The 2015 Doping Scandal at the IAAF and a Suitable Risk Management Policy

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The 2015 Doping Scandal at the IAAF and a Suitable Risk Management Policy

Sports are highly competitive activities whose rivalry is demonstrated in major competitions like the Olympics and FIFA World Cup. Unlike team sports, athletics promotes the performance of an individual and, consequently, the athletics team based on individual winnings. However, sporting rivalry can manifest political and economic competition between nations, and superpowers have been caught up in using sports to execute their supremacy wars. The Russian Federation and the United States have been embroiled in a protracted cold war beyond military confrontations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, which has spilled into the sporting arena (Altukhov and Nauright 3). The doping scandal at the international amateur athletic federation (IAAF), now World Athletics, demonstrates political rivalry perpetuated in the sporting arena, to the detriment of athletes, who were used as pawns in an intricate political and power contest. 

This discussion delves into the 2015 IAAF doping scandal as a complex sporting incident that presents untold risks in sports management globally, and particularly in Russia, which bore the most brunt of the investigatory outcomes. Russian athletes and officials were banned from Olympic Games from what appears to have been a political scheme to showcase Russian supremacy over the United States and The West. It begins by identifying and explaining the conflicts surrounding the 2015 scandal before presenting a risk management policy implementation proposal that would help Russians return to international competitions.

Sources of conflict around the 2015 doping scandal at the IAAF

The revelations of the longstanding doping program in 2016, following revelations of one of the chief architects of the program, rendered a significant blow to the credibility of national and international sporting bodies. These revelations implicated the Russian president and his administration, and their obsession with outdoing the United States and establishing their position as worthy competitors following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. This scandal tool a political angle when both countries traded accusations against each other in a supremacy contest that has endured since the Second World War. On one side, the United States accused Russian of conducting a government-led doping program, which endangered scores of sportspeople with banned and dangerous substances. On the other hand, Russia blamed the United States for instigating a scandal to embarrass and demean the country. This scenario created a fertile ground for conflict, which needs to be resolved because the Russian sportspeople are suffering from events beyond their doing.     

The 2015 IAAF doping scandal exposed several conflicts at the individual, group, and organization levels. Similarly, these conflicts can be categorized as functional and dysfunctional conflicts.

Individual Level Conflicts

At the individual level, the conflict is between Russian athletes and their coaches/managers in which, the athletes were unaware that they were being doped as a national policy while their coaches/managers conspired with the government. In addition, individual sportspeople conflict with their government for having involved them in a supremacy contest that has endangered their sporting careers. These conflicts are dysfunctional because they have damaged the team spirit of the Russian sportspeople, considering that many of them have been barred from international competitions and even stripped of their Olympic medals, damaging their sporting careers.

Group Level Conflicts

At the group level, there is a conflict between the Russian sports teams and the Russian Anti-doping Agency (RUSADA) for not complying with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The Russian sportspeople were not protected by their local agency, which conducted malpractices for a protected period. Consequently, groups of athletes were found with similar doping agents in their bodies by WADA, while the local agency had given them a clean bill. Consequently, some teams were barred by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and IAAF from participating in the Olympics and other IAAF-organized championships or doing so under a neutral flag.

Organizational Level Conflicts

The third and most significant conflict is between the sports management bodies and the Russian Government, which implemented a national doping program to make Russia a powerful competitor against the United States, its political, economic, and social nemesis. This conflict has functional and dysfunctional aspects. As a dysfunctional conflict, the Russian government has lost trustworthiness in the sporting fraternity globally and is always viewed suspiciously by other countries. Consequently, this conflict has destroyed sporting relationships with Russian sporting teams, while the country has missed its goal of being branded a sporting powerhouse similar to the United States.  However, as a functional conflict, the Russian government has committed to reforming its anti-doping regime by ridding it of corrupt individuals and opening the Russian anti-doping laboratories to WADA.

Key steps for implementing a risk management policy

The Russian Athletics Federation should take the following steps to implement a risk management policy that would enable Russian athletes to be readmitted into international competitions. The key steps include identifying existing and emerging risks related to anti-doping compliance, establishing mechanisms for monitoring the conduct of the different sporting stakeholders, creating sanctions for non-complying actors in sports management, and establishing surveillance mechanisms to ensure compliance with global anti-doping statutory requirements developed by WADA.  

Identifying Existing and Emerging Risks Related To Anti-Doping Compliance and Legal Liability

Sports in Russia are bedeviled with non-compliance and legal liability risks. The country has a longstanding history of doping its athletes, which should be reversed. In addition, innovations in the medical field could avail new doping agents that could endanger the athletes’ lives. While the non-compliance risks are already known, those related to the legal liability from harm and possible fatality of athletes need further assessment, particularly with the availability of existing and new doping agents whose safety has not been tested. 

Establishing Mechanisms for Monitoring the Conduct of the Different Sporting Stakeholders

Senior sporting management in Russia is notorious for availing and administering doping agents, hiding and falsifying doping evidence among Russian athletes. Ridgory Rodchenkov, the former head of the national anti-doping laboratory and doping program, turned whistleblower, is a vivid example of unethical individuals in authority that have benefited financially from unethical doping-related practices. In this regard, the Russian Athletics Federation should develop a code of conduct that complies with the World Anti-Doping Code, binding all sporting stakeholders against unethical practices (Duval 177). In addition, it should provide a whistle-blowing mechanism that would help expose unethical actors for punitive interventions.

Creating Sanctions for Non-Complying Actors in Sports Management

Russian Athletics Federation should formulate heavy sanctions against the violators of the code of ethical conduct. Hefty fines, jail terms, and barring of individuals held personally responsible for abetting doping practices. This policy should be supported by a legal framework, for which the federation can lobby the government.

Establishing surveillance mechanisms to ensure compliance with global anti-doping statutory requirements developed by WADA.

Continuous surveillance of doping practices would help rebuild the confidence of the IOC and the international sporting fraternity in Russia and its athletes. In addition, the Russian Athletics Federation should adopt transparency and accountability by disclosing the state of doping in Russia and allowing WADA to inspect anti-doping facilities and samples regularly. This would promote international confidence in the country and its athletes.


Russian athletes have suffered immeasurably from the countries longstanding doping practices. They were banned from international competition and only participate as individuals under neutral flags, denying them the opportunity to represent their country and destroying their sporting careers. However, a well-implemented risk management policy that focuses on rebuilding international confidence can help return the sportspeople back to international competition.

Works Cited

Altukhov, Sergey, and John Nauright. “The new sporting Cold War: implications of the Russian doping allegations for international relations and sport.” Sport in Society vol. 21, no. 8, 2018, pp. 1120-1136.

Duval, Antoine. “The Russian doping scandal at the court of arbitration for sport: Lessons for the world anti-doping system.” The International Sports Law Journal vol. 16, no. 3, 2017, pp. 177-197.

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