Throughout the last several years of international sports heyday, Russia has stayed in the headlines – but not for the reasons it wanted to.
Since around 2015, Russia and its athletes have been followed by scandals of illegal substance use and abuse for the sake of athletic performance. But the entire Olympics industry has been dragged through the mess worldwide, leading other athletes and professionals to question the integrity of the institution and their own hard work and rule-abiding participation.
After rampant accusations, resistance to cooperation, and falsified documents, Russia has been officially been issued a 4-year ban from competing in almost all international athletics. This means that the Russian flag (and national anthem) will not be allowed at events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
WADA’s executive committee unanimously decided to impose the ban on Russia in a meeting this Monday.
Russia was first banned from competing as a nation in the Olympics in 2015. This came as a result of Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, a former Russian anti-enhancement official who fled to the United States after publicly reporting a state-sponsored performance enhancement program. The result of this was that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) instigated a three-year suspension on Russian athletic participation, which could be retracted if proper data was handed over proving the proper reformation policies had been made and implemented.
Following Rodchenkov allegations, sports lawyer Professor Richard McLaren prepared a WADA-commissioned report charging Russia with widespread corruption and state-sponsored performance enhancement in their domestic track and field athletics – which led WADA to declare Rusada (Russian Anti-Doping Agency) as non-compliant. But by 2018, WADA reinstated Rusada’s compliance after the national agency agreed to release data from its Moscow laboratory from the period between January 2012 and August 2015.
Then, in January of 2019, Rusada was found guilty of manipulating laboratory data handed over to investigators and declared non-compliant again – leading WADA to its latest resurgence and extension of the ban.
The Russian officials trusted with mediating clearly share in this blame. In a statement, Rodchenkov commended the newest face of this ban, saying that “Finally, fraud, lies and falsifications of unspeakable proportions have been punished in full swing. Those involved in the corruption of certain sports such as track and field, weightlifting, skiing, biathlon and bobsled, should be punished retroactively. There is a whole generation of clean athletes who have painfully abandoned their dreams and lost awards because of Russian cheaters. We need to take the strongest action to bring justice back to sport,” adding that “doped athletes do not work alone” with “medical doctors, coaches and managers” providing substances, advising and protecting them. He claims that, “In Russia’s state-sponsored [performance enhacement] scheme, there is also a state-sponsored defence of many cheaters including state officials, witnesses and apparatchiks who are lying under oath and have falsified evidence.”
WADA president Sir Craig Reedie said the decision proves its “determination to act resolutely in the face of this Russian crisis. For too long, Russian performance enhacement has detracted from clean sport. The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of Rusada’s reinstatement conditions demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered. Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and rejoin the global anti-performance enhacement community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial.”
WADA vice-president Linda Helleland added, “We owe it to the clean athletes to implement the sanctions as strongly as possible.”
But there is a saving grace – or, what some critics of the ban’s lenience (such as chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency Travis Tygart) would call a catch: athletes who can prove they are untainted by the performance enhacement scandal will be able to compete in the Olympics under a neutral flag.
This isn’t exactly new; after the previous ban of 2015, the same neutral-participation clause was added, leading to a total of 168 Russian athletes who competed neutrally at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) chief executive Nicole Sapstead supports this clause, saying WADA’s decision is the “only possible outcome” to “reassure athletes and the public and continue the task of seeking justice for those cheated by Russian athletes” while also rewarding their law-abiding athletes for not compromising their own morals and those of the sport in the face of unfair circumstances surrounding them.
However, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev isn’t feeling the justice. He said the ban was part of “chronic anti-Russian hysteria.”
“It is obvious that significant [substance abuse] problems still exist in Russia, I mean our sporting community,” he said. “This is impossible to deny. But on the other hand, the fact that all these decisions are repeated, often affecting athletes who have already been punished in one way or another, not to mention some other points – of course, this makes one think that this is part of anti-Russian hysteria which has become chronic.”
WADA says Rusada has 21 days to appeal against the ban. If it does so, the appeal will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
With captivating plots and impressive performances, Star Trek has gained a strong foothold in the sci-fi universe. From off-screen affairs to production conflicts, the series has weathered through a variety of scandals throughout its on-screen journey.
Before Star Trek, there was The Cage, the pilot predating the series. It was promptly rejected as network executives believed that the premise and plots would be far beyond the general comprehension of the channel’s audience. This rejection inspired creator Gene Roddenberry to rewrite the script, hire a new cast, and rework the show.
Desperate to collect scripts by the deadline, Roddenberry asked I Am Legend famed talented author, Richard Matheson, for a script for an episode. After receiving the script, Roddenberry reviewed and readjusted the plot later by himself.
Another notable writer of the time, Harlon Ellison, wrote the episode City on the Edge of Forever. As usual, the storyline was changed drastically by Roddenberry. The change was so significant that Ellison even requested a pseudonym for his name during the credits, which he was denied of.
It may come as a shock when compared to contemporary television content, but Star Trek had to undergo several revisions before being allowed to air. At the time, much of the show’s content was considered too provocative and inappropriate for television audiences.
Interestingly enough, there were several scenes or references that were missed by the censor judges. For example, the episode A Private Little War features a passionate kissing scene and revealing clothing. The scene also allowed the writers to slip in a debatable Vietnam War reference, without being caught.
In the episode The Enemy Within, Captain Kirk is split into a good and an evil imposter version of himself. In one scene, the imposter confronts Yeoman Janice Rand about her feelings towards him. After Captain Kirk’s imposter attempts to make a move, the now-traumatized Yeoman manages to escape.
After running into Spock, he taunts her and even accuses her of liking the evil Captain Kirk. According to the Yeoman actress, Grace Lee Whitney, the scene was a form of “victim-blaming,” and was cruel and insensitive to a traumatized woman.
For a show containing same-gender sub-plots and even inter-species relationships along with normative heterosexuality, it is unbelievable that the Star Trek series hardly included any LGBTQ+ characters.
Actor George Takei, who played the role of the Astro-science physicist, Sulu, privately asked the show’s creators about the absence of same-gender love in the plotline. Though he didn’t reveal the answer he was received, Takei went on to famously come out in 2005.
Looking back at episodes of the Star Trek series, there seems to be a theme of male characters being objectified. Many of the male characters in the series were forced to parade about in exposing pieces.
Actor Michael Forest, who played Apollo in the episode Who Mourns for Adonais, was admittedly disgusted over the problem. He especially got irritated, when the crew put tape on his bare chest to apply makeup for the episode.
During the pilot, the female cast all wore the Fleet Command official uniforms. However, as the series progressed, the episodes started to include more revealing costumes like micro mini-skirts and short dresses.
Surprisingly, a few of the male characters also wore the mini-skirt-dresses too! Perhaps these unisex costumes were a result of accusations of discrimination or the series’ female cast feeling objectified by their revealing costumes. Cool or controversial? Fans are still divided.
The Star Trek original television series franchise had an extremely limited budget for production and post-production. Producers Herb Solow and Robert Justman tackled the problem by cutting costs when it came to producing the show’s costumes.
In order to avoid paying the union costume makers of the industry, the producers confessed to using a sweatshop to have their costumes crafted overnight. They also sneaked the completed pieces through a back window of the studio to evade any detection by the crew. Sounds unethical, no?
No behind-the-scenes scandal story is complete without a few affairs! Though Roddenberry was still married to his first wife during the start of the filming, it was public knowledge that he was having two simultaneous extramarital affairs with Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett!
He even went so far as to share an apartment with Barrett. With multiple roles to play in the franchise, Barrett earned the nickname ‘The First Lady of Star Trek.” Barrett eventually married Roddenberry.
Gene Coon and Roddenberry Conflict
Though not the creator of the series, Gene Coon undoubtedly left his mark on Star Trek. Coon was even credited in several famous episodes of the original series like The Devil in the Dark and A Taste of Armageddon.
Coon is also well-remembered for developing the Klingons, the Oregonian Peace Treaty, and the Starfleet Command for the sci-fi drama. After so much contribution, he had to quit between the second and the third seasons, due to heightened conflict between him and Roddenberry.
After NBC picked up the series, the show’s composer Alexander Courage was given royalties every time an episode aired featuring his theme song. In order to receive half of the royalties, Roddenberry went on to write the lyrics of the theme song by himself.
However, Roddenberry’s lyrics were so un-singable and mismatched, that they were dismissed and never used. For some unknown strange reason, Roddenberry somehow continued to receive half of Courage’s royalties after airing of every episode.
As expected, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a huge financial success. That said, the film’s storyline was heavily condemned. Both critics and audiences found it overly complicated and confusing, dubbing it too ‘cerebral.’
For the inevitable sequel project, Paramount promptly forced Gene Roddenberry into a consultant-in-name-only role for the remainder of the film series. Similar consequence happened after the first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation as well, where Roddenberry eventually lost almost all of his creative power over that series too.
William Shatner, who famously played Captain Kirk in the television series, is a man of many talents. Apparently, the actor was also a man of many demands too! Shatner’s demands were often seen as unfair to other members of the cast.
According to one of the original writers, Norman Spinrad, Shatner was given the most lines cumulatively of all episodes, even reducing precious screen times of other characters. Also, the actor demanded his name to be in larger font than any other names in the credits.
The friendship between Captain Kirk and Spock is an all-time favorite central theme of Star Trek. In reality, William Shatner was quite jealous of Leonard Nimoy over the fact that Spock had become the fan-favorite.
Their relationship was further tested when Shatner secretly included footage of Nimoy in his documentary entitled, The Captains. Nimoy had refused to take part in the documentary and was offended that he was included without his permission. Following this controversy, the duo never spoke again. Shatner didn’t even attend Nimoy’s funeral in 2015.
Shatner vs. Takei
As a popular social media star, actor George Takei once told ABC News that William Shatner was a difficult man to work with. Though a wonderful actor, he mentioned Shatner was not a team player. He also revealed Shatner wanted to have the camera on him all the time.
As expected, Shatner was not on the guest list of Takei’s wedding. Shatner responded via a video posted on YouTube, infamously commenting on Takei’s psychological condition and their long-running feud.
J.J. Abrams and Shatner Row
Before taking up the reboot project for the big screen, director J.J. Abrams wanted Nimoy and Shatner in their respective roles. Unfortunately, his writing team mentioned that Shatner demanded the movie be centered significantly on his own character, which didn’t match Abram’s idea.
Eventually, Abrams went on to change the cast completely. An enraged Shatner went after Abrams, only to become friendly with him again after the release of the film. Shatner later publicly accepted that he enjoyed the interpretation of his original character by actor Chris Pine.
Not Very Proud
After over 79 episodes and a few proceeding films, it’s fascinating how William Shatner never saw himself as the strong Captain Kirk he played on the screen. However, if you are thinking he didn’t agree with the character development, you are wrong!
It’s simply because the actor couldn’t bear to watch himself on screen! Also, he never kept any memorabilia from the set. The actor admitted that he regretted his decision by saying that he should have taken one of the Star Trek shirts or designer suits that he was offered.
Along with the distinct characteristics, it was the signature look, which made the character Spock so legendary! The expressive high eyebrows, pointy elf-ears, and yellow-tinted skin made the character look different and intriguing.
Initially, the creators wanted to make him a red Martian in order to make Spock look as different from humans as possible. Thankfully for the audience, the idea was abandoned after the red color they were about to use to paint Spock was found too dark for the black and white television screen.
Gesture and Blessings
Did you know that the legendary hand gesture of “Live Long and Prosper” comes from a gesture during a service in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue? Remarkably Nimoy attended the services as a child and recalled every bit.
The actor was inspired by the hand gesture that leaders would make when blessing the synagogue’s congregation. This gesture, which featured a hand with spread fingers, is said to allow the divine to peer through the person’s fingers during the priestly blessing. Star Trek successfully made the religious hand gesture famous.
Poor Handling of Pressure
Though William Shatner was the running star of the series, it was Leonard Nimoy, who gained popularity by playing Spock. He was constantly mobbed by fans on road. New to such fame, Nimoy handled the situation very poorly!
He started drinking day and night. Fellow cast and crew members were quite aware of his problem but didn’t take any effort to stop him. Because, even under the influence, the actor was a true professional – always showing up to work on time, ready to give his takes. Thankfully, Nimoy was able to seek treatment.
Nimoy and Star Trek
Leonard Nimoy had a love-hate relationship with Star Trek and almost refused to return for Star Trek: Motion Picture. Nimoy only returned for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan on the condition of the character Spock being killed off. Paramount agreed and Spock’s demise was one of the most famous scenes in film history.
Nimoy agreed to a sequel under the condition that he would direct. The company complied, and the actor directed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
In a scene of the episode The Apple, Spock throws a rock, which explodes upon hitting the ground. The special effects sounds for the scene were so loud, that few actors had to be rushed to the hospital immediately, due to inner-ear damages.
Actor DeForest Kelley, who played the role of McCoy in the series, admitted that 20 years later he was still suffering from tinnitus ever since that on-set incident.
The Tiger Trouble
Shooting a scene with a wild animal is always risky, as the makers of Star Trek would find out. The episode Shore Leave included a scene with a Royal Bengal Tiger. During the shoot, the tiger suddenly broke loose causing instant panic among the cast and crew.
William Shatner later described the incident as a moment of “sheer abject terror.” Luckily for everyone present there, the handlers were able to wrangle the tiger safely, before any fateful event could happen.
During the early years, Star Trek was produced under the banner of Lucille Ball’s popular production house, Desilu Studios. Prior to the second season, Gulf and Western suddenly acquired Desilu, immediately handing off the series to Paramount Studios.
Producer Herb Solow later revealed that Paramount didn’t want the franchise at first due to its gradually decreasing gross income and lack of enough episodes to syndicate. However, Paramount finally decided to keep up with the series, eventually going on to produce the following movies of the franchise.
The gradual poor ratings after NBC’s acquire of the Star Trek series, did not particularly make up for the pricey production. As a result, NBC reduced the budget of the sci-fi drama by over 60%.
According to industry sources, at one point NBC decided to even scrap the show completely after it got the Friday 10 p.m. slot – the worst spot possible in television broadcasting. When Roddenberry caught wind of the situation, he asked the fans to contact the channel about their love and admiration for the show.
One of the most important writers in Star Trek history is Dorothy Catherine Fontana, who crafted some of the most memorable episodes of the series. She also worked as a story editor and later, a freelance writer for the series.
Unfortunately, her name had to appear as D.C. Fontana during the credits, as the unjust industry practices of the 1960s used to exclude women from many sci-fi projects. Over the next four decades, Fontana rose to fame by working on numerous other television productions, including Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Star Trek vs. Star Wars
During the 1970s, reruns of Star Trek gained popularity, leading the then-owner Paramount to start planning for a revival series titled Star Trek: Phase II. Scripts were being written and sets were constructed.
The new series was set to include most of the original casts, except Leonard Nimoy, who refused to return. However, the Star Wars franchise hit the screens with massive box-office success. As a result, Paramount shelved the original plan and decided to make the feature film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This time, Nimoy agreed to return.
Early Reboot Planning
Almost two decades prior to the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek film series reboot, Paramount nearly permitted a very similar Starfleet Academy concept in the format of a prequel film. This particular move came after the critical and commercial failure of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, directed by William Shatner.
However, the decision of a prequel film faced harsh protest from cast and fans alike, making the company drop the idea eventually. Instead, they went on to produce the next sequel Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
During the reshoot of the pilot project, writer-creator Gene Roddenberry was forced by the producers to pick between two characters to be included in the storyline – a female lead named Number One, and Spock.
Roddenberry went with Spock, believing that he could achieve more with his character. However, he didn’t discard Number One entirely. Instead, he gave Spock his intended emotionally absent yet logical personality. And the rest is history!
There was a huge rush for scripts during the pre-production of the series. Roddenberry and Desilu Studios went door-to-door looking for writers. Unfortunately, very few writers of the time, even the veteran TV writers, were able to comprehend Roddenberry’s sci-fi material.
A desperate Roddenberry sought out sci-fi scripts from various not-so-famous writers, sci-fi magazine authors, and even from office staff! The huge rush and immediacy of those scripts would later come at a cost.