In the light of recent events in world athletics a report uncovered a Russian state sponsored doping program dating back to well before the London Olympics. Described by some as ‘devastating’ and ‘worse than previously thought’ the mystery surrounding the whole saga seems very predictable.
This is not the first time that high profile athletes in this sport have been involved in famous drugs busts, so why the pretext that the problem is isolated to one country and one group of athletes?
Most of the world records set in the sixties and seventies by eastern bloc athletes have been discredited through either failed drugs test or suspicious performances. However to assume that athletics cheats are only limited to one part of the world is naïve at the very least. One of the most famous cases was of course at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 when Ben Johnson, of Canada, set a new world record in the 100m and won the gold medal in the process only to test positive for stanozolol a banned anabolic steroid. His medal was taken off him and he returned home in disgrace. This race is infamously referred to as the ‘dirtiest race in history’ because six of the protagonists during the event were later implicated in doping scandals.
When taking that performance into account it draws a frightening comparison to the 100m final in Beijing twenty years later. The victor won by a huge margin as did Johnson, like in 1988 half of the competition has since been banned for failed drugs tests and most worryingly for the image of the sport a new world record was smashed with the winner decelerating for the last twenty metres. And surprisingly the result has never been questioned.
The person in question is surely one of the most tested athletes in sport (where have we heard that line before) but he is also the face of athletics and his demise would destroy the sport something the IAAF are obviously desperate to prevent. The circumstances seem too similar to the 1999 Tour de France when the UCI protected the yellow jersey to preserve the integrity of cycling.
Although more will surely come out over the next few months, athletics faces a tough time ahead of it. But to try and isolate one country does not seem the way to start.