Europe’s Last Dictator and the Dubious Fight Against Anabolic Steroids

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Alexander Lukashenko, the President of the Republic of Belarus as well as the President of the National Olympic Committee, has been on a rampage after his country failed to meet expectations at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. It probably didn’t help matters that the only Olympic medalist caught using steroids was from Belarus. The most powerful man in Belarus happens to be a rabid sports fan. Lukashenko has made it clear that he will make changes to ensure the country is not embarrassed on the international sports stage again by poor performances or by steroid positives.

Lukashenko conceded that it may be necessary to criminalize doping in sport. The shadow of Belarusian shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk and her failed steroid test at the Olympics still darkens discussion of sports in Belarus. Ostapchuk tested positve for methenolone. Methenolone is more commonly known in the athletic community by its trade name Primobolan.

“But with regard to doping, we need to see how things are with it in China, Europe and America. We need to criminalize the use of doping,” Lukashenko said.

Yet, it is easy to question Lukashenko’s commitment to doping given his overzealous involvement in promoting the country’s sporting success on the international scene. Lukashenko has been a dictator of Belarus for 18 years. He has been ostracized by Western Europe and the United States after being accused of torture, human rights abuses and restrictions of the freedom of expression. Sports has become one of the few ways that his country can gain international recognition.

Lukashenko doesn’t seem particular eager to continue the anti-doping discussion. He dismissed the importance of steroids in sports success during a speech before the Belarus National Olympic Committee on October 26, 2012.

“We should stop talking about doping. The main thing is hard work. With regard to laboratories, medicine, pharmacology and other things, we have discussed these things more than once. Do everything that athletes need,” said Lukashenko.

After the 2012 London Olympics, Lukashenko fired Sports Deputy Igor Zaichkov and Sports Minister Oleg Kachan as a consequence of the “disastrous showing”.

Anatoly Tozik, the Vice-Premier for Lukashenko, proposed the creation of a state-funded sports science center that conducts scientific, psychological and pharmacological support for athletes.

“After London, it became clear that we need a serious domestic school for scientific and pharmacological and psychological maintenance of the elite sports. We need to immediately start working on the national scientific and practical center of sports,” Tozik said.

President Lukashenko has pledged his support behind the initiative. Given the immense pressure placed upon athletic performance, it remains to be seen whether the authoritarian government lives up to its anti-doping promise. Will resources be used to fight the use of steroids among athletes or will it be used to fund performance at whatever cost?


Belta.by. (October 29, 2012). Doping in sport should be criminalized, Lukashenko says. Retrieved from http://news.belta.by/en/news/president?id=697298

Reuters. (October 29, 2012). Olympic Games – Lukashenko fires Belarus chiefs for London Olympic flop. Retrieved from http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/news/olympic-games-lukashenko-fires-belarus-chiefs-london-olympic-154958632.html