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Russia's Getting Strict About Doping at Sochi

There will almost certainly be those who get away with it, but you can’t say the Russians aren’t trying

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The Winter Olympics are coming, and athletes are packing their things and making their way to Sochi. With them, they will bring performance-enhancing drugs. At this point in sports history, the question is less whether anybody is doping, and more whether or not they’ll get caught.

To keep people from doping, Sochi is laying down incredibly strict rules and a so-called “drug-net,” in an attempt not just to catch offenders, but to scare athletes into thinking twice about doping in the first place. This year the International Olympic Committee will conduct a record breaking number of tests: 2,453 in Sochi alone, including 1,269 precompetition controls. According to Stephen Wilson at the Associated Press, “That's a 57 percent increase in pre-Games tests from the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.”

Not only do new techniques allow screeners to look for drug use months prior to the test, but according to Wilson, “Urine and blood samples will be stored for eight years for retroactive testing, providing further deterrence to anyone thinking they can avoid being caught.” That storage period is going to get even longer in 2016, stretching out to 10 years. This isn’t new, and in fact the IOC recently retested 350 samples it saved from the Turin Olympics in 2006. 

Compared to the Summer Olympics, the winter games tend to have less high profile cases of doping. Wilson writes:

Since testing began at the Winter Olympics in 1968, only 20 doping cases have been reported by the IOC. Only one was reported at the 2010 Vancouver Games, with Polish cross-country skier Kornelia Marek disqualified after testing positive for EPO. Two hockey players were reprimanded for minor violations after testing positive for stimulants.

But you’d be dumb to think that it wasn’t happening, experts told Wilson. And Russia will have a lab setup on site with 90 people working in it to test for doping as the games go on. There will almost certainly be those who get away with doping, but you can’t say the Russians aren’t trying. 

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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