Rampant Doping in Russian Athletics

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Remember in Rocky 4, when Rocky fights Ivan Drago, that Russian boxer who was so strong and pumped full of steroids that he killed Apollo Creed in the ring? What if I told you that an Ivan Drago-esque athlete could in fact exist in Russia for real? After a lengthy investigation conducted by Dick Pound, Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), it was determined that Russia was fostering a “deeply rooted culture of cheating.” Following the London Summer Olympics in 2012, WADA began their investigation into Russia and dug up results of a state-sponsored doping program dating back to its days as the Soviet Union. As a result, 17 medals, including seven gold medals, from the 2012 Olympics have been rescinded and the International Athletics Associations Federation (IAAF), track and field’s governing body, have barred Russia’s national team from competing at international competitions indefinitely.

Spanning across all Olympic sports, Russian athletes accounted for 225 violations of WADA regulations in 2013, a non-Olympic year. This accounted for 11.5% of all doping cases worldwide. Many athletes willingly participated in the doping program funded by the Russian government; however those who did not were punished. Some athletes were withheld from competing at international sporting events while others were having portions of their winnings taken by Russia to fund the doping program. Not only does Russia provide their athletes with the required tools to try and beat the system, but they use military force to deviate those who may stand in their way. FSB agents, Russia’s secret service, invaded laboratories and impersonated engineers and officials to both cover up and destroy over 1,400 samples containing potentially positive drug tests. They also were running labs used to mimic those which followed WADA regulations during official visits as a cover-up. Testimonies from former All-Russia Athletic Federation president detail the astronomical rise in doping, when he called the results at the 2009 World Track and Field Championships, “startling” and that “immediate and drastic action” had to be taken.

The only Russian media outlets to cover their own doping scandal are state-run television stations. The Russians see themselves as victims of apparent widespread corruption in other international sports. The story is being more widely covered in Europe, where WADA is headquartered as well as most other governing bodies for international sports. In American circles, mainstream media has picked up fringes of the story. Mostly larger newspapers have given vague details of the story, mainly the 323 page WADA report.


Gibson, Owen. “Russia Accused of ‘state-sponsored Doping’ as Wada Calls for Athletics Ban.” The Guardian. 2015. Accessed March 29, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/nov/09/wada-iaaf-russia-dick-pound-banned.

“Athletics Doping: Wada Commission Wants Russia Ban.” BBC. November 9, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2016.

IAAF. “IAAF PROVISIONALLY SUSPENDS RUSSIAN MEMBER FEDERATION ARAF.” News release, November 13, 2015. Iaaf.org. Accessed March 29, 2016. http://www.iaaf.org/news/press-release/iaaf-araf-suspended.

“Late Russian Boss Offered to Expose True Doping Story: Report.” ABC News. February 20, 2016. Accessed March 29, 2016. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-21/late-russian-boss-offered-to-expose-true-doping-story-report/7187532.

Student Researcher: Brendan Terry (University of Vermont)

Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)