2016 was the year when the entire Russian track and field team was banned from the Olympics. The evidence was so strong that the IAAF took the bold step of enacting the ban, affirming the report by the World Anti-Doping Agency. WADA accused the Russian government of a state-sponsored program to use drugs in the development of their athletes and then to cover up the drug use through illicit techniques to avoid positive drug tests.
So one would think that the Rio 2016 organizing committee and the IOC would be well prepared to ensure that officials were doing their very best to ensure a level playing field for all “clean” athletes. And yet, one could say that the state of drug testing in the run up to Rio and during the Rio Olympics was chaos.
According to this BBC article:
- Of the 11,470 athletes, over 40% or 4,125 athletes had no record of any drug testing in 2016.
- Of those 4,125 athletes, almost half of them were competing in so-called “higher-risk sports” (e.g.: track and field, swimming, weightlifting, cycling).
Again, those are pre-Rio Olympic numbers and a black mark on the IOC, sports governing bodies, as well as anti-doping agencies.
But during the Rio Olympics, the anti-doping processes were apparently a mess.
- Again, there was little or no in-competition testing for athletes in “higher-risk sports”
- Of the 11,300 athletes in Rio, only 4,800 were providing information of their whereabouts, a step required of athletes and necessary to allow drug testing officials, aka chaperones, to locate and request drug testing on demand
- The above resulted in the failure to test about 50% of targeted athletes every day during the Olympics because athletes could not be located (Chaperones were forced to ask team officials where the athletes were, which likely allowed athletes to know in advance that a test was forthcoming)
- Nearly 100 samples were mislabeled and therefore invalid
- The team fell nearly 500 tests short of their minimal requirements
Nick Butler of Inside the Games had this interesting perspective:
Two key questions here concern to what extent these problems were avoidable from the IOC perspective and to what extent this fundamentally affected the efficiency of the anti-doping operation at Rio 2016.
To some extent, there appears little the IOC and other sports officials could have changed the approach of the organisers. Brazil and chaotic preparation are just too closely entwined and, when the budget cuts and political disruption is considered, it is a miracle the Olympic and Paralympic Games happened at all.
Yet, on the other hand, the IOC had seven years to get this one right and were not exactly strapped for cash to provide more support.
Will Tokyo2020 get it right?