Russian Officials Question Effectiveness Of Drug Doping
Kremlin Puzzled As 343 Doping Positives In 3 Years Yield Surprisingly Weak Results
April 1, 2010
After disappointing team performances at the recently concluded 2010 Winter Olympic Games and IAAF World Indoor and Cross Country Championships, several top Russian coaches and officials are questioning the effectiveness of their science-based doping regimens.
Russia's Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev spoke publicly Tuesday, boldly calling for doping reform across the board in Russian athletics. They threatened to cut government spending on athletic doping regimens, long believed to be the envy of the world. The angry political giants also threatened coaching overhauls and firings. Many top race-walking, cross-country ski and marathoning coaches saw the writing on the wall and quit their posts after Putin and Medvedev spoke.
It's Not Like We Aren't Trying
All this turmoil despite promising news from Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko who revealed last week that Russians had been failing drug tests at an almost unthinkable rate of one positive every three days for the past three years. "We've been doing our job," Mutko quipped, "343 positives in 3 years is only rivaled by the NFL and MLB. Now it's time for the coaches and scientists to put the government's money straight into the blood-streams of the athletes in a more productive way. Or risk their livelihoods."
Sport governing offices from 2014 Winter Olympic host Sochi to Moscow were on high alert as desperate politicians scrambled for answers. "We've always stressed to our athletes from the age of 4 that hard work is essential for success in sport," Medvedev said, "and a well-established doping regimen is the key to becoming a true Russian champion." Now, the president stressed, Russian youth may be losing faith. "I met a young boy the other day," Medvedev quipped, "he told the story of his great uncle Morzakovskiy, a champion doper. His father Gregonsky, a champion doper. But his sister Kuznetsikova, pumped full of our finest drugs, can't even break 48 in the quarter."
Soviet Era Practices Deemed "Outdated"
Stressing that changes in the global drug market may be leaving the former leaders in athletics doping procedure behind, Putin urged change. "Look at the Americans and the track relays. They're either getting busted for doping or dropping the baton at every Olympics. But now they're starting to figure out how to win, yes, but also not get caught cheating. I hate to say it, but we need to learn from them."
Calling for innovation "from elementary school PE teachers to professional coaches and doctors", Medvedev stressed that national pride is on the line. "We're leading the world in doping positives, but the Russian people want more than brazen cheaters," the President said, "they want winning machines."
L.A. Marathon Loss A True Black Eye
After the 11-year Russian women win streak in the major American marathon in Los Angeles was snapped, Russian coaches came under even more intense pressures to modify their schemes. Incensed Russian Athletics minister Rybakov unleashed a tirade in front of the press cameras. "We know L.A. doesn't test [for drugs]," Rybakov fumed, "They know that we know that they don't test. Our coaches know that they know that we know that there is no drug testing in L.A. There's $200,000 on the line and no drug testing and the Russian women can't take that thing down? This has gone too far. To me, that was a day of mourning for the Russian people."
Conspiracy Theorists Still Retain Credibility
Despite weakening public faith in the Russian doping schemes, political heads still have faith in hackneyed conspiracy theories. Calling the doping positives reported by his own sports minister part of an "international conspiracy to discredit Russian super-athletes," President Medvedev refused to back down from the challenge. "Doping scandals to a certain extent are a way to settle scores and are a part of global sporting competition. So we need to be able to strike back and be able to defend ourselves without turning the other cheek." Asked to interpret what those remarks meant in practical terms, leading marathon coach Alexiy Peshenkin said, "I have no clue."
State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov the leader of United Russia, has claimed that sport in the country is in danger of imploding. "We are witnessing a complete collapse of the Russian Olympic Committee," Gryzlov said, "Many sports federations are corrupt, and the Sports Ministry is helpless. The system of financing sports is corrupt from the top to the bottom."