The medal rush in Rio Olympics is picking up momentum, with the most decorated Olympian Michael Phelps already getting into the action with his 19th gold. But the fallout continues over doping slurs, even becoming a part of mind games some athletes are employing in the Games. The swimming pool is abuzz with a spat between the Australian and Chinese swimming federations, after Mack Horton beat defending champion Sun Yang in the 400m freestyle, and then called Yang a drug cheat. The reference was to a secret three-month ban Yang served in 2014 after he tested positive, but the Chinese establishment had then kept the entire matter under wraps. India too has got its share of jolts when shotputter Inderjeet Singh tested positive and was barred, while grappler rsingh Yadav booked a last gasp ticket to Rio after it was adjudged his food had been spiked with drugs by a rival. The case of the Russian contingent is far more serious, with over 100 athletes barred from the Games due to doping allegations. Its entire track and field team was served an unprecedented ban by the IAAF, after the scandal broke just a fortnight before the Games of a massive state-sponsored doping and cover-up in Russia. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report prompted Olympic associations of the US, Cada and several other countries to demand that the entire Russian contingent should be thrown out from the Games.
The Intertiol Olympics Committee decided against a blanket ban, instead putting the onus on the 28 individual sports federations that oversee the Olympic disciplines, to furnish lists of ‘approved’ athletes. This smacked of an attempt to pass the buck by the IOC, which in turn has exposed deep fissures between and within top sporting bodies. IOC chief Thomas Bach was accused of being chummy with Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has been running a strident campaign that athletes from his country are being systematically and unfairly targeted. The IOC chief has castigated WADA for releasing its report so close to the Games and creating chaos thereby, calling for a full review of its anti-doping system. But WADA has claimed the report was published only after it got its hands on clinching evidence. Doping allegations have thus got top sports bodies squabbling in public, so it is hardly surprising that the rancor is spilling over to the sporting are among athletes. And the controversies are not likely to die down after the Games draw to an end on 21st August. Recently, samples from athletes who competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics were re-tested; according to reports, nearly 100 have tested positive for doping, many of them medal winners. It will therefore be a herculean task for Rio Games organizers to keep the 31st Olympics relatively clean. Around 10,000 athletes from 206 countries are competing at Rio, with the Games organizers picking up the over 20 billion dollars tab. Brazil itself is in economic doldrums with unemployment rate soaring above 11 percent, while its politics is going haywire as suspended President Dilma Rousseff faces a divisive impeachment trial. If IOC does mage to enforce its ‘zero tolerance’ policy to doping, it will go a long way to keep undiminished the luster of sporting achievements already lighting up the ongoing Games.