The saga of Russia's anti-doping tribulations has taken another turn. Officials from the country now concede an extensive doping operation has been used to benefit its Olympic athletes. However, there are still denials that the Russian state, including President Vladimir Putin, were aware of the existence of the program.
The New York Times on Tuesday published a story headlined "Russians No Longer Dispute Olympic Doping Operation." It includes an abundance of information highlighted by comments from Anna Antseliovich, the acting Director General of Russia’s national anti-doping agency, admitting the country was involved in an "institutional conspiracy" that covers "years' worth of cheating schemes."
Although doping is an issue that is present in many avenues of high-level athletics across numerous countries, Russia's entirely unethical involvement with its athletes in relation to drug testing become a global news story in the lead-up and fallout of the recent Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
According to the New York Times report, Russian officials "no longer disputed a damning set of facts that detailed a doping program with few, if any, historical precedents," which unravels an entirely new set of circumstances and potential consequences for the country on a world sporting stage.
Although more facts are sure to surface in the coming days, weeks, months and perhaps even years, here's a highlight of what revelations we know so far stemming from the latest chapter in the Russian doping scandal:
- More than 100 Russian athletes missed out on participation in Rio Games after they were disqualified for breaking the Olympic committee's strict anti-doping rules.
- The Russian state, including President Putin, still adamantly deny involvement in the program as well as any general knowledge of wrongdoing despite heavy influence over the planning of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
- Members of the Federal Security Service supposedly broke into urine sample bottles collected from athletes and were ordered by the deputy sports minister to cover up any potential traces of banned substances.
- Despite what are supposed to be "tamper-proof" sample collection methods, the samples for Russian athletes were manipulated and replaced. The process of how such manipulation was executed and the number of times in which it took place has yet to be specified.
- More than 650 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from past and present are currently accused to have been involved or beneficiaries to the program.
- The decision to no longer dispute claims of the cover-up was apparently made out of the desire to eventually mend fences and move past the scandal so Russia can eventually restore its ability to host future Olympic competitions.
- Vitaly Smirnov, a top sports official appointed by President Putin, has implemented a team of more than 20 people to rebuild the reputation of the Russian anti-doping system to a point where it will be accepted by the global authorities.
So now the next questions might be aimed at the International Olympic Committee itself. With the buildup to the 2018 Winter Olympics, how will the IOC respond to these admissions? As the Times report points out, the country's place as a host of numerous global sports competitions has already been impacted, with a number of competitions that were to take place throughout the country in early 2017 have been relocated. But with the admission by high-ranking officials from within the country, and the PyeongChang games a little over a year away, there isn't that much time to figure out what to do going forward. If any actions are to be taken, one would only assume they'd come swiftly, or not at all.