The doping problem is widespread and believed to be deeply ingrained in high-stakes international sports, having perhaps most notoriously brought down cycling legend Lance Armstrong. Among Russians, a high-profile case has involved the suspension of tennis star Maria Sharapova after she tested positive for meldonium during the last Australian Open. The suspension has cost Sharapova her participation at Rio 2016, but she could be reinstated early next year.
Besides running a story claiming Seppelt’s documentaries had no concrete evidence on systematic doping in Russia, Moscow-sponsored broadcaster Russia Today quoted experts as saying that “suspending Russian athletes from competitions would be a ‘cheap geopolitical’ move while politics should not invade sport.” Meanwhile, the BBC quoted IOC vice-president John Coates as calling the Russian anti-doping and athletics institutions "rotten to the core" and responsible for “a massive injustice.”
Denouncing press freedom violations during the Olympics
Other journalists and investigative reporting attempts could be under threat in Rio. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), in consultation with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has recently launched a web platform for journalists to report press freedom violations at the Olympics. The mechanism is not limited to cases related to the government or other authorities, although the IOC does say that it “is intended specifically for those who may have experienced a violation of their press freedom in the context of their reporting on the organisation and staging of the Olympic Games.”
Says a related CPJ statement:
The creation of the reporting mechanism follows years of advocacy with the IOC by CPJ and other rights groups to do more to hold host governments accountable for press-freedom abuses that have limited coverage of sensitive issues around the Olympic Games.”
Press freedom abuses, often with host country authorities behind them, have been repeatedly observed at past Olympic games. The same CPJ statement specifically mentions violations at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
The Brazilian government has not been implicated in Seppelt’s case, and is not known as undemocratic. However, the CPJ reports that “journalists have previously been caught in the crossfire of the Brazilian police's heavy handed response to protests. A CNN producer and reporter were among those hurt on the eve of the World Cup's opening match [in 2014], when police used tear gas and stun grenades on protesters seven miles from the ground where the game took place.”
The CPJ dubs Brazil the deadliest country in the Americas for journalists, and the third in the world, counting six murders with confirmed motives in 2015. The world’s deadliest last year was Syria (14 murders), followed by France (9).