A Scandal to Change the Course of International Athletics

On December 3rd of 2014, the glass wall of the International Association of Athletics Federations came crashing down.  Colloquially referred to as the IAAF, this international track and field governing body was created in 1912 as a way to promote and standardize the sport. Since its inception, the IAAF has set standards of formal competition, maintained a litany of international records, and has sought to further bring the sport of track and field into the public limelight. Officially headquartered in Monaco, the IAAF consists of 213 member countries, subdivided into 6 official regions.

Following more than a century of strict governance, on December 3rd, 2014, the IAAF—and the world—was rocked by an international scandal. In an exclusive documentary by German broadcaster ARD entitled, “Top Secret Doping: How Russia Makes its Winners’,” allegations claimed that a staggering 99% of Russian athletes used performance enhancing drugs, or simply—doped.

Citing claims by three different whistle-blowers, this documentary purports the extent of the cheating is not limited merely to the individual athletes, but is intrinsic to the entire Russian Athletic Federation. As stated by Vitaliy Stepanov, a formerly employed member of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency—

“During our first or second talk she clearly told me, that all athletes in Russia are doping. You cannot achieve the results that you are getting, at least in Russia, without doping. You must dope. That’s how it is done in Russia. The officials and coaches clearly say by using natural ability you can only do so well. To get medals you need help. And the help is doping, prohibited substances.”

This resounding claim was further corroborated by claims that positive tests were hidden and not officially reported.

“He does the same thing as Portugalov, he sells doping to athletes, he provides plans, doping use plans for athletes. And when doping controls come he makes sure that athletes that are under Mr. Rodchenkov they don´t get positive tests. Of course, he does it for money.”

Further substantiated by Stepanov’s wife and former World Championship athlete, Yulia Stepanova, drugs such as Oxandrolone were provided to athletes for a predetermined compensation based upon individual competition finishes and overall season earnings. A total of “fifty thousand rubles” was required for a first place finish, “for second place thirty thousand, for third place twenty thousand.” In addition to this individual compensation, "…there was about five percent of the money I won in the season, commercial starts and others.”

In a decisive, yet frightening statement, Stepanov states— “if it is someone famous or someone young and medal hopeful, then it is a mistake and it is not reported.”

Is a culture of winning at all costs more important than a system of fairness in victory?

Has cheating become the new standard?

The revelations in this documentary implicate not only a systemic failure by the Russian Athletic Federation to maintain a standard of clean and fair athletics, but a failure by the IAAF to govern a key member of its organization. This failure is not merely limited to institutional oversight however, but a deemed inexplicable provocation and acceptance by leaders of the IAAF itself. As you will continue to read—this doping scandal was allegedly organized, sanctioned, and condoned by the IAAF and contains resoundingly deep implications for international athletics and track and field as a whole.


International Association of Athletics Federations. (2016, March 17). About the IAAF. Retrieved from International Association of Athletics Federations: http://www.iaaf.org/about-iaaf

ARD. (2014, December 3). Top-secret Doping: How Russia makes its Winners'. Retrieved from WDR: https://presse.wdr.de/plounge/tv/das_erste/2014/12/_pdf/English-Skript.pdf