalries into the political sphere. The Russian govern­ment as a whole is being accused, and it’s not just being accused of dishonesty: It’s being accused of marring results from the 2012 London Olympics, spe­cifically from track and field events. This deceit is an insult to perhaps the larg­est institution of internationalism and cross-cultural unity in the sports world.

Finally, the report also implicated the International Association of Ath­letics Federations in cover-ups of dop­ing violations. Former British Olym­pic Athlete Roger Black reflected the thoughts of many when he stated that these accusations, even before they have been confirmed, “undermine ev­erything.” Because they do. Institu­tions like FIFA, which regulates the most popular sport in the world, are assumed to be corrupt by default, and now Olympic-level organizations are coming under fire. With the addition of nationally supported doping viola­tions, it’s difficult to see a future where sports continue to serve as a unifier and an escape. The foundations of in­tegrity and honest athletic competi­tion on which the international sport­ing world was built are crumbling at an exponential rate, and people are losing hope. This might be the most depress­ing result of WADA’s report. Because if no one has faith in the upheld morals in international sports competitions, I don’t see a future where they continue to exist at all.