A timeline of Russia’s state-sponsored Olympic doping scandal

Russia's Kamila Valieva at a training session in Beijing. (Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images)
5 min

BEIJING — Investigations relating to Russia’s state-sponsored use of performance-enhancing drugs have spanned eight years and five Olympic Games. Now they’re hovering above the Beijing Games, with the potential to mar one of the marquee events: the women’s individual figure skating competition.

Russian Olympic Committee figure skater Kamila Valieva, 15, tested positive for a banned heart medication in December, although the results weren’t made public until last week. The incident sparked a renewed examination of Russia’s troubled Olympic history — and of the International Olympic Committee’s response.

What to know about Trimetazidine, the drug at the center of the Olympic doping case

Here’s a timeline of important milestones:

February 2014

Host country Russia closes the Sochi Olympics having won a surprising 33 medals, more than doubling the nation’s medal count from the 2010 Vancouver Games and topping all countries at a Winter Games that was of particular interest to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

December 2014

In a documentary aired on German television, former Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) official Vitaly Stepanov and his wife, Yuliya, a former middle-distance runner, allege that Russia sponsored systematic doping for its athletes. A former Russian athlete says that “99 percent” of the country’s Olympians had used performance-enhancing drugs. The Stepanovs, fearing for their safety, take exile in the United States.

November 2015

An independent commission from the World Anti-Doping Agency accuses Russia of running a state-sponsored doping program, describing a system that included shadow laboratories, destroyed urine samples and surveillance of lab workers by Russian intelligence agents. Days later, track and field’s international governing body bans Russia’s team from international athletic competitions, a sanction that still stands.

May 2016

The IOC begins retesting old samples from Russian athletes from as far back as the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics following testimony published in the New York Times from the former director of an anti-doping lab in Moscow. Grigory Rodchenkov says he switched out dirty samples for clean ones and that at least 15 medalists from the Sochi Games were part of the state-run doping program.

August 2016

Russia remains banned from track and field (known as “athletics” internationally). But the country competes in most other sports at the Rio de Janeiro Games after the IOC decides to allow individual sporting federations to make their own decisions regarding sanctions. Russia wins 19 gold medals and finishes fourth in the overall medal count.

December 2017

In a historic act of punishment, the IOC bans Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang but allows 168 Russian athletes to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” The Russian flag and anthem are absent, and some of the country’s most accomplished winter athletes do not compete.

September 2018

The WADA executive committee, filled with IOC members responsible for staging the Olympics, reinstates RUSADA against strong opposition from dozens of athletes on the condition that Russia give officials access to data from the Moscow lab where samples were doctored. Russia misses its initial deadline to do so by three weeks. Eight months later, WADA says the lab data Russia provided may have been tampered with and considers another four-year Olympic ban.

December 2019

WADA bars Russia from competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and the 2022 Beijing Games. The country is also banned from major international competitions through 2023, including FIFA’s World Cup, the Youth Olympic Games and the Paralympics. As with the 2018 Games, Russians who have not been implicated in the country’s state-sponsored doping are allowed to compete as unaffiliated athletes.

December 2020

The Court of Arbitration for Sport, a Swiss-based tribunal, reduces the ban from four years to two. The new timeline will still keep Russia out of the next two Olympics and the World Cup.

July-August 2021

More than 300 Russian athletes compete at the Tokyo Olympics under the Russian Olympic Committee flag, with the opening of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 played upon gold medals. The ROC contingent finishes with 20 gold and 71 overall medals, third behind the United States and China.

December 2021

Kamila Valieva, a 15-year-old Russian phenom favored to win the Olympic women’s figure skating gold medal, performs her short program at the Russian national championships Dec. 24. The next day, RUSADA collects a sample from Valieva to be tested for doping. Valieva competes again in the free skate and becomes the national champion.

February 2022

Russian athletes arrive in Beijing, again to compete for the ROC. In the second competition of her first Winter Games, Valieva becomes the first woman to land a quadruple jump at the Olympics and leads the ROC team to a gold medal. The medal ceremony is delayed because of what the IOC initially calls an emerging legal case. On Feb. 8, according to the International Testing Agency, a Swedish lab reports to authorities that Valieva’s sample from Dec. 25 contained the prohibited substance trimetazidine. On Feb. 11, the ITA promises an expedited hearing to determine her eligibility. On Feb. 14, CAS rules that Valieva’s suspension should be lifted and clears her to compete in the Olympic women’s individual competition.

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