OPINION: Cheating their way to victory



FILE – Kamila Valieva, of the Russian Olympic Committee, reacts after the women’s free skate program during the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)

Medal after medal and year and after year, Russia stands proud with the glittering gold, silver, and bronze hanging off their necks. Everyone is astonished at how Russia continues to produce such incredible and strong athletes. But what many don’t know is that Russia has a secret. 

Now that the 2022 Winter Olympics has come to a close, medals have been awarded to the athletes who are now taking their spot as the best in the world. Norway has run away with the first place title with 16 gold medals and 37 total medals. As you look at the countries ranking in the top 10, you can’t help but notice that sliding into 9th place is the ROC. But who is the ROC? The ROC stands for the Russian Olympic Committee and is basically a way for the Russians to finesse the system and still compete despite the rules preventing them. 

Over the past eight years Russia has been caught up in one of the biggest sport scandals in history. In February 2014, Russia dominated the winter Olympics being awarded a total of 33 medals. Most Olympics watchers saw their domination as a little odd considering their medal count at the previous 2010 winter Olympic games was half of their 2014 medal count. Although the suspicion was high, many dismissed it as Russia simply having a lucky year with new and young athletes who trained hard and happened to come out on top. 

Suspicions were brought back into light almost a full year later in December of 2014 when a documentary was aired with Vitaly Steponav, the official of Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency, claiming that Russia supported systematic doping amongst it’s athletes. An investigation was opened into Russia’s alleged doping and in November of 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency accused Russia of running a doping program after finding destroyed urine samples and surveillance of Russian lab workers. 

With this new information, many athletic committees began to take a closer look at the Russian athletes. Track and fields international governing body quickly banned Russia from any international athletic competitions. Meanwhile the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to take a look into 2014 competitions and some even as early as 2008. They retested samples from Beijing Summer Olympics up until the 2014 winter Olympics and found that at least fifteen medalists had taken part in doping. 

Even though Russia clearly used illegal tactics to achieve higher athletic performances the IOC failed to acknowledge Russia’s cheating by allowing them to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro summer Olympic games. The IOC’s failure to punish them cost many other countries and their athletes to be cheated out of receiving medals after Russia ended the 2016 summer games taking home 19 gold medals total.   

As the years have continued the IOC has seemingly continued to avoid giving Russia any major punishment for their unfaithful cheating. Similar punishments to the 2022 Winter Olympics occurred in the 2018 Winter Olympic games in PyeongChang allowing Russian athletes to compete just under a different team name and without their flag and anthem. In September of 2018, a four-year ban was considered after another investigation into their doping was launched and it was discovered that Russia had been tampering with evidence. 

In 2019, it seemed like Russia might finally be getting the correct punishment after they were banned from the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo and the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing. All hope of their punishment fitting the crime was lost when their ban was shortened to two years and they were yet again permitted to compete as long as they were not competing under the name Russia. That is how the ROC came about and Russia found their way back into the Olympic games. 

Despite all the constant warnings and minor punishments Russia has faced, they still continue to use doping methods. This winter Olympic games, Russia’s top figure skater tested positive for an illegal substance, trimetazidine, at only the age of fifteen. Year after year Russia continues to abuse illegal substances but there is only one organization to blame for their repeated offense and that is the IOC. Their failure to properly punish Russia and it’s athletes has led Russia to believe that they can repeatedly cheat and walk all over the IOC and continue to compete.    

Russia may be a powerful country but the IOC needs to put its foot down. Their cheating has cost many hardworking and deserving athletes gold medals and even silver and bronze. In this year’s winter Olympics, Russia took home gold and silver in women’s figure skating and was still permitted to have fifteen-year-old Kamila Valieva compete despite being caught doping. Luckily, Valieva, who was expected to be a gold medal competitor fell twice keeping her far from the 1st place position. I know to many Americans it seemed that her unexpected slip-ups were clearly karma. But if karma hadn’t come back to haunt the skater she could have likely knocked Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto out of her spot with the bronze medal. But it is still irking to watch two other Russian competitors step up to accept their medals knowing that with the deep history of doping from their country, these two women could likely be doping as well. It is also infuriating to know that a country known for repeated cheating is getting two more medals added to their overall medal count.

One of the more irritating things for Americans is the fact that while Russia seems to have no punishment for using illegal drugs, the United States still has to suffer the wrath. In this year’s past summer Olympics US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was disqualified from the Tokyo games after they found her positive for marijuana. While many are unsure if marijuana is truly a sports enhancing drug, she was completely banned from competing. But trimetazidine, used by Valieva, is a drug used for people with heart conditions and it helps your body to use more oxygen, yet Valieva was still given the chance to compete. This is clear discrimination from the IOC, whether they are biased towards Russia or are simply afraid of Russia’s government, it is completely unfair that one athlete should get banned for abusing a drug and not the other. Not to mention that the athlete banned was abusing a drug way less effective towards athletic performance than the other. 

Russia will continue to cheat and use doping mechanisms as long as no one stands in their way. The IOC can’t expect to eliminate doping if their response is a minor slap on the wrist. Russia most likely doesn’t care if they compete as Russia or the ROC nor do they care if their country is represented by their flag and national anthem. Russia most likely just cares that they get to compete and continue to win. The IOC needs to implement stricter punishments against Russia and take into consideration what they are taking away from other countries and athletes. Until the IOC decides to give fair punishment to all countries and athletes for using illegal drugs to guarantee victory, Russia will continue to run away waving their gold medals in the air and laughing because they know they just cheated their way to the top, and there is nothing anyone is going to do about it.