Alan Hubbard ©insidethegames

Russia’s doping scandals are rather like those traditional wooden dolls tourists bring back home after visiting that country. Open up one and another is revealed. And so on.

The sorry saga continues ad infinitum. Heavyweight boxer Alexander Povetkin is the latest Russian sports star to be exposed as a drugs cheat, something which seems to be becoming a national pastime. 

Povetkin and Maria Sharapova have quite a lot in common. Both are blonde big hitters - powerful Povetkin with his fists and shapely Sharapova with her tennis racket.

Both are Olympic medalists – Povetkin winning super-heavyweight gold in Athens in 2004 and Sharapova singles silver at London 2012.

And both have been popping various quantities of Russian sport’s latest drug of choice, meldonium, along with goodness knows how many other compatriots.

Rumour is that a whole football team is currently under investigation for allegedly being on the same juice.

Povetkin’s indulgence in the substance has caused the first-ever cancellation of a World Heavyweight Championship fight because of a failed drugs test, but the use of illegal performance-enhancing products is now reaching an alarming state in boxing.

The WBA recently suspended Lucas Browne for six months for what the Aussie insisted was an act of sabotage when he tested positive for clenbuterol in Chechynya after he beat veteran heavyweight Ruslan Chagaev.

Alexander Povetkin has been caught up in a meldonium storm
Alexander Povetkin has been caught up in a meldonium storm ©Getty Images

And German ring icon Felix Sturm faces being stripped of his WBA super-middleweight belt after failing a drug test following his split decision victory over Russian holder Fedor Chudinov in February. Sturm tested positive for Ben Johnson’s tipple of choice, stanozolol.

Two prominent international heavyweights, American Tony Thompson and German Erkan Teper, then European champion, both failed tests after thumping Britain’s David Price. 

Povetkin, beaten only once in his 31-fight pro-career, by Wladimir Klitschko, was due to challenge unbeaten American Deontay Wilder at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, but in a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association urine test conducted on April 27 in his home town of Chekhov, he tested positive for meldonium.

This was added to the proscribed list by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in September, and the ban went into effect on January 1. Meldonium is used to increase blood flow and carry more oxygen to muscles, thereby enhancing stamina, ostensibly something boxers would welcome in a long fight.

Wilder, 30, a 2008 US Olympic bronze medalist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who has been training in Sheffield, was supposed to make his fourth title defence against Povetkin.

But, according to the WBC, the fight has been cancelled, not simply postponed. Povetkin’s people say they will challenge this.

There is a lot of money at stake. Based on promoter Andrey Ryabinsky's winning purse bid of $7.15 million (£5 million/€6.3 million), Wilder was due $4,504,500 (£3,114,185/€3,981,887) to Povetkin's $1,930,500 (£1,334,561/€1,706,547) with the remaining 10 per cent - $715,000 (£495,000/€632,000) - going to the winner. With no fight, the purses won't be paid and a lawsuit is likely to ensue; Wilder's purse is sitting in escrow in a United States bank, according to his camp.

The most plausible scenario should see Povetkin out of the sport for some time which could, in turn, jeopardise the veteran’s career at the age of 36.

But the more important question surely is what is the world going to do about Russia, where it is clear doping is endemic and has been since the days of the old Soviet bloc.

Recent media exposures about mass doping in Russian athletics have resulted in their participation in the Rio Olympics being put in jeopardy.

Russia were suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in November following WADA Independent Commission reports, which confirmed evidence of a widespread state-sponsored doping scheme.

Allegations against Russia have spread to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics
Allegations against Russia have spread to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics ©Getty Images

Subsequently this has seen allegations arise of the scheme being effective during the Winter Olympics in Sochi two years ago.

As insidethegames has reported, Russia’s chief apologist, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, previously so defiant over the doping crisis, now says he is "sorry and ashamed" but pleads that the nation’s athletes should not be barred from Rio as the grisly situation is in the process of being sorted. He argues that any ban on athletes would be unfair on clean competitors and claims his country wasn't the only one with an issue.

That may be true. But personally I hope that Lord Coe and the IAAF have the cojones to teach Russia a long-overdue lesson. It may also erase some of the doubts many have had about Coe’s truculently defensive stance over the IAAF and doping issues in his Presidential election campaign.

The IAAF are expected to consider the issue at their Council meeting in Vienna on June 17. It is surely difficult to see how Russia’s athletes can be welcomed back into global competition so soon after being banned.

Look, I don’t want to come over all Donald Trump-like here but I say kick ‘em out. Not just from track and field but the entire Games.

This may stick in the craw of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but the time has come to stop pussyfooting around over the incorrigibly recalcitrant Russians. 

We all know they have been at it for years and it would be a salutary lesson not only for them but all those other nations who have taken advantage of the timidity and inertia shown in the past by the IAAF, WADA and the IOC.

It may even cause certain elements in the UK, who are cynically beating the drugs system, to think twice about doing what comes unnaturally, too.