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Banned From Rio: What Can You Learn from the Russian Track and Field Team?

The Russian track and field team is officially out of the Rio Olympics after getting caught doping. For more details, check out this article in the New York Times. Usually, it’s individual athletes who get banned for cheating, but this time the conspiracy was so widespread that the entire team was caught up in the scandal. For those athletes who can demonstrate they weren’t involved, there is still the possibility to seek permission to compete on other teams. Yet, for many others, the dream of competing at the Rio Olympics has ended.

Some people have complained that the unusual ban was political, and obviously Russia isn’t happy, but let’s leave that aside for now. If you run an extensive doping campaign, you might be out of the game–like the Russian track and field team. For now, let’s ask ourselves what can be learn from this incident?

Very few of us work in industries where performance-enhancing drugs are an issue, but there are other forms of cheating. Sometimes it’s the individual. Sometimes it’s the leadership. Sometimes the entire structure of the business is based on fraud. The best thing you can do is keep your own integrity strong and create a business culture that also supports integrity. You hope no one in your company will get involved in cheating, but if it happens, hopefully someone will be brave enough to stand up to it.

Everyone knows cheating is wrong and everyone has to play by the same rules, or the competition isn’t fair. For those who do choose to cheat, there’s always the chance they will get caught and thus by cheating they’re putting themselves, their business, even their family at risk (as can be seen in the Chris Correa sentencing).

But what if the rules simply changed? Some argue doping should be legalized since so many athletes are doing it anyway. Given that position, are performance-enhancing drugs really all that different compared to wearing better athletic shoes or taking part in a new training regime?

If everybody were following the same rules, doping wouldn’t be unfair anymore, would it?

But performance-enhancing drugs are different than other advances in sports—and the difference is the medical risk. Remember the East German Olympic program of the 1970’s? Promising female athletes, some of them still children, were given drugs without their knowledge or consent. The state-ordered drugs turned out to be derived from male hormones, which permanently altered the girls’ physical development. Athletes are not doctors and they don’t always know the full consequences what doping will do to their bodies.

By adopting the anti-doping rules, athletes are allowed to fairly compete without taking the risk of using the latest untested drugs. It’s the same story in business, whether financial regulations, environmental protections, or labor laws, regulations exist for a reason–to protect those who want to do the right thing, so they can remain competitive.

This is your livelihood, your reputation, maybe even your calling. So ask yourself, how far are you willing to go and what are you willing to risk to win a track meet or secure that career-changing deal?

The gamble is always too great if you are willing to win at all costs. The Russian track and field team is proof of that.


Co-written with the help of Rudy Redmond. Visit his LinkedIn page HERE.


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3 Key Points:

1) Keep your own integrity.

2) Build a business culture around integrity, unlike the Russian Track and Field Team.

3) Remember, the costs are high.





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