A day (un)like any other

There are days when, although seemingly not a single goal has been scored, no whistle blown, no race run, no record broken, so much is still happening in the world of sports besides the field of play, that I don’t really know where to begin. Yesterday was such a day. Let’s recap what happened:

As you may recall, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) suspended the Russian athletics team from participating in any international event for an indefinite amount of time, namely until certain obligations are met by the Russian national federation and its anti doping agency (RUSADA). These obligations included a restructuring of the national federation, the removal of specific individual coaches, doctors and other officials who have received lifetime bans, and, more generally speaking, to return to full compliance status within the framework of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA). Now, bearing that in mind and the looming threat of not being able to send even a single athlete to compete in the Rio 2016 athletics events, guess what has happened! Exactly, nothing! A documentary by German broadcaster ARD, made by the same team that already uncovered the Russian doping scandal in the first place, asserts that the very same coaches and team officials are still working, albeit a bit further away from Moscow and so, as they apparently thought, away from the spotlight. The so called ‘efforts’ in ‘restructuring’ the federation were most likely not more than a little cosmetics to deceive WADA and IAAF, to lure them into the impression that Russian athletics has learned its lesson and will take both WADA and the World Anti Doping Code seriously. Well, they haven’t and they don’t. All that now remains is to wait and see how serious WADA and IAAF are taking their own rules. At the moment, the suspension of the Russian athletics team for the Rio 2016 Games seems to be more likely than ever before…

Staying in Russia, a super star has been caught with an illicit substance. Maria Sharapova, WTA No. 7, a winner of five Grand Slam tournaments (and one of only ten players winning each of them), Olympic silver medallist, and former WTA No. 1, has tested positive for meldonium during the Australian Open, this January. Sharapova admitted the use of the drug, taking the blame on herself and claiming to have made an unfortunate mistake when she didn’t realized that the drug she apparently has been taking for quite a while was now, since 1 January 2016, on the official list of prohibited substances. To some extent that explanation is understandable although the new prohibited list was published as early as September 2015. If you are a professional athlete and you know that you’re taking certain medication on a regular basis and you happen to travel around the world quite often, you should be extra careful every time new drugs are added to the prohibited list, especially if these drugs are not approved for medical (or any other) use at all in the country you actually live in (in her case, the US). Sharapova also cited previous health problems as a reason to taking these drugs. While it is true that she has struggled in the past to cope with repeated injuries, primarily affecting her shoulder, it should be noted that meldonium is an anti-ischemic drug, used in cases of angina pectoris or myocardial infarction. Apart from that, meldonium is known to “demonstrate an increase in endurance performance of athletes, improved rehabilitation after exercise, protection against stress, and enhanced activations of central nervous system (CNS) functions”, according to a recent study, published in December 2015 in the Drug Testing and Analysis journal. So, while I am sorry for her for making this mistake, and while I think that her reaction is a very respectable one, her reasons to take meldonium seem to me rather dubious…

And, finally, we must say goodbye to one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Quarterback of all time. All that could be said about Peyton Manning has already been said, his numerous record setting performances reviewed, his setbacks ridiculed, his comebacks celebrated, his gigantic career honored. All that remains for me is to say:

Thank you, Sheriff Manning! It’s been an honor, watching you playing the game and setting new standards for generations to come!

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