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John Oliver Tackles Olympic Doping on Last Week Tonight

2 minute read

The Olympic Games, which John Oliver calls “your biannual reminder that NBC exists,” are drawing near. That means that television networks and magazines will soon start rolling out those heartwarming, yet often sappy athlete profiles that Oliver considers to be “inspiration porn.”

But behind those inspiring stories lurks a long, dark history of athletes using illicit performance-enhancing drugs at the Olympics. Most recently, Russia has been accused of state-sanctioned doping, and some of their track and field athletes have been banned from competing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Doping is hard to pull off, because athletes are frequently tested and closely monitored, especially during the Olympic Games. But determined athletes do find creative ways to work around those tests. In Russia, Oliver says, athletes washed down their drugs with “Chivas for the men and vermouth for the ladies,” because alcohol reportedly skewed the results.

Despite the risks, athletes are willing to take the drugs in the hopes of getting a split-second advantage that can be the difference between winning or losing. Oliver argues that winning by any means really matters to the Olympics machine that he considers vulnerable to influence and abuse. “It’s making FIFA look good!” declares an incredulous Oliver, who has made his feelings about the soccer entity abundantly clear.

While Russia claims it has made reforms—and the sports minister has apologized—Oliver wants to be clear that they are far from the only offenders. Kenya, Jamaica, and China are under scrutiny and U.S. athletes have faced charges of doping, too, which puts a damper on the competition for the many athletes who are there to completely cleanly.

As the Olympics get closer, Oliver says he has decided to make those sappy athlete profiles a little more honest, offering a new take for those athletes who want to be a little better than God intended. See for yourself.

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