Russia won’t be able to take part in major sports events for four years. That’s a punishment for Russia’s system of giving its athletes drugs to help them win. The ruling could keep Russia out of the 2020 Olympics.
The word “doping” describes athletes taking special medicine to get an unfair advantage in sports. The drugs most often used in doping are called “steroids”. Steroids can help make athletes bigger, stronger, faster, and tougher, making it easier for them to beat athletes who haven’t taken such drugs.
Though doping is banned (not allowed), many athletes have still taken steroids. But in this case, the story is about a whole country that had a program for doping its athletes.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is in charge of fighting doping in sports. Since 2012, WADA has handled many reports of Russia covering up for its athletes using special drugs.
The most famous case was during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Russia won 33 medals – more than any other country. Shortly after the Olympics, word came out about how Russia had worked to keep its athletes from getting caught doping. Some medals were taken away.
To test if athletes have taken drugs that aren’t allowed, scientists test their pee. Special tests can tell scientists if athletes have used drugs, even if it was a long time ago.
Russia got around this by collecting pee from many of its athletes before they started taking steroids. During the Olympics, the Russians used a complicated system to replace current pee samples with old, “clean” pee when their athletes were tested.
By the summer of 2016, it became clear that Russia’s Ministry of Sport and its anti-doping agency had worked to cover up for athletes who were taking steroids.
Russia was allowed to take part in the 2016 Summer Olympics, but by 2017, Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The ban didn’t keep all of Russia’s athletes from taking part, but it meant the Russian government couldn’t be a part of the games and its athletes couldn’t compete under the Russian flag. They competed as athletes from Russia, not athletes for Russia.
In January 2019, Russia was supposed to turn over a database (detailed computer list) of all the athletes that Russia had helped to use steroids. Instead, WADA discovered, Russia gave them a database with lots and lots of false information.
As a result, WADA has now banned Russia from taking part in the 2020 Olympics and other big sports events like the World Cup for the next four years. Like before, some Russian athletes will be able to compete in the Olympics, but they will compete as athletes from Russia, not for Russia.
Many of WADA’s leaders say this isn’t enough. They wanted Russian athletes kept out of the Olympics completely. They say that because of the way Russia changed its records, there’s no way to tell which athletes are “clean” and which have used drugs.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russia will probably ask to have the ruling changed.