John Oliver: Our Sports’ Anti-Doping Controls Are Screwed

The impending 2016 Summer Olympic Games have been met with increasing turbulence in the weeks leading up to the opening ceremonies. Concerns about the Zika virus have athletes such as Roy McIlroy dropping out, polluted water that has the U.S. rowing team training in antimicrobial suits, and an economical recession and presidential impeachment has Brazil in a complex state that many are worried will effect the Games.

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And then there is the one problem that plagues every Games: doping. Amidst all of the other worries surrounding Rio, athlete doping has been an easy dilemma to overlook. But Sunday night, John Oliver brought our attention back to the issue. The Last Week Tonight host spent 20 minutes digging into the problem that has marred high-performance sports for decades.

Oliver’s digression comes on the heels of the announcement that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) banned Russia’s track and field team from the summer 2016 Games after athletes were found to be using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). But it’s not just Russia — “think of doping like Vladimir Putin: It’s far from just a Russian problem. It’s something that adversely effects the entire world,” Oliver said.

While breaking down the details of how the Russian government and a Russian spy agency helped the Russian athletes cover up PED use, Oliver happily explained the scheme (which reportedly involved fake samples being passed through a hole in the wall of a testing lab), as “the first known example of a literal ‘glory hole.’ ”

Oliver explained that ‘glory holes’ aren’t even the most absurd lengths that athletes have gone to while trying to test clean while using PEDs. “Take, for instance, the European cyclists” in the Tour de France, said Oliver. They “would insert condoms of clean urine into their anus.” He also referenced USA track and field athlete Dennis Mitchell, who claimed that the increased levels of testosterone found in his system were due to “having sex at least four times and drinking at least five beers” the night before his drug test.

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“If that is what your life is like, you don’t really need the Olympics,” Oliver joked.

While Oliver’s jokes are fast, sharp, and entertaining, he delivers them with a dose of truth and possible solutions. And if it’s impossible to keep doping athletes out of the Olympics, “at the very least we [need to] make our syrupy athlete promos a bit more honest,” Oliver says. 

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