The controversy surrounding all of Russian Sports could well have an impact in the 2016 Paralympic Games following the investigation. Richard McLaren’s report was released on Monday to the World Anti-Doping Agency and the after-shocks are only just beginning to be felt.
The Paralaympic Games have not been unaffected by McLaren’s report as he examined all sports in Russia to assess the extent of Russia’s systematic doping. This report has found that Russia have also been covering up potential doping in Paralympic sports.
The McLaren report found that 35 samples from Russian Para-athletes had ‘disappeared’ from 2012-2015. Those samples included some in the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralaympic Games and as such the report could have an impact on medalists at that event. Russia won 80 total medals at that event, some winning multiple medals but it seems unlikely that every Russian athlete was dirty but it seems likely that some were.
The announcement of the McLaren report by WADA and prompted the International Paralympic Committee to make a statement. IPC president Sir Philip Craven said in the statement “The IPC will now analyse the report’s findings in detail to evaluate what impact they have on the Paralympic Movement and Para Sport” said the statement. “We have also requested urgent clarification from both parties (WADA and McLaren) to better establish how the findings implicate the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and Russian Para athletes.”
Paralympic Sport is often seen as being immune from doping, but there have been a few high profile cases. At the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games nine powerlifters were removed from the competition before the event, while one further was banned after winning a medal and testing positive. Two years later in Salt Lake City Thomas Oelsner was banned for two years after testing positive and was stripped of his two gold medals.
The biggest ever incident of cheating came in 2000 when the Spanish Intellectually Disabled Basketball team turned out to actually have no disability. That saw that entire section of Para-Sports banned, this scandal is big but may not quite be as big as Spain in 2000.
The other big issue around cheating in the Paralympic Games, boosting, still seems set to plague the event. Boosting is the process of deliberatley inducing Autonomic Dysreflexia in an attempt to improve performance, and is against the rules of the IPC. Despite that, in 2008 16.7% of respondents to an anonymous survey admitted to boosting at least once in training or a competition, with most being Wheelchair Rugby athletes. Testing is being ramped up in Rio, but no boosting has ever been clinically detected at a Paralympic Games despite anecodatal evidence of its practice.