Russia's potential exclusion from the Rio Olympics should only have a minor impact on New Zealand medal hopes, but could ease the way for a few Kiwi athletes to work through their respective fields.
A decision is due overnight from the International Olympic Committee on Russia's chances of participating at the Games in all sports. They are already banned in track and field.
This follows the World Anti-Doping Agency-backed McLaren Report which claims Russia's state-directed cheating resulted in at least 312 falsified results and lasted from 2011 until at least last year's world swimming championships.
The investigator, Richard McLaren, said out of 577 positive sample screenings, 312 positive results were held back - or labeled "Save" by the lab workers - but that was only a "small slice" of the data that could have been examined. More than 240 of the 312 "Saves" came from track and field and wrestling, but other sports involved included swimming, rowing, snowboarding and table tennis.
McLaren suggested the numbers could have been higher, but he had only 57 days for his investigation.
The New Zealand men's quadruple sculls rowers were recalled to the Games after a Russian crew member tested positive for the banned drug trimetazidine after an out-of-competition test on May 17. Russia's appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport is yet to be heard.
Other New Zealanders who could be affected include:
- The men's and women's rowing eights. Russia finished fifth, behind New Zealand but qualifying for Rio, in both events at last year's world championships.
- Pole vaulter Eliza McCartney. World record holder Yelena Isinbayeva took a break for motherhood in 2014 after winning the world championships the previous year. She set an Olympic qualifying mark of 4.90m (at home) last month. Compatriot Anzhelika Sidorova also vaulted 4.85m. McCartney's personal best is 4.80m. She is ranked seventh outdoors in 2016.
- The men's track cyclists. At March's world championships in London, Russia finished third in the individual sprint, fifth in the team pursuit and seventh in the team sprint.
THIS MORNING'S revelations will come as little surprise to anyone who has watched or reported on sport in Russia.
At the 2013 track and field world championships in Moscow a veneer of goodwill masked the underlying fear shown by anyone involved in the event's delivery.
A fear of showing initiative, a fear of showing spirit, a fear of showing weakness. History offers a clue to their mindset. Perceived resentment might descend from the deprivation endured by generations defending the country during WWII against Nazi Germany and the poverty of its aftermath. The Soviets also had to defend themselves internally during Stalinist purges where death or banishment to gulags was routine. Such repression would tend to engender caution.
Russia (and formerly the Soviet Union) has been besieged by endless war, pain and suffering. The communist ideal which drove the revolution to overthrow the Tsarist regime in 1917 never materialised. President Mikhail Gorbachev did his best to instigate social reform in the late 1980s but now they're back under Vladimir Putin, a man who, as an example, signed off anti-gay propaganda legislation, an issue which generated protests at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
If Wada's allegations are true, this wasn't the only policy the Russian government was instituting. A home Games brought demands of nationalistic fervour, resulting in officials and athletes succumbing to temptation.
The populist approach appears to have incited systemic deceit. A winning Russia blanks out any creep towards an inferiority complex. It worked in the space race and extended to the Olympics. Perhaps it's a coincidence but Russia has one of sport's worst doping records through the generations. The 'win at all costs' theory fits with long-suffering insecurity over their nationalism.
Adjacent to the stadium at those 2013 world championships sat a two-metre high wrought-iron wall surrounding a concrete monstrosity which looks capable of withstanding nuclear attack.
The building was the Olympic Committee headquarters. That structure is now taking more of a bombardment than at any other time in its history.