Big doubts about doping tests on Russian athletes before the Olympics in Paris

As of: March 6, 2024 11:13 a.m

Russian athletes are allowed to take part in the Olympic Games in Paris under certain conditions. They must have nothing to do with the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and the military. And: You must have been sufficiently tested for doping in advance. But there are big doubts about that.

Not in all sports, but in some such as swimming, fencing, canoeing, judo, wrestling, rowing, gymnastics, sailing – Russian athletes could actually compete in Paris. As neutral athletes. The IOC will still decide which ones and how many.

German associations have doubts equal opportunity

One requirement: the respective athletes must have been rigorously tested in preparation for the games. What the German Swimming Association (DSV), for example, has great doubts about. “Unfortunately, we do not yet know who in Russia, despite the state of war, can be tested unannounced during doping controls by independent authorities, how and how often.”, the association said upon request. The DSV therefore does not believe in equal opportunities: “This lack of transparency alone is not a good sign and makes us skeptical.”

The German Fencing Association (DFB) also has doubts. “In a war situation, we have to assume that the doping control system in the respective country cannot function closely and incompletely and therefore its effectiveness is questionable.”says DFB sports director Tobias Kirch. “Since the Russians, who start as individual neutral athletes, have to take part in a large number of international competitions in fencing and certainly in most sports in order to even qualify for the Olympic Games, the tests should focus strongly on these Athletes are guaranteed.”

The German Gymnastics Association is also critical. “Effective, widespread anti-doping measures would be a prerequisite for participation in international competitions”says the DTB.

US anti-doping chief calls for independent body

The problem is not only the war, but also the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA. She is still suspended after the doping scandals of the past. For Travis Tygartthe anti-doping chief of the USA, an intolerable situation: “How can we sit back and let Russian athletes compete in Paris against athletes from around the world who have been tested to the highest standards by their organizations.”

Tygart calls for an independent body to review all Russian athletes.“I think Russia has tainted the Olympics. At least since 2014 or 2012. And there’s been a problem at every Summer and Winter Games since then. I think it’s finally time we got honest about what it really needs to be safe “We want Russia to stop tainting the Olympic Games with the doping issue.”

“Russians are among the most tested athletes ever”

The IOC refers to the International Testing Agency ITA, which is responsible for doping controls, especially during and in the run-up to the Olympic Games. Their general director Benjamin Cohen can understand the concerns. “People think, Russia, they had so many problems, are outside the anti-doping system, and then suddenly show up in Paris. No, that’s not the reality. They don’t suddenly show up. We follow them every day, “We test them every day. And if we feel like they’re qualified for Paris and haven’t been adequately tested, then we test them even more. To be honest, they’re some of the most tested athletes out there.”

A company that carries out doping controls in Russia comes from Germany. The company PWC from Gilching near Munich with managing director Volker Laakmann. “We have inspectors in Russia who have been working for us for a very, very long time. We don’t notice any difference in their cooperation compared to the other controls that we otherwise carry out.”says Laakmann.

However, it cannot be ruled out that someone is influencing the doping controls in Russia and warning athletes about unannounced tests. “This cannot be ruled out in some countries. I also believe that in certain perhaps more remote regions, when doping controllers arrive there, this may already be known better than we actually want. Because they are simply seen. So this 100 percent certainty cannot be explored. There should be a state system behind it. How are we supposed to prove, see or otherwise be able to do that?”

So far, Laakmann has not noticed anything suspicious during the checks in Russia. But the doubts in the sports world remain – and will grow if Russian athletes actually win medals in Paris.