Photo: Rafael Henrique Serra

Doping was a major storyline during the Rio Games, especially for the Russian athletes. Criticized for prioritizing “medals over morals,” Russia’s government and the state-run doping system stirred up great controversy during the buildup to the Rio Olympics. Though most of the doping issue is directed at Russia, the sources indicate that athletes from all over the world have been guilty of it at some point.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) at first showed concerns with state-sponsored doping by attempting to issue a blanket ban for all Russians. However, they will not receive the ban – it was to be left for the individual sports’ governing bodies to decide if Russian competitors are clean and allowed to participate.

Not only that, but Izzat Artykov, a weightlifter from Kyrgyzstan, was the first athlete whose medal was stripped away due to doping at the Rio Olympics. However, he is planning to appeal, demanding the World Anti-Doping Agency to conduct repeat tests of his sample.

Doping had overshadowed other events, particularly in swimming. Mack Horton publicly derided his Chinese rival, Sun Yang, saying that he “didn’t have time or respect for drug cheats.” He was outspokenly referring to Yang, who had served a three month doping ban in 2014.

In women’s swimming, American Lilly King was pictured wagging her finger at Russian Yuliya Efimova, who served two doping bans before and was only allowed to compete in Rio after a last minute ruling. Later, King told NBC: “[Yuliya Efimova] wave your finger ‘No. 1’ and you’ve been caught drug cheating … I’m not a fan.”

The IOC will continue to conduct thousands of more tests. Attempts have been and are being made to prevent more dopers, through methods like the athlete biological passport, which reveals biological variables over time that show effects of doping rather than trying to detect doping substances or the methods themselves. However, despite these efforts and new approaches to catching dopers, not all of them are caught.  

When the difference between a silver and gold medal is measured by fractions of a second, even a small boost in performance can create a significant deciding factor. But does it justify the violation of rules and morals of hundreds of athletes who have just as many looking up to them? It’s understandable how participants of competitive sports like Michael Phelps would demand more drug testing and action to prevent the Olympics from becoming a carnival of greed and doping.

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