Russia’s solution to its doping crisis: Teach fair play in gym class

Start young.
Start young.
Image: Reuters/Pool
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Russian authorities won’t admit that they are complicit in a professional sports doping crisis alleged by global anti-doping officials and a top former insider. However, the government does claim to have the solution: Start early, nip it in the bud.

A new government initiative, announced Monday (June 6) introduces anti-doping classes into the school curriculum of “millions” of children, as part of  their physical education programs. Special anti-doping lessons will also be introduced in the country’s 3,000 sports academies, instilling fair play values in athletes as young as 10 years old. According to a Ministry of Sport statement, students will be taught to “reject any encouragement to cheat to achieve sporting success.”

The former head of the country’s anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, revealed recently that he ran an elaborate doping operation during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He says he acted under direct orders from the sports ministry.

Multiple Russian athletes have also failed doping tests in recent months. The country’s track and field team’s participation in this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was put on the line after the sport’s Russian federation was suspended by international authorities in 2015 over alleged state-sponsored doping. 

“We recognize that, to create real change, we must inform athletes from the very beginning of their careers. It is about instilling the right values from the outset, but we hope this initiative will be supported by wider society as this is a change that all Russians must embrace,” said Natalia Zhelanova, an advisor to the Russian minister of sport in a statement.

The new program will also teach Russian sport and medicine professionals about “values of sport” and “fair play,” and provide anti-doping training.

“We welcome these significant moves by the government to address the country’s problem with doping. Our job of eradicating doping from sport will be considerably helped by teaching children from an early age that this is not acceptable in our society,” said Anna Antseliovich, the acting head of Russia’s anti-doping agency, which was suspended from collecting samples from athletes following the track-and-field scandal.