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Olympics sullied by Russia’s ?drug-cheating programme

Opinion Piece

Proof of widespread doping among Russian competitors has cast a shadow over next month’s Rio Olympics, and the controversy is being followed closely by Gisborne’s sports fraternity which has such a proud Olympic history.

Locals will have enjoyed reading yesterday’s New Zealand Herald article which put Gisborne at No. 5 in a countdown of the top 10 New Zealand Olympic towns.

Those fortunate enough to see it would never forget the 1984 victory parade through the city, as gold medallists Alan Thompson and Grant Bramwell were driven by the late mayor Hink Healey.

Many would have been up in the small hours a few days earlier to watch the pair paddle their way to glory on Lake Casitas.

It was a day only rivalled by the welcome the city gave to the late Richard White after the 1956 Springbok series. His son Chris was of course our third medallist, winning a bronze in the coxed four rowing crew at Seoul in 1988.

Our link with the Summer Games goes back to 1928 when Norma Wilson competed in the 100 metres sprint at Amsterdam.

How sad then to learn of systematic, state-sanctioned drug cheating by Russian competitors at summer and winter games between 2011 and 2015.

The IOC has initially held back from banning all Russian competitors as it assesses legal implications and awaits an appeal (being heard overnight tomorrow NZ time) against the International Athletics Federation’s ban on Russia’s athletics team.

Russia has a history of being at the centre of Games controversies. The 1980 Moscow Games were boycotted by the United States and many others because of the invasion of Afghanistan. Russia and 14 of its allies retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

Concerns about the Zika virus have led to numerous withdrawals from Rio (or excuses for doing so), but despite this plus pollution, security and infrastructure concerns, the Games will open on August 5 and the sporting contests will take over. The Olympic Games have overcome scandals and disasters in the past, and always will in the future.