Sports should not be politicized, yet global sports have increasingly become an arena of global politics. In spite of the “Russian doping scandal”, instigated by WADA to block Russian athletes from participating in international competitions, Russian sports teams were very successful in 2018, winning 146 gold medals. To name just a few, the Russian swimmers won six gold medals at the FINA World Swimming Championships, which took place in the Chinese city of Hangzhou from December 11 to 16, 2018. Meanwhile, WADA experts visited Moscow twice to inspect Russia’s former anti-doping laboratory. The inspection results have not been published yet. Nevertheless, Russia wants to take part in the 2020 Olympics, and Russian sports authorities are proposing financial awards for Russian athletes who will bring back gold.
Olga Golodets, Russian Deputy Prime Minister for sports, noted that Russian athletes won 146 gold medals in 2018. She said at a board meeting of the Sports Ministry that “the outgoing year of 2018 was a success for Russian sports. Russian athletes won at various international tournaments a total of 146 gold medals, a brilliant result” (TASS, 21.12.2018).
In November and December 2018, so-called experts from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) visited Moscow twice to inspect the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow. The five-person delegation of experts, led by Dr. Jose Antonio Pascual who is a research scientist and academic in Barcelona, arrived in Moscow on December 17 to access data of the Moscow anti-doping lab, as required by WADA’s Executive Committee decision of September 20.
They retrieved data on doping samples analysis of Russian athletes for the period between 2011 and 2015, kept at the former facility of the Moscow anti-doping lab. The results have not been published yet, and WADA announced that their “experts” want to come back to Moscow for a third time at the end of the year. Granting access to LIMS (the Laboratory Information Management System) data is one of the key conditions for the reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency RUSADA (TASS, 21.12.2018).
It needs to be noted that the WADA board of directors is predominantly governed by US, Canadian, British and Australian “experts”, with a few other Euopeans sprinkled in between. No Russians and Chinese are included, although Russia and China together form the greatest landmass on earth and have the largest population of the globe, if their numbers are combined. Maybe WADA should reconsider and restructure its board of directors for the future, including “experts” from the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China as well?
The last six gold medals in 2018 were brought home by Russian swimmers taking part in the FINA Swimming World Championships in Hangzhou, China. On the 13th of December, Kirill Prigoda won gold in men’s 200m breaststroke. He covered the distance in 2 minutes 0.16 seconds, setting a new world record (TASS, 13.12.2018). Kirill Gennadievich Prigoda was born in Saint Petersburg, on the 29th of December 1995. His father was a four-times Olympic medalist in swimming, his mother became world champion in 200 m breaststroke. Besides swimming, the young man studied Strategic Management at Peter the Great Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University.
The 14th of December was a very lucky day for Russia, as three Russian swimmers were able to grab gold in China. Kliment Kolesnikov won the 100 medley, swimming the distance in 50.63 seconds (TASS, 14.12.2018). Kliment Andreyevich Kolesnikov was born in Moscow, on the 9th of July 2000. The Russian swimmer won three gold medals at the 2018 European Championships and established a new 50m backstroke world record. He was chosen the flag bearer for Russia at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he received six gold medals.
On the 14th of December, Vladimir Morozov was also successful in Hangzhou. He won gold in the 50m freestyle, clocking the distance in 20.33 seconds (TASS, 14.12.2018). Vladimir Viktorovich Morozov was born in Novosibirsk, on the 16th of June 1992. At the FINA Swimming World Championships in Istanbul, he earned gold in the 50m and 100m freestyle.
In 2016, WADA harrassed him, naming the young Russian swimmer as an athlete who had “benefited from the disappearing positive methodology as part of a Russian state-run doping programme”. So FINA declared him ineligible for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Vladimir Morozov, however, appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which sided with him. On the 4th of August 2016, he was cleared by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to compete and took part in the Rio Summer Olympics (swimswam.com, 04.08.2016).
The third very successful Russian swimmer in China was Evgeny Rylov. He even won gold twice in single events, on the 14th and 16th of December. He was first in men’s 50m backstroke with 22.58 seconds, and two days later in men’s 200m backstroke with a time of 1:47.02 (TASS, 14. 12. 2018 / 16.12.2018). The 22-year-old crowned his career with a third gold medal for the 4x50m medley relay, in which he took part. Evgeny Mikhailovich Rylov was born in Novotroitsk, on the 23rd of September 1996. He had already received three gold medals at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing. Another gold medal followed at the 2017 Fina World Championships in Budapest.
The sixth and last gold medal was brought home to Russia by four men who won the 4×50 medley relay in Hangzhou with a time of 1:30.54. Kliment Kolesnikov, Oleg Kostin, Evgeny Rylov and Mikhail Vekovishev participated in the winning quartet.
This goes to show that the Russian Federation will not be contained in sports by envious western countries. The human reservoir of talented young people is huge. They do not need doping to set world records. Sports training in Russia has a long, successful tradition. The former Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation was and remains one of the leading sports nations of the world.
To further ensure that young athletes will train hard, the Russian sports authorities are proposing financial awards for winning gold at the 2020 Olympics. “A Russian athlete winning gold at the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo may be awarded by the government with a sum of four million rubles. The 2020 Summer Olympic Games will be held in Japan between July 24 and August 9, with a total of 339 sets of medals to be contested in 50 disciplines” (TASS, 21.12.2018).
Hopefully, Russia’s differences with WADA will be sorted out by then and young Russian talents will get a chance of competing in Tokyo.
Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Moscow.
Her blog: https://olivia2010kroth.wordpress.com