Another Olympics means another scandal with Russian athletes taking banned substances. The latest one is 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva, caught using a heart medication called trimetazidine. You might be surprised that heart medications are banned, since they sound essential, but as we mentioned earlier this week when talking about Viagra and football players, medications can have non-prescription, performance-enhancing effects. 

We're getting better at catching those scheming Russians. We were particularly bad at monitoring them during the 2014 games, which Russia hosted themselves. Russia won 30 medals in 2014, double what they'd won in the previous winter games. We all suspected they were getting chemical help, but it took a few more years to figure out how they'd managed it. 

Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov was both the head of Russia's anti-doping agency and a secret lead of its doping program. He later fled the country for the US and went public about how Russia'd pulled it off.

Months before the games, the athletes went off their drugs for three days. Rodchenkov took samples of their clean urine during this time and stored them. During the games, he operated out of a room one wall away from the anti-doping lab. Down on the ground, a hole much like a mouse hole connected the two rooms. 

Another corrupt Russian, Evgeny Kurdyatsev, worked in the lab. At night, he'd pass dirty urine samples to Rodchenkov through the hole. Rodchenkov emptied them out, poured in the clean urine (from the same athlete, to fool verification checks), then passed the refilled vial back through the hole. And how, you might ask, did he deal with each vial's tamper-proof seal? Easy: He tampered with it. 

This cartoonish process worked perfectly. Only later did investigators do their jobs, and afterward, they suggested banning Russia from the Olympics. Which is why the skater Kamila Valieva isn't competing for the nation of Russia at all, but for the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" team. That team too has now been disgraced, so we trust they'll be competing under a new, even longer name at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

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For more chemical enhancement, check out:

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Top image: sapto7/Pixabay

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