During the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the last major international sporting event held in Russia, athletes from the host country topped the medal count with 33, including 13 golds. It was a performance that seemed too good to be true.
And it was. Seven months ago, the International Olympic Committee sanctioned 43 athletes after an investigation into a state-run doping program, planned for years to ensure dominance at the Sochi Games.
Twenty-eight athletes were later reinstated, but the stain of one of the most elaborate and successful doping ploys in sports remained. That doubt now hovers over the country’s soccer team, which entered the World Cup ranked 70th yet finds itself among the final eight teams.