Russian Jeopardy

With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio just weeks away, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is deciding on a bold yet controversial move; banning Russian athletes from competing.

Evidence showed that Russian officials have not only faked athletes drug tests, but also provided the drugs to begin with. Thus, a doping scheme has been confirmed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) who is insisting on the IOC to put the ban in full force on Russia. Pressure has mounted on the IOC as this is considered to be one of the largest sports doping scandals ever to exist. Sure, athletes in the past have been banned or had their medals removed after testing positive on their drug test, but this isn’t an athlete it’s an entire country.

14 nations have since called upon IOC President, Thomas Bach, to deny Russia’s Olympic Committee and their athletes to compete in Rio. The cheating became massive just two-years ago. There were claims of state-sponsored doping by Russia that found 28 summer and winter sports affected by the state-operating cheating in Russia. Russia was then suspended from the track and field events by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last year due to the widespread of state-doping.

President of the Russian Olympic Committe, Alex Zhukov, is insisting that athletes who have never failed a test should be allowed to compete. A true point to come across since a handful of Russian athletes could still compete as neutrals for the Rio Games. The athletes actually tested positive on their drug tests all come through a 325 page report from former WADA President and Canadian Lawyer, Richard McLaren.

In the McLaren Report, he accused Russia’s sports ministry of over-seeing doping of the country’s Olympic athletes. He also found evidence of the Russian Olympic Committee running a wholesale doping program from 2011-2015. At least 312 doping tests that were falsified by Russian officials in the last five years. Again, a clear indication that a doping scheme was in use.

Now even though one of the world’s most powerful nations cheated and showed corruption in many ways, the IOC seems reluctant to band the entire Russian team.

That could all change as the Court of Arbitration for Sport issued a verdict today on Russia’s track and field team. The Arbitration court rejected Russia’s appeal of 68 of their athletes seeking to overturn the ban from the IAAF. The three person panel ruled that the Russian Olympic Committee was “not entitled to nominate Russian track and field athletes to compete at the Olympic Games considering they were not eligible to participate under the IAFF competition rules”.

Will the IOC ban Russia from Rio and possibly the 2018 Winter Olympic Games too? If this does happen, the IOC will face even more pressure to consider a broader ban on not only Russians, but those who continued to test positive on their drug tests. Luckily, there are no signs of a boycott from Russia which they will not partake in. The Soviet Union however, did stage a boycott before the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Russia’s participation in the Rio Olympics hangs in the balance as the International Olympic Committee will explore options for this big scandal. It will be very hard to satisfy everybody as the doping scheme has become a harsh reality for Russia, its athletes, and their people.

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#TODeadlyStreets

January 3rd, 2016. A 39-year old man was hit by an SUV and was killed while crossing an intersection at Kennedy and Ellesmere in Scarborough. This was the first of 40 incidents that have occurred since then.

This has to stop.

Drivers who kill or injure pedestrians and cyclists often avoid criminal charges. Road safety advocates that the law must be changed to recognize the vulnerability of pedestrians and cyclists everywhere, especially in the heart of Toronto. People feel let down and betrayed by our legal system. Laws are meant for people to obey them and not succumb to being irresponsible in a sense that taking an innocent life will cost you as little as $300.

Individuals whose loved ones were killed in the streets of Toronto are speaking out more and many believe it’s time for the City of Toronto and its councilors to invest more money in the road safety plan. A controversial plan to reduce road deaths/injuries is committee bound, meaning that the City of Toronto must act now on how to make the roads safer across the city.

Last year, Toronto Police laid close to 3,800 careless driving charges. The charges carry up to $2,000 in fines to 6 months in jail. We are half way through 2016 and so far, 19 pedestrians have been killed out of the 40 incidents that have occurred since January 3rd. 

Mayor John Tory has pledged a 20% reduction in road fatalities by 2026 with funding to improve the roads at a total of $68.1 million. The plan to reduce fatalities in Toronto is too modest. The City of Toronto is currently looking at different alternatives to the matter. The alternatives range from intersection redesigns, speed limit reductions, road safety awareness campaigns, and most importantly, additional more funding for the road safety plan.

Speed limit reductions are a big focus. It is the main factor in most collisions. Bathurst, Bay, Dundas, Queen Street and Spadina are key intersections in the city that will be reduced to 40 km/h from 50 km/h. For school zones, there is a proposal for a “school safety zone”. Essentially that would reduce the speed limits in all school zones across Toronto. Will there be stricter fines in school zones? Yes, there will be stricter fines with the City planning to allow Toronto Police to use photo radar with automated enforcement in school zones. Also, it looks like the speed limit will also be reduced in school areas from 40 km/h to 30km/h. 

Seniors, however, have had it the worse. 63% of the collisions that have occurred this year have been seniors. Increasing walk times near adult facilities and stretching roadways can go a long way for both sides that is the driver and the pedestrian. Councilors must push politics aside and focus more on the people. They’ve looked into doing something similar to Vision Zero.

Vision Zero was a policy created by Swedish politicians in the nineties. The goal of this policy was to eliminate road deaths all together. Since the policy has been put in place, it actually has reduced the number of collisions by more than 50%. Majority of roads in Europe use roundabouts to help improve the flow of traffic and while it’s popular across the pond; it’s slowly making its way here in Canada and the United States. There are some good and bad adding roundabouts. It’s designed so that it reduces vehicles moving an intersection, but the downside could increase the number of collisions.

Back to the earlier statement of Toronto attempting to draw alternatives for road safety, Councilor Jaye Robinson, the Chair of the Public Works & Infrastructure Communications, earned an overwhelming support to add onto the $68.1 million fund to Toronto’s road safety plans.

Overall, the plan does seek to eventually eliminate road deaths and injuries and while 20% is a low number that should be a higher percentage to give the people of Toronto a sigh of relief that maybe someday the streets will be safe for everyone.  In the end, you’ll get where you’re going to go and you can even save a life by doing what’s right for you, and people in Toronto.