The 2014 Winter Olympics Russian Doping Scandal Explained

Steroids and the Olympics have reportedly been intertwined for decades. People still remember the time Ben Johnson ran faster than the Greek god Hermes in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. He tested positive, and he went from being hailed as a hero to being disgraced, per Britannica. This was far from the first time that athletes had tried to get gold medal ability from a syringe. This went back to 1954 when Russian athletes were using testosterone, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  

Why do these athletes do it? Sometimes they are chasing glory and money. There is a period of time after the Olympics that there is a window for endorsements. If they medal in a high profile event, companies will notice and have them as spokespeople for products. Then there are those who are doing it due to pressure from their home country. Perhaps a country, especially if they are the host of that year's Olympics, wants to have a high medal count. So they may do anything to get that, including having their athletes take steroids and try to beat drug tests. 

The second scenario was most likely the correct one for what happened with the Russian team in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The scandal may have involved people in high positions

According to a report in Sports Illustrated, during the Sochi Olympics in Russia, the home country athletes were allegedly given steroids and alcohol — the alcohol was supposed to lessen the window for detection as well as help the body absorb the steroids. The athletes purportedly received substances that would help with endurance and recovery time, which are two critical components. Reportedly, this was an organized effort, and it was supposedly done by people in prominent positions in the drug testing facility. 

The report also said that they swapped out dirty urine for clean specimens that were taken months before. Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of the lab, blew the whistle on the whole thing. Ultimately, 10 Russians were stripped of their medals, which boosted the United States' total, per The New York Times. Russia has been banned from the Olympics until December 2022, per Time

Per Sports Illustrated, Dr. Rodchenkov abruptly resigned and went to Los Angeles, apparently for his safety. Two of his colleges suddenly died not long after.