Will Russia and Kenya be barred from the Rio Olympics?


Doping allegations against Russian and Kenyan athletes may see the athletics teams of both countries banned from competing at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has so far determined that the ban on Russian athletes competing must be kept in place.

Russian athletes were banned from competing in November of last year, at a council meeting in Monaco. The ruling came after the uncovering of a conspiracy in Russian athletics, which went right to the heart of the country’s sporting establishment. Russia’s anti-doping agency, Rusada, along with the anti-doping laboratory, the Russian Athletics Federation, were involved, along with national coaches, chief medical officer, and the vast majority of the country’s top-level athletes.

It was hoped by the Russians that the ban would be lifted in ample time for this year’s summer Olympic Games in Rio. However, following a second visit at the end of January, the IAAF decided to keep the ban firmly in place. Reaffirming this commitment, the IAAF published a full list of Russian athletes ineligible for competing during the ban. The list is several-hundred strong, and includes all athletes “having an affiliation to the Russian Athletics Federation and names included in the IAAF database.”

Now a third IAAF visit to Moscow is due to take place to assess if Moscow’s sports authorities can really guarantee they have cleansed  of the doping rot. Internationally pressure is growing on the umbrella organisation for all athletics sports, with global sponsors like Nestle cancelling huge financial sponsorship deals for fear their brands will become tarnished by the doping scandals, which also involve alleged bribery and corruption against the former IAAF President Lamine Diack  himself and various cronies and family members.

The disgraced Diack’s successor, Lord Sebastian Coe, has come under increasing pressure over his close relationship to Nike, another big IAAF sponsor.

Russia is not the only country under the lens of the IAAF. Kenya was placed under investigation in November of last year, following allegations of a ‘cash for doping’ scandal. The vice president of Athletics Kenya, David Okeyo, was also alleged to have stolen sponsorship funds. Kenya has now been placed on probation by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and has been warned that unless they create and fund an anti-doping body, the famous long distance and middle distance running will be banned from competing in Rio.

The world of athletics may change dramatically with the potential exclusion of these two nations. Kenya came first at the Athletics World Championships in August 2015, with seven gold, six silver, and three bronze medals. Russia has a chestful of medals from its history of successful showings at the Olympic Games. At the London Olympics in London in 2012, Russia came away with 81 medals, 24 of which were gold. Since the modern summer Olympics started in 1896, Russia in all of its incarnations, has achieved 1,414 gold medals to date.


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