Report: Russian Doping Program Juiced More Than 1,000 Athletes
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Just when you're tired of the world, it's time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: But we have to begin sports today with another report about a Russian intervention - this time, a doping program that juiced a thousand Russian athletes in international competition. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us now. Tom, thanks for being with us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.
SIMON: So this is an independent report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. What does it say?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, it was the second of two reports. You may remember report one came out in July right before the Rio Summer Olympics, and it led to more than a hundred Russian athletes banned from those games. So yeah, now there's this one and it implicates more than a thousand athletes in Olympic and Paralympic sports. And, you know, I think there are two main things to watch for after this release - what happens specifically with Russia. Will that country truly reform and get back into the fold of international sports? And until it does, will Russia continue to be penalized? There's a world championship bobsled event in Sochi in February. Will officials move that? And will the pressure to come down hard on Russia result in a blanket ban from the next Olympics, the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea? And the other thing to watch for - what happens with the anti-doping structure. Critics think the International Olympic Committee shouldn't be in the anti-doping business. So will a new structure to fight doping come out of this Russian scandal?
SIMON: Athletes themselves have become real activists on this subject, haven't they?
GOLDMAN: They have. And you're seeing a lot more organized activism than in the past, and I think it's a reflection of athlete frustration. More athletes are getting fed up with the doping and the anti-doping efforts. You know, there's a feeling Russia was mishandled, that officialdom was slow to recognize the problem and that the IOC gave into politics when it didn't ban the entire Russian team from Rio. So yeah, there's talk about athletes boycotting the event in Sochi I mentioned, and more than 350 U.S. athletes have signed a petition calling for anti-doping reform, a petition that may end up going worldwide.
SIMON: Tom, let's move over to talk about the NBA.
SIMON: Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder - talk about thunder and lightning. Boy, he's been tearing up the boards, hasn't he?
GOLDMAN: Oh, my God. Last night, he racked up his seventh triple-double. That's double figures in the scoring, rebounding and assists. And that ties him with a couple of pretty good players - Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson.
SIMON: I've heard of them, yeah.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. And the record is nine straight games by Wilt Chamberlain. But, you know, you don't need the stats to see he's a fantastic all around player. Last night, watching him in the fourth quarter of a tight game against Houston, which Oklahoma City lost, you saw him taking a charge, diving out of bounds for a loose ball. Those are hustle plays, Scott. I know you know all about them.
GOLDMAN: And coaches and fans love him. All that said, Russell Westbrook is a many splendored thing. He can also be prone to wild out-of-control moments on the court, and he takes bad shots at times. But it's all part of the Russell Westbrook experience. His true mark of greatness - can he help his team play well and lead them to the playoffs?
SIMON: Has he increased in public esteem in contrast to his former longtime Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant, who went to Golden State, you know, with their matchless starting five and all those little cable cars climbing halfway to the stars?
GOLDMAN: (Singing) The morning fog may chill the air...
SIMON: (Laughter) Listen, I know the guy who sings it better than anybody else and you're close, but go ahead, yeah.
GOLDMAN: I shouldn't have done that. And we should say they're not in Tony Bennett's San Francisco yet. We should remind everyone the Warriors are still all about Oakland and the Tower Of Power, OK and I'll sing that after the show. But yeah, Kevin Durant left for Golden State and many people say he took the easy way out. Russell Westbrook is looked at as the guy who stayed in OKC. He's putting the team on his back, and he's the loyal guy, so we'll see if that sticks.
SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
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