Doping in athletics: the five most high-profile scandals

By | August 24, 2020

The doping scandal in Russian athletics is far from the first in the history of the “queen of sports” and the sports world in general.

A report from the World Doping Agency (WADA), prepared after suspicions arose of the massive use of illegal drugs by Russian athletes, concluded that there was widespread deception.

The drafters of the document claim that athletes, coaches, doctors and even Russian intelligence officers were involved in a conspiracy to cover up the use of stimulants by athletes.

Members of the WADA commission went so far as to say that the success of the Russians at the London Olympics was nothing more than a diversion.

The BBC offers to recall other doping scandals that shook the world of sports in earlier times.

Ben Johnson, 1988 Olympics

Ben Johnson’s victory in the 100m at the 1988 Seoul Olympics was one of the most impressive and defining moments in the history of the sport. The race in which he crushed reigning champion Carl Lewis and broke the world record took on the character of a real sports drama.

Johnson’s 9.79 second score was so symbolic that it gave the title to the film about the race. But three days passed, and the world learned how the athlete achieved victory: the Canadian was taking the illegal steroid stanozolol .

“If you don’t swallow it, you won’t be able to win” – this is the incantation Johnson, a promising young athlete, first heard in 1981. Seven years later, the formula worked because the athlete was actually taking the drug.

It was then that the use of doping in athletics became a global talk of the town. At the same time, this concept really penetrated the consciousness of people.

The men’s 100m is the highlight of the Summer Olympic Games. The winner becomes a star of the universal level. If people stop believing that running 100 meters is clean, what will that mean for the whole sport?

As it turned out later, over the next few years, the results of six of the eight participants in the final race at that Olympics were in question . For this reason, it has been dubbed “the dirtiest race of all time.”

Tyson Gaye , 2015 World Cup

American sprinter Tyson Gaye took off when he won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka. He echoed the success of another American, Maurice Green, a year before Usain Bolt (Jamaica) dashed at the Beijing Olympics to become one of the greatest sports stars in the world.

However, as Bolt rose to fame, Gay found it harder. Osaka’s gold could remain the high point of his career, as not only Bolt, but other stars from Jamaica, such as Asafa Powell, began to dominate the sprint.

And in 2013 it was announced that Gay ‘s doping test was positive. Gay acknowledged the illegal drug, but said it was the fault of a “third party” whom he declined to name.

Perhaps that would have been the end if, after returning to the treadmill after being banned for a year from the competition, he had not returned in great shape and won one race after another.

Gay ‘s return sparked a lot of controversy, but when he peaked in 2015, there was talk that he could win the main event of the year – the World Cup in Beijing. But the miracle did not happen, and he lost to Bolt, slipping a few meters from the finish line.

BBC sportscaster Steve Cram (with Sebastian Coe Steve Ouett , one of the stellar generation of British runners in the 1980s) has said that Usain Bolt, by beating Gaye , “may even have saved the reputation of his sport “.

Ilona Slupianek-Shoknecht , 1977 European Championship

Ilona Slupianek (now Ilona Longo ) is not just one of the most famous names on this list. It represents the most notorious doping system that ever existed – the one that originated in the GDR.

The shot putter’s doping test during the 1977 European Championships in Helsinki was positive. During this championship, she showed a stunning result – 21.20 meters.

The International Athletics Federation suspended her for 12 months. The sports functionaries believed that by doing so they would strictly warn all potential rule breakers.

In fact, something exactly the opposite happened. Slupianek returned to East Germany, where she could train without hindrance on steroids. East Germans began to test their athletes for doping before they went to international competitions, in order to be sure that they could take any test abroad.

Ilona Slupianek continued to compete and set a world record in shot put (22.45 meters) at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, which lasted four years and was beaten by Soviet athlete Natalya Lisovskaya in 1984 (22.53 meters). The sporting system of the GDR continued to develop the doping program, which earned the first state of workers and peasants on German soil countless gold medals.

The GDR fell into oblivion 25 years ago, and pharmaceutical company Jenapharm , a manufacturer of illicit drugs used by many East German athletes , is struggling to fend off lawsuits filed against it by nearly 200 former athletes.

Marion Jones, 2000 Olympics

Jones, the most famous athlete whose name has been linked to the infamous BALCO lab scandal, became the Olympic champion in the 100 and 200 meters at the 2000 Sydney Games. By this time, she had already won the world championships twice.

Jones lost her Olympic medals after her ex-husband, shot putter C.J. Hunter gave a sworn testimony before a grand jury about what he saw with her own eyes doping in the stomach in the Olympic Village in Sydney.

Then Victor Conte, founder of the San Francisco-based pharmaceutical company BALCO, told ABC that he personally donated five different drugs to Jones to improve athletic performance.

Jones maintained her innocence until 2007, when she finally admitted she lied under oath when testifying about her role in the BALCO case. This company has developed, in particular, the steroid THG, which allows you to hide the traces of doping in the blood of an athlete.

The names of 20 other big sports stars were tarnished, not just Hunter. The list includes sprinter Tim Montgomery, father of Jones’ first child, famed baseball player Barry Bonds , and sprinter Dwayne Chambers , who was first caught using THG.

Lilia Shobukhova , London Marathon 2010

Lilia Shobukhova , as well as discus thrower Yevgenia Pecherina, have become the catalyst for the current scandal that shook Russian athletics.

Their interview for a documentary by German broadcaster ARD, aired in December 2014 , prompted an investigation launched by WADA.

Shobukhova admitted in an interview that she paid the All-Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) 450 thousand euros to hide a positive doping test.

Pecherina , for her part, argued that 99% of Russian athletes are guilty of doping.

But if Pecherina’s successes were limited mainly to national competitions, Shobukhova was the winner of the London Marathon.

She is now serving a two-year ban for inaccuracies identified in her biological passport.

The documentary contains a hidden camera recording. In the video, runner Maria Savinova, who won gold in the 800m race at the 2012 London Olympics, admits to having taken the illicit anabolic steroid oxandrolone .

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