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Year in Review: Russian Athletes Showing Strength Despite Doping Accusations

© Sputnik / Alexander Vilf / Go to the mediabankYana Kudryavtseva (Russia) performs the hoop routine during the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around competition at the XXXI Summer Olympics
Yana Kudryavtseva (Russia) performs the hoop routine during the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around competition at the XXXI Summer Olympics - Sputnik International
Year 2016, a year of Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, was awaited by thousands of athletes from all over the world, who trained hard for one of the main starts in their careers, but dozens of Russian athletes, including Paralympians, were denied the right to participate.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Back in July, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission headed by Richard McLaren issued a report, in which it accused Russia of allegedly running a state-wide doping program, but the document seriously lacked proof. The publication led to the ban on Russian athletes from taking part in international competitions including the 2016 Summer Olympics and a ban on all Russian Paralympic Team from participating in the major sports event of 2016.

Lawyer Richard McLaren (C) arrives to deliver his second and final part of a report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), at a news conference in London, Britain December 9, 2016. - Sputnik International
Second Part of WADA Report on Alleged Doping Abuse in Russia Released
Russian sportsmen, some of whom were literally crying after the ban was issued, all argued that the publication was unfounded and awaited for the second part of the report, expecting it to reveal any further details. The second part of the McLaren report was published in early December, however it also failed to present facts and was considered by many as biased.

Despite the fact that many Russian athletes were banned from the Olympics, in the final medal count, the Russian team still managed to finish in the fourth place, while country’s sportsmen had a chance to prove their strength and power in a number of other competitions throughout 2016.

Doping Accusations Lacking Proof

The first part of the McLaren report issued in July focused on three key findings. McLaren accused both Moscow and Sochi anti-doping laboratories of operating the state-run "sample swapping" system designed to falsify test results by a pre-determined labeling system. The Russian Sports Ministry was accused of directing, controlling and overseeing the sample manipulation. The Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Center of Sports Preparation of National Teams of Russia (CSP) are also alleged to have been responsible for running the swapping system.

In response to the release, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that many Russian athletes suffered unjustly without specific charges brought against them, adding that there was a campaign targeting Russian sportsmen "with so-called double standards and the principle of collective responsibility, which is incompatible with sports and with justice and basic legal principles."

Putin added though that there was no place for doping in sports and promised to cooperate with the investigation, while also setting up an independent commission comprising Russian and foreign experts to tackle doping-related problems in Russian sports.

The entrance of National anti-doping agency, RUSADA in Moscow, Russia (File) - Sputnik International
Russian Anti-Doping Program to Be Ready in Early 2017 - Putin
In October, Putin announced Russia’s plan to carry out reforms in country’s anti-doping bodies. The Russian anti-doping laboratory, which was the focus of the doping scandal after WADA based its July report on former lab chief Grigory Rodchenkov's testimony, was also set to be overhauled. Putin also stressed the need to make sure that all clean athletes are recognized.

After Russia made a series of steps showing its intention to cooperate with the international bodies and eliminate all cases of doping in sports, WADA went further and published the second part of the McLaren report in the early days of December.

Lawyer Richard McLaren (L) takes questions after delivering his second and final part of a report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), at a news conference in London, Britain December 9, 2016 - Sputnik International
Russian Athletes Say Doping Accusations in Second McLaren Report Lack Evidence
The second part of the report said that some 600 Russian summer athletes and 95 winter athletes were involved in manipulations to conceal positive doping tests, while saying also that doping samples of 12 medalists at the Sochi Olympic Games were opened, however did not mention any names or facts.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) thanked McLaren for the report and promised to reanalyze all 254 urine probes of Russian athletes from 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, while stating that all blood samples taken from 63 Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics had been negative.

Russia's Own Paralympic Games

Russian Paralympic swimming team during training session - Sputnik International
Paralympic Committee's Ban on Russian Team Punished 'World's Best Athletes'
In the wake of the International Paralympic Committee’s decision to ban Russian Paralympics from the Rio games, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said that Russia would organize special competitions for those paralympians who have been disqualified from the Rio Games.

In the Moscow region, Russian paralympians banned from the Rio games set a number of new world records while taking part in the alternative games organized by Putin’s order. Despite the fact that these results will not be added to the international protocols, the results speak for themselves, the sportsmen say, and show that the Russian sportsmen are among the strongest in the world.


Magnus Carlsen, of Norway, reacts at his match with Sergey Karjakin, of Russia - Sputnik International
First Game of Chess World Championship’s Tie-Break Ends in Draw
One of the most expected sports events of the year was the World Championship chess match between Russia’s Sergey Karjakin and Norway’s Magnus Carlsen.

The magnificent play of two young players, both just over 25 years old, attracted millions of watchers all over the globe, including the Russian president.

Carlsen managed to retain his World Champion title by winning in a tie-breaker.

Despite the loss, Karjakin is willing to challenge the title again whenever he has such possibility.


Russia's goalie Igor Akinfeyev at the UEFA Euro 2016 group stage match between the national teams of England and Russia. - Sputnik International
Russian Goalkeeper Akinfeev Enters UEFA’s Save of the Season Top-3 (VIDEO)
In June-July, France hosted the UEFA Euro 2016 football championship, which brought many surprises.

The Russian national team finished in the last place in the group B after losing its grip following the first successful match against England that ended in a draw.

France, the host of the championship, got a strong support from the local crowd, and in a brilliant game defeated Germany in a semi-final 2-0, raising hopes among the French that the team may win the home championship.

However, in the final match, Portugal managed to defeat the hosts 1-0 when Eder scored in extra-time.

Figure Skating

In late March, the 2016 Figure Skating Championship took place in Boston. The Russian team finished first in the table of medals for overall placement thanks to Evgenia Medvedeva winning gold in ladies short program.

Medvedeva set a record score of 150.10.

Medvedeva’s teammate Anna Pogorilaya got a bronze medal in the same discipline with 139.71 points.

Rhytmic Gymnastics

Russia maintains its strong position as the world leader in rhythmic gymnastics. After the 2016 European Championships held in Israel, Russia once again finished in the first place receiving 7 gold and 1 silver medals.

Russia won the group all-round beating Belarus and Israel, while Russian junior team defeated Belarus and Italy.

In the individual all-round, Russia’s Yana Kudryavtseva defeated her teammate Margarita Mamun, scoring a total of 76.082 against 75.635.

What to Expect

With the accusations and pressure on Russian sportsmen amid the doping scandal, the athletes try to do their best in order not to pay attention to current situation in the world affairs and geopolitical games, repeatedly stressing that sports has nothing to do with politics.

In the next few years, Russia will be hosting a series of major sports events, such as the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

In 2018, there will also be Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, with fears emerging that Russian athletes may once again be banned from the event over the doping accusations. However, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, a collective ban of Russian athletes from the 2018 games is "out of the question."

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