Tough black smoke blinds Russian Sports

Russia has always been a highly competitive country, whether in the days of communism against capitalism, the arms race, the space race or an Olympic relay race.

Sadly, today if you hear Russian athletes claiming they’re becoming “Faster – Higher – Stronger” the first thing you think about is doing a doping test. When International Tennis Federation (ITF) banned renowned Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, as she failed drug test at Australian Open in January this year, that was just an opening of a series of hurdles to be faced by Russian Sports.

Furious Russian Fans in Euro Cup

Vladimir Putin has apparently poked fun at England football fans, as he questioned how 200 Russian supporters were able to beat up “several thousand” followers of Roy Hodgson’s side at the Euro 2016 tournament in France.

Violent clashes erupted between English and Russian fans around the time of their match in Marseille on last Saturday. Tear gas was used by French police on fans in the city ahead of the match, before Russian fans charged at England supporters in the Stade Velodrome after the game ended.

French police said a core group of 150 “hyper-rapid and hyper-violent” organised Russian hooligans travelled to the French city intent on causing violence and blamed them for the worst of the clashes. Other reports have varied to cite the number closer to 200, while sources told the Independent the number was around 300.

On Wednesday, UEFA  handed Russia a suspended disqualification over the violence and threatened the country would be thrown out of the competition if similar instances of violence happened again.

Mr Putin also appeared to refute UEFA’s threat to kick Russia, who are hosting the World Cup in two years, out of Euro 2016 by suggesting all “violators” must be treated the same.

A number of Russian fans have been arrested and detained following the violence which led to French ambassador to Russia, Jean-Maurice Ripert, being summoned by Moscow.

A number of English fans have also been jailed, deported and banned from France for their parts in the violence. England captain Wayne Rooney pleaded with fans to avoid the violence in a news conference on Monday as did manager Roy Hodgson after UEFA also threatened to kick England out.

On Wednesday, 36 England supporters were arrested in Lille after clashes with French locals and police ahead of their match against Waleson Thursday, which they won 2-1.

Track and field: a new headache

Now, Open Russia’s track and field team is barred from competing in the Olympic Games this summer because of a far-reaching doping conspiracy, an extraordinary punishment without precedent in Olympics history.

The International Association of Athletics Federations, the governing body for track and field, announced the decision Friday, ruling in a unanimous vote that Russia had not done enough to restore global confidence in the integrity of its athletes.

Russia won 18 medals in track and field — including eight golds — at the last Summer Olympics. But when the Rio Games begin on Aug. 5, no track and field athletes will compete under the Russian flag. Not even East Germany, which conducted a notorious doping scheme throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, faced such a penalty.

“Politics was not playing a part in that room today,” Sebastian Coe, the head of the track and field organization, said about the vote Friday. “It was unambiguous.”

The case against Russia has advanced over the last seven months. Reports by the World Anti-Doping Agency and by news organizations have detailed a state-run doping scheme that punctured the integrity of the Olympics, seemingly upending many of the results from the 2008 Beijing Games, the 2012 London Games and the 2014 Sochi Games.

The allegations were wide-ranging and detailed: Athletes were given a three-drug cocktail of banned substances and liquor; authorities helped athletes evade drug tests by surreptitiously swapping out tainted urine; thousands of incriminating samples were destroyed; drug testers were threatened by members of Russia’s Federal Security Service.

But perhaps the most influential force in the track organization’s decision was the outcry from athletes outside of Russia. A groundswell of Olympians across sports agitated for penalties after WADA had been slow to respond.

“Athletes have been losing sleep,” said Lauryn Williams, a track and field and bobsled athlete from the United States. “You can’t have faith in anybody who is Russian.”

Whatever the reason, Russia’s reputation is suffering. In other words, there’s a bit of a sinking feeling about Russian sport.