Monika Ewa Michalik of Poland (Red) and Inna Trazhukova of Russia (Blue) in action during the women’s Freestyle 63kg bronze medal bout (Ilnitski/EPA)
Former Soviet Union states—especially Russia—have an extensive history of success in both freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling disciplines in the Olympics.
However, the 2016 Rio Olympics went a little different for the Russian wrestling powerhouse. Their delegate of wrestlers were within a whisker of not being able to compete in this year’s Games thanks to the Russian doping scandal which rocked the country and sports worldwide.
Doctor Grigory Rodchenkov was the head of the now-discredited Moscow-based sports laboratory that looked after drug samples taken from Russian athletes at the behest of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Rodchenkov, who was once awarded the prestigious Order of Friendship by Russian President Vladimir Putin, soon went rogue and turned whistleblower—detailing the years of state-sponsored doping authorized by the Russian political machine. Fearing for his life, Rodchenkov sought asylum in the United States following his allegations, which led to the McLaren report that implicated Russia.
A blanket ban was imposed on Russian track and field athletes by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with few notable exceptions, while the IOC left it to individual sports federations to determine whether they would like to ban Russian athletes from their respective sports. It wasn’t a popular decision among the vast majority of IOC members from different countries—a decision seen as a cop-out to avoid further trouble from a powerful nation that relies on its sporting stars to promote a positive image to the rest of the world.
United World Wrestling (UWW), the official wrestling body which works alongside the IOC for the Olympics, cleared 16 of Russia’s 17-strong team for Rio, with Viktor Lebedev omitted due to already serving a doping ban—his place in the 57kg event going to ….View full article