Drug ban: 335 Russian competitors are sent to Tokyo Olympics 2020 disguised as ...

Drug ban: 335 Russian competitors are sent to Tokyo Olympics 2020 disguised as ...
Drug ban: 335 Russian competitors are sent to Tokyo Olympics 2020 disguised as ...

Were a gold medal to be awarded for the best anthem at the Tokyo Games, there would surely be only one winner.

An excerpt from Tchaikovsky's magnificent Piano Concerto Number One has been played during podium ceremonies in Japan on seven occasions so far. 

Each one has marked a golden triumph for an athlete from 'ROC', whose team currently lies fourth in the overall medals table, trailing only the hosts, China and the USA.

But who or where is the country of ROC, you might wonder? The answer is Russia, in all but her traditional name, anthem, flag and federation logo – not to mention a suitable air of contrition.

Despite a current umbrella 'ban' on its participation in international events like the Olympics because of state-sponsored doping, Russia has been allowed to send 335 competitors to the world's most prestigious sporting jamboree.

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Beautiful music and other window-dressing such as calling itself the Russian Olympic Committee – to suggest an appearance of 'neutrality' – cannot mask the stench of corruption and appeasement.

Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) athletes are awarded gold medals after the men's artistic gymnastics final team all-around event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) athletes are awarded gold medals after the men's artistic gymnastics final team all-around event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

During the Cold War, competitors from behind the Iron Curtain were widely suspected – with justification – of taking illegal substances to boost performances. 

East Germany was perhaps the most infamous example of institutional cheating – some of its anabolic steroid and testosterone-administered female athletes looked as if they could give the men's middleweight boxing contenders a run for their money.

East Germany no longer exists. The Iron Curtain is down. But the evidence is that Russia did not change when it came to formalised doping. 

The extraordinary story of her recent exposure as a serial drugs cheat and subsequent avoidance of meaningful punishment begins in 2010.

That was the year of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, in which Russia's relatively poor performance caused concern, not least in the Kremlin. 

Measures had to be taken to avoid a repeat which might further damage national – and, by association, President Vladimir Putin's – prestige. The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) had been established two years earlier, supposedly to stop the cheats.

But in 2010 a member of its staff, Vitaly Stepanov, began secretly informing the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that the opposite was taking place. WADA was slow to take action. Eventually Stepanov went to a German TV broadcaster. 

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Their collaboration resulted in a sensational documentary in 2014 titled The Doping Secret: How Russia Creates Its Champions.

It was East Germany all over again. Now WADA had to act. Russia was banned from competing in world track and field events. 

The laboratory where corrupted tests

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