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In-Depth

Russian Roulette

Russia’s entire national team was suspended by the International Olympic Committee on Dec. 5 for a government-sponsored program that encouraged athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs in an effort to medal in past Olympics and to qualify for this year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Athletes that aim to compete in the Olympics have to push their bodies to extraordinary lengths that awe the crowds, but the Russian Olympic program went too far in pushing its athletes to win.

“Clearly there needs to be an evaluation of the drug testing procedures for the Olympic system,” West assistant athletic director Erik McNeill said.

The Russians, who hosted the 2014 Sochi Olympics, are accused of an elaborate cheating scheme during those Olympics in addition to the doping scandal. However, the International Olympic Committee made the decision that some Russian athletes, who have been cleared of wrongdoing, will be able to compete in the upcoming Olympics as neutral athletes. Being neutral means that the athletes can compete in the Olympics but without their national anthem, national flag, or a national uniform.

“More stories like this one will continue to knock down the credibility of the Olympics, but once the games start most people will enjoy it for what it’s worth. People will still enjoy the games even if there is a trust issue because it’s rooting for your country and seeing some of the best athletes in the world,” McNeill said.

The pressure to win and set records has led to illegal drug use throughout professional and international sports, but it also has infiltrated amateur and school sports.

“I have witnessed this and I know of athletes at the high-school and collegiate level that turned to performance enhancing drugs during their career. Athletes want to gain the edge and get quick results and they only see the upside of the drugs: bigger, faster, and stronger. They don’t weigh the risks of these drugs. These athletes are looking for the power, prestige and status of being number one,” McNeill said.

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