On Dec. 5, The Times reported that Russia’s Olympic team had been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. The country’s government officials are forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound.
Any athletes from Russia who receive special permission to compete will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals. The ruling was the final confirmation that the nation was guilty of executing an extensive state-backed doping program, and the penalties are without precedent in Olympics history.
Are you surprised at the news of Olympic athletes using banned athletic performance-enhancing drugs? Can you think of any previous Olympic doping scandals? What more would you like to know?
In “Did Russia Get Off Easy in Olympic Ban? Read the Fine Print,” Jeré Longman writes:
Despite hyperbolic language that Russia had been barred from the 2018 Winter Olympics, in truth it may have gotten off fairly lightly for undermining the previous Winter Games, which it hosted, with systematic doping.
Russian athletes will still be allowed to compete in February in South Korea if they can show they have passed rigorous drug screening protocols. And they will wear uniforms that identify them as an “Olympic Athlete From Russia” instead of as an independent athlete.
Yes, the Russian Olympic Committee has been suspended. And its athletes would not march under the Russian flag at the opening ceremony or hear the Russian anthem played if they win gold medals (they will hear the Olympic anthem).
But the punishment would have been much harsher with a prohibition of all Russian athletes.
The International Olympic Committee’s decision will be seen as more than fair in the international sports world. The committee penalized Russia for its widespread doping program but kept the door open — perhaps widely — for athletes who could show they have been tested regularly and have not been caught using banned substances.
The I.O.C. said a specialized panel will screen Russian athletes seeking to compete in South Korea. The criteria include not having any previous doping violations, agreeing to undergo pre-Games testing and complying with any other testing the panel imposes.
Yet even with this panel, the I.O.C. will face an uncomfortable truth: It is almost impossible to know whether an athlete is truly “clean” of using banned substances.
Given the sophistication of drug use, with micro-dosing techniques that go undetected, those athletes who are doping often remain one step ahead of experts policing them.
Students: Read the entire article, then tell us:
— Do you think the Russian Olympic team “got off easy” in the I.O.C. ruling? Why or why not?
— Will barring Russia from the Winter Games in 2018 stop future doping practices, either by individual athletes or by nations in state-sponsored doping? If so, how, and if not, why not?
— If you were on the I.O.C., would you have completely barred all Russian athletes in the 2018 Winter Games? Why or why not?
— What do you think it will take to stop doping in the Olympics?
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