Sun | Sep 24, 2017

The fall of Russia

Published:Thursday | November 12, 2015 | 11:00 AMHubert Lawrence, Contributor

Ever since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia has consistently been a major power in world athletics. Its combined strength on the track and in the field crystallised in 2013, when the World Championships were held in Moscow.

Powered by vociferous home support, Russia topped the medal table with seven gold medals in their haul of 17.

Just two years later at the World Championships, Russia plummeted to ninth with just four medals, including two of the golden variety. The reasons for the fall of the Russians have become clear in recent months. Sadly, as indicated by a recent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report, there was manipulation of the drug testing process in Russia.

The fall was fast. Even as recently as 2014, Russia placed fourth on the medal table at the European Championships. Great Britain, the top team, took home just one medal more than the Russians.

In Beijing, host of this year's World Championships, the Russian effort paled in comparison to past performances. Many fans made the comparison and wondered. The answers have emerged from a WADA team that visited Russia and it isn't a pretty sight.

 

NEW ATHLETIC CHIEF

Since then, Russia has appointed a new athletics chief and fired coaches who have been implicated. When the full WADA report is published, it will show how much more needs to be done to completely clean up things in Russia.

If that's the end of the trauma athletics has to face, that would be acceptable. The worry is that French investigations of ex-IAAF President Lamine Diack will unearth problems elsewhere. All we can do is wait and see.

Athletes who lost medals to drug-powered Russians will also face a long wait.

When Marion Jones of the United States of America (USA) finally lost her gold for the 2000 Olympic 100/200 double, no one would guess that even now, some of those medals would not be awarded.

With Jones out, the gold fell naturally to Ekaterina Thanou of Greece. She ran into drug-related troubles in 2004, but Tayna Lawrence, who crossed the line third in 2000, hasn't got the gold yet.

So those affected by the Russian misdeeds may need to be very patient.

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes by track side since 1980.