Meldonium provides boost to weird conspiracy theories
Premeditated plot against Russia? That's actually a real question
The Olympics are usually associated with reverence, grandiosity, and the purity of sport. What follows includes none of this. Welcome to the weird side of the Olympic Movement: the one that trips, falls on its face, rolls down a hill of dollar bills and lands in a giant vat of meldonium.
This week's drama begins with a completely benign statement:
Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev says he expects Maria Sharapova to compete at the Rio Olympics <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SSTennis?src=hash">#SSTennis</a>—@SuperSportBlitz
Benign, that is, until you recall the fact that the tennis star recently held a press conference to announce that she tested positive for the recently-banned substance meldonium at the Australian Open. That would make her appearance at the Rio Olympics slightly more than a little awkward.
"The situation should not be presented in such a way that it somehow casts a shadow on all Russian sports, on great achievements of our athletes," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters last Wednesday.
And, we assume, neither do any of these positive tests:
Meldonium triggers positive tests for 2 Russian speed skaters: report <a href="https://t.co/5Nr6dU9dqZ">https://t.co/5Nr6dU9dqZ</a> <a href="https://t.co/mIGX0twXnQ">pic.twitter.com/mIGX0twXnQ</a>—@cbcsports
Russian biathlete Eduard Latypov tests positive for Meldonium <a href="https://t.co/VuhcgqtySp">https://t.co/VuhcgqtySp</a> <a href="https://t.co/zizRpV3Ez3">pic.twitter.com/zizRpV3Ez3</a>—@English_AS
Breaking Russian meldonium news. - Member of Russia's national women's short track team has failed multiple tests for Meldonium—@OlympicStatman
2 Russian rugby 7s players have tested positive for Meldonium—@danroan
Are Western countries just piling on here? Is this part of a conspiracy against the Kremlin?
It appears Peskov thinks so, according to this convoluted quote.
"Attempts to politicize sports, attempts to add character to sports of some kind of political instrument for achieving some aims, are destructive for sports, for international sports, and are unacceptable and inexcusable," Peskov said.
This will all probably blow over soon, anyway. Some Russians have already even moved past external conspiracy and straight into internal sabotage, which is usually the last stage of the "country-reacting-to-athlete-accused-of-using-a-banned-substance" scale.
Meldonium was 'planted' on Russian speed skaters, says federation <a href="https://t.co/Dq7cAcjAGM">https://t.co/Dq7cAcjAGM</a> <a href="https://t.co/VI4vq3Otdm">pic.twitter.com/VI4vq3Otdm</a>—@CBCOlympics
But folks, it's not just Russia. Who would have thought that meldonium — an over-the-counter drug with performance-boosting benefits — would cause such a problem in the world of sport, which prides itself on fair, clean play? Right?
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BREAKING?src=hash">#BREAKING</a> Up to 490 athletes may have taken meldonium during Baku 2015 European Games, British Journal of Sports Medicine research claims—@pasport
And this is why the International Olympic Committee is taking this news with their trademark-measured, calm approach.*
IOC retests Beijing drug samples ahead of Rio Olympics. <a href="https://t.co/DpCP8dHumG">https://t.co/DpCP8dHumG</a> <a href="https://t.co/RVz6dse6qt">pic.twitter.com/RVz6dse6qt</a>—@CBCOlympics
*If by "measured, calm approach," you actually mean a lab technician running frantically down a street, carrying an overflowing box labelled, "Beijing Olympics Blood Samples" to the nearest 24-hour testing clinic.
With files from The Associated Press