Yet another gut-punch to the Olympic movement means it’s once again time to question the validity of having these ‘Games.’
As readers have no doubt seen — one couldn’t help it as the Russian ban was plastered everywhere — the International Olympic Committee FINALLY (emphasis is all mine) stepped up and took action against what has been known in the sports world for several decades.
From the Soviet-era through the unified Russian confederation and the breakup of communism right up to the current time, there has been a government-sponsored systemic and deliberate pursuit to chemically enhance athletes in order to dominate the world of sport.
Granted, it wasn’t always just the Russians or the countries of the former USSR — Canadians will never forget disgraced Ben Johnson from 1988.
However, over more recent years, countries like the United States, Great Britain and even China have abandoned such attempts because the science of detection was growing by leaps and bounds. It certainly helped that several former Olympic champions from those nations would later be striped of their medals because samples kept on file were retested with the latest technology and found to contain banned performance enhancing substances (PEDs).
That said, there were certainly ‘signs’ of chemical doping back as early as the 1970s with female East German weightlifters having the ever-present moustaches or the block of overly muscular athletes across the sport of track and field events and in swimming.
And there was testing done back then, but it wasn’t until another two decades before the science was able to play catch-up and defeat the methods that most of the cheaters had developed to ‘beat the system.’
Which leads us up to the 2014 winter games in Sochi, where the Russians used a covert system of replacing ‘dirty’ samples with ‘clean’ ones so that their athletes with a shot at winning would be ‘safe’ from the humiliation of testing positive.
If it wasn’t for some whistleblowers coming forward, there would be no investigation, no ban and certainly a lot of gossip about who won and who should have.
While the job to get to this point took far too long, nearly four years of stalling and refusal to cooperate, the IOC has at last done what it needed to do.
Although, I think it might be time to do more and start talking about the reasons behind why the Olympics are still a valid competition. Or, should the world sporting community begin to explore a different direction?
On the plus side, having ‘The Games’ would continue to allow young athletes to aspire to be on that podium and experience the thrill of competing against the best the world has to offer. It would also provide a stage for countries to showcase themselves and how they as a society have grown through sport.
Over on the opposite side, the Olympics are going to keep costing billions to host regardless of whether they go back to places that have held them previously. At times it is done at the expense of a country’s own citizens and often those new facilities are a one-and-done item, being left to decay — just go peak at photos from Brazil.
With all of the world championship series being held for the likes of gymnastics, bobsleigh, horse jumping and biathlon, combined with most of the top athletes in hockey, soccer, basketball and snowboarding competing at the top of their sports already and getting paid (whether as professionals or through endorsements), maybe it’s time to rethink the Olympics and refocus this energy elsewhere.
But that is…just an observation