Discoveries by the International Olympic Council have put Russia in the negative spotlight once again, with allegations surfacing dating back to 2014 that reveal how Russia may have tampered with urine samples that would have otherwise failed anti-doping procedures. The penalties that are being speculated for the Russian federation involve as steep a penalty as banishment, something that is too harsh in my estimation.
While the Sochi Games occurred three years ago, the delayed findings are being attributed to difficulty ensuring that bottles were not suitable for testing, according to The New York Times. Supposedly, the tamper-proof bottles had the chance to be manipulated to provide a favorable result for Russian athletes.
Russia lost upwards of a third of its athletes, including the entire athletics and wrestling teams in the Rio games and now faces the danger of losing more athletes and possibly even banishment for crimes that took place in the winter games two years prior.
While the World Anti-Doping Agency should work to create stronger and more effective methods to test for doping, the manner in which the Russians may be punished could set a strong precedent for years to come.
Banishment from the Olympics games is simply too extreme of an action to even consider, simply because it is better to let some wrongdoers go unscathed than to punish an innocent athlete.
Being an Olympic-level athlete is not a decision made overnight, but sometimes a decision made before the athlete can comprehend the meaning of that type of commitment.
Some athletes work all their lives for the moment they can proudly represent their nation on the biggest athletic stage in the world, and to use a blanket punishment to strip innocent athletes of that privilege is absurd.
In the best interest of competition and the spirit of the Olympics, individual athletes from Russia and any nation being investigated for doping should have the chance to defend themselves and prove their innocence.
Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, holds a preference for “individual justice” rather than collective responsibility. His belief aligns with IOC member Tunku Umran, who believes that innocent athletes should not be punished for the crimes of others.
“For me, the important thing is that the innocent athletes have got to be there,” Imran said in the New York Times article.
But Bach and Imran’s support for dealing with things on an individual basis has not stopped other organizations from voicing their opposing views.
The growing support and awareness for clean sports has sparked a group of 17 national anti-doping agencies to publish a written demand for Russia to be dismissed from the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang.
But it is Imran’s words, not those of the previously-referenced organizations, which are most reminiscent the Olympic Creed, which states, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
Following the Olympic Creed’s guidance, the innocent athletes should have the chance to at least fight for their privilege to compete.
Victory is not the essence, simply taking part is.
Kyle Kasharian is a business major from Green, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ItsKyleKash.