Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field·Analysis

WADA report: Canadian athletes not surprised by Russian doping allegations

Canada's top track and field athletes feel some vindication after a World Anti-Doping Agency panel accused the Russian government of wrongdoing in widespread doping and coverups.

Hammer thrower Jim Steacy says it won't be an overnight fix

Carla Qualtrough shares her opinion on the recent drug scandal involving Russian athletes 0:52

Jim Steacy, considered the best hammer thrower in Canadian history, was provided with some vindication Monday when a World Anti-Doping Agency panel accused the Russian government of wrongdoing in widespread doping and coverups by its track and field athletes.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Steacy was a finalist in the men's hammer throw and the silver and bronze medallists, Vadim Devyatovskiy and Igor Tikhon of Belarus, tested positive for doping and were stripped of their medals.

As a result, Steacy was bumped up to 10th place from 12th. But because there was a problem with the handling procedures of the samples, the case is still before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. So the 31-year-old from Lethbridge, Alta., still doesn't know how he fared in Beijing.

"Doping is widespread and hammer throw has long been considered one of the dirtiest events in track and field, so it's nice to see what you hear in the shadows and rumours come to light and almost provide a little bit of vindication into your thoughts, frustrations and struggles in the sport," Steacy told

Steacy admitted to feeling a whole spectrum of emotions from Monday's doping report. The fallout could lead to Russian athletes being barred from the 2016 Rio Olympics, according to International Association of Athletics Federations president Sebastian Coe.

As a fan, Steacy is "extremely" disappointed to see such a major federation go through these kind of doping allegations.

"But as an active athlete on the national team having to compete against athletes that are involved in a doping program such as this, it's extremely satisfying to see some actual results come out of this and see some headway being made towards an even playing field for athletes that are [competing] clean and have to struggle against it."

Canadian middle-distance runner Hilary Stellingwerff is one such athlete.

Not surprised

Like Steacy, she wasn't surprised by Monday's devastatingly critical report by the WADA panel.

"When you're on the inside of it, you have suspicions," she said. "Just with the number of athletes that have already tested positive from Russia and some of the jumps that have been made, in terms of personal bests [in performance]. It just hits a little deeper when it's real."

Stellingwerff sat at home during the 2008 Summer Games and watched as heat races were cancelled and athletes went immediately to a semifinal since there were not enough runners after five Russians had tampered with their urine samples by substituting someone's else's urine for their own.

"In 2012 [at the London Olympics] I missed the final by one spot, but there are three athletes ahead of me from Turkey, Russia and Belarus that have tested positive," she said. "I can't go back and run the final but it's heartbreaking. I hope going into [the] Rio [Games] that it'll be cleaner."

Athletics Canada said in a statement Monday that it is "strongly in favour of ongoing investigations into systematic doping with severe sanctions for any athlete, coach or federation in contravention of the World Anti-Doping Code and ethical sport practices.

I think there are very few Russian athletes who are clean. Right now, nobody believes them.- Canadian middle-distance runner Hilary Stellingwerff

"We are committed to working with the IAAF, doping agencies and international federations to rid the sport of cheaters, ensuring Canadian athletes are on an even playing field at all international competitions."

As for the possibility of barring Russian athletes from competing in Rio, Stellingwerff said it needs to be done the right way so athletes who aren't doping are not affected. She approves of a Russian ban until it cleans up its act with coaches, managers and athletes.

"But to be honest," added Stellingwerff, "I think there are very few Russian athletes who are clean. Right now, nobody believes them. There needs to be some consequences, otherwise it will continue to happen because it appears to be a nationwide problem."

Time to act is now

If the IAAF is serious about barring Russian athletes from the Olympics, it needs to be done for Rio, according to Canada's Lanni Marchant, who has qualified for those Games in the 10,000m and marathon.

Marchant, who finished 18th in the 10,000 at the IAAF world championships in Beijing in August and was tested three times, is frustrated and surprised that each country is responsible to test their athletes "because that's when you end up with issues like this" in Russia. 

"I've been to Kenya every year since 2012 and when I was there in 2014, it was the first time I had seen any doping officials conducting tests," said the 31-year-old Marchant of London, Ont.

Having a lack of resources, whether it's access to laboratories or funds, can no longer be excusable, she said, adding Monday's report was an eye-opener for many.

"Athletics, the last couple of years, has really taken off and getting a much bigger following within mainstream media, and there are big dollars being paid for contracts for television rights … and that money needs to start going towards cleaning up our sport."

​Former Paralympic swimmer Carla Qualtrough, who was recently appointed Canada's minister of sport and persons with disabilities, believes Canada needs to hold its coaches and doctors accountable.

"What we can do in Canada is focus on the education side of anti-doping," Qualtrough said. "Educate our athletes before they become national team members on the pitfalls and their options."

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