28 Jul 2016

Will the Rio games be clean?

7:52 pm on 28 July 2016

Sports Call - This week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stopped short of handing Russia a blanket ban from next month's Rio Games, despite evidence of state-sponsored doping.

sport doping

Doping in Rio? More than likely. Photo: 123rf

With all the recent revelations and the IOC's Russian side-step, how clean can we expect the Olympics to be?

The IOC chose not to ban Russia outright from Rio; instead, it gave individual sports governing bodies the responsibility to decide if the athletes could compete.

The move has been slammed by anti-doping agencies and athletes around the world.

Drugfree Sport New Zealand chief executive Graeme Steel labelled it weak and extremely disappointing.

The chief executive of Drug Free Sport New Zealand, Graeme Steel.

The chief executive of Drug Free Sport New Zealand, Graeme Steel. Photo: Supplied

"The IOC said earlier this year that international sports federations should not be involved in anti-doping work as they have a conflict of interest, and now, in almost the same breath, they're saying we'll now give responsibility back to them."

The World Rowing Federation came down strong, slashing the Russian Olympic rowing team from 26 athletes to six.

Russian rowers.

File photo of Russian rowers: The number of athletes who can compete has been slashed. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

But the International Judo Federation, which lists the Russian President Vladimir Putin as its honorary president, has allowed Russian athletes to participate.

New Zealand's Adrian Leat who won the silver medal during his 73kg Judo Final against against England's Danny Williams. Commonwealth Games. Glasgow. July 2014.

Russia will also have judo athletes at Rio. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

So Russia is expected to have more than 250 athletes at the Olympics and convicted drug cheats from other countries, who have already served their bans, will compete too.

That raises the question: will there be any current dopers in Rio?

Graeme Steel believes there will and said some of them will win.

"It's clear from what we've seen from Russia, and what we know about doping that's happening in other countries, that athletes are still doping and some are getting away with it. So some athletes in Rio will succeed and they will have doped to do that."

A former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), New Zealander David Howman, agreed and said it would be naive to think otherwise.

He said research showed the powerful allure of Olympic glory.

"Would you go to an Olympic Games and cheat if you were sure of getting a gold medal but you're probably going to die before you're 25? A high percentage of athletes say yes they will. So you've got to balance that sort of information, that knowledge you've got from research, against your hopes."

Outgoing director-general of WADA David Howman.

Former WADA boss David Howman said there would always be doping and corruption when money was involved. Photo: Photosport

The problem is so bad a former New Zealand Olympian is calling for all athletes who win medals alongside Russians not to stand on the podium during the medal ceremony.

Moss Burmester, who swam at the 2004 and 2008 Games, said doping runs deep and clean athletes felt powerless to stop it.

The former New Zealand Olympic swimmer Moss Burmester.

Former New Zealand Olympic swimmer Moss Burmester: "Certain sports, you just know." Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"It's not just the Russians; it's rife throughout sport. Certain sports you just know, and the athletes who're in there, who're clean, they can look around the sport and the locker rooms and marshalling rooms and they know who the dirty athletes are; they just can't speak out about it."

One of the New Zealand athletes almost robbed of his Olympic place is Greg Miller, 31, who claimed his spot after the suspension of an Australian wrestler.

Miller works full-time, spent $15,000 of his own money and committed to 15 years of training trying to get to Rio, only to almost have his dream dashed by a doper.

He said to miss out in that way would have been devastating.

"That would have been something that haunted me for the rest of my life, to miss out to someone who was ultimately banned from the Olympics."

Rio at night.

Rio de Janeiro Photo: IOC

So if Rio isn't clean, will any Olympics ever be?

Former WADA boss Howman doubts it.

"Some are persuaded to cheat, cheat for the hope that they're going to achieve immortality and fame, those psychological or personal, human things haven't altered. The whole process of collecting urine and blood is fraught with human fragility because you rely so much on humans to do the work and at each stage of that you've got the possibility of being corrupt and paid off."

Howman said crime was involved in 25 percent of world sport and said where there was money to be made, there would always be doping and corruption.

The Rio Olympics appear to be no different.

  • Nothing dopey about IOC's Russia stance
  • Have the Olympics lost their way?
  • 1960: 'The Golden Hour'
  • Why hosting the Olympics is a bad idea