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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided not to serve Russia with a blanket ban from the upcoming Rio Olympics (they start 5 August). This, despite the finding of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that wide-spread doping was (is) being conducted in Russian sport with the implicit knowledge and cooperation of the Russian government and sports authorities. I am flabbergasted that the IOC has been so spineless.

Doping is ruining sport. In almost any event which involves a test of speed or endurance or strength, one can only wonder how clean a winning athlete is. When all eight of the athletes who started the 1988 mens’ 100 metres sprint were later found guilty of having taken performance enhancing substances at some point, and when a two-times drugs cheat like Justin Gatlan is still allowed to compete in athletics, the world of sport is in serious denial if it thinks that it is not in crisis.

Thankfully the IAAF has been a bit more bold; Russia is banned from competing in the athletics (track and field) at the Rio games. Individual athletes can, as I understand it, make an appeal against this blanket ban if they feel they can prove that they are and have been clean. The IOC should have done the same thing. By not doing so they have ducked the issue, in my opinion.

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Russia has escaped a blanket ban by the IOC from the Rio Olympics.

For me it is very sad when one watches the Olympic Games, one of the highlights of the sporting calendar, and one wonders how many of the athletes in each final are clean, and how many have managed to beat the testing system. Russia has been shown to have a state-sanctioned doping system, the evidence gathered by the WADA investigation is overwhelming. For that, Russia should be banned from the Olympics. No ifs or buts. An outright ban, until it can be shown to have cleaned up its act. The IOC has missed a big opportunity here to send out a clear message that doping should not be tolerated in sport.

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Many of you may remember the meteor that exploded earlier this year over Chelyabinsk in Russia on the 15th of February, I blogged about it here. Well, this story has recently appeared on the BBC news website.



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A lump with a length of about 1.5m and a mass of over 570kg (at which point the weighing scales broke!) has been recovered from Lake Chebarkul, where scientists knew a lump or lumps of the meteor which exploded in the atmosphere had fallen, as the meteorite(s) left a 6m diameter hole in the frozen surface of the lake. According to this story, the meteorite recovered from the lake is the largest fragment of the space rock so far found, and one of the largest meteorites ever found anywhere.

Our Early Solar System

Meteorites are tremendously important in understanding the conditions in our early Solar System, as they provide us with our only direct way of studying rocks from 4.6 billion years ago, when the Solar System and the Earth were formed. Although our Earth is 4.6 billion years old (which we know very very accurately through radioactive dating of uranium), the rocks at the surface are much much younger than this, typically a few tens to a few hundreds of millions of years old. There are only a few places on Earth where more ancient rocks are found, including an area in South Africa and the Pilbara region of Western Australia. But, even here the rocks are at most 3.5-3.8 billion years old, still over half a billion years younger than the Earth itself.

So studying meteorites, which are usually from lumps of rock left over from the formation of the Solar System, can be used to give us vital information about the conditions of our early Solar System, and hence how our Earth may have been when life was beginning to get a foot-hold some 3.5-4.3 billion years ago. As we step up our efforts to look for life elsewhere, both in other places in our Solar System and on planets around other stars, finding the answers to how and when life formed on our Earth, and what the conditions were like, is vital. Just last week India launched its first ever space probe to Mars, and one of its stated goals is to look for signs of present or past life on the Red planet. Never has the effort to find signs of life elsewhere been greater, and meteorites provide important clues in understanding the origins of life here on Earth.

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