clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Here’s why the Russian track & field team isn’t in Rio

Doping violations keep the Russians out of the 2016 Olympic Games.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Michael Steele/Getty Images

At the 2012 Olympic Games, the Russian track and field team won 16 medals -- seven of them gold. The Russian team won't be in Rio, though. The International Association of Athletic Federations, track's governing body, banned the Russians for doping violations after a report by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) indicated a widespread state-run doping program that found a "deeply rooted culture of cheating."

The International Olympic Committee nearly banned the entire Russian Olympic team due to the WADA report, but stopped short of a full ban, allowing each sport's governing body to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Along with track, the weightlifting team was banned, making it 119 Russians who weren't able to compete in Rio.

Among the 68 members of the Russian team to be banned are 2012 gold medalists Tatyana Beloborodova (hammer throw) and Anna Chicherova (high jump), along with Sergey Shubenkov, who won the 110-meter hurdles at the 2015 World Championships.

One Russian will compete in Rio, but she will compete under the Olympic flag. Darya Klishina is a long jumper who has lived and trained in Florida for the past two-and-a-half years -- the IAAF allowed athletes who had shown to follow stricter doping regulations to compete. The long jump begins on Aug. 16.

The WADA report was a damning look at the lengths athletes -- and, in this case, countries -- will go to in order to avoid a positive test. Grigory Rodchenkov, who led the handling of hundreds of drug tests for the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia, told the New York Times about the clandestine operations:

In a dark-of-night operation, Russian antidoping experts and members of the intelligence service surreptitiously replaced urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier, somehow breaking into the supposedly tamper-proof bottles that are the standard at international competitions, Dr. Rodchenkov said. For hours each night, they worked in a shadow laboratory lit by a single lamp, passing bottles of urine through a hand-size hole in the wall, to be ready for testing the next day, he said.

The IAAF, who is dealing with possible doping scandals in other countries like Kenya, decided the WADA report was enough to place a blanket ban from international competition on the Russians.

It is unclear exactly when the Russians will be allowed to compete internationally again as their suspension remains in place.