Olympic-Branded Cocaine Surfaces in Rio

By Paul Gaita 07/29/16

A recent bust revealed that drug dealers in Rio are trying to capitalize on the mega international event with clever tie-in marketing. 

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Olympic-Branded Cocaine Surfaces in Rio
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As if the Zika virus, dangerously polluted water, and the armed robbery of athletes hasn’t been enough to tarnish the image of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, police in the Brazilian coastal city have reported that they seized over 100 bags of cocaine and crack cocaine on Tuesday, many of which featured the official Rio 2016 logo as well as a thoughtful warning not to use the drugs near children.

The bust, which was comprised of 93 bags of cocaine and 23 bags of crack as well as .40 caliber ammunition, took place a few miles from the Maracanã stadium, which will showcase the opening ceremony on August 5.

The seizure comes on the heels of a USA Today feature on “Cracolândia,” or the Cracklands, a squalid area near the stadium where drug addicts purchase and use crack cocaine in a sort of open-air market. A man is quoted in the piece as saying that he welcomes the Olympics to Rio—not for the international exposure, but for the trash visitors leave behind. “More money for everyone,” the individual said, referring to refuse like bottles and cans that can be recycled for money and then brought to the Cracklands to buy rocks for less than $5.

According to a 2012 survey by the University of São Paulo, Brazil ranks second to the United States in crack and cocaine consumption. While it is illegal to sell cocaine in the country, drug use was decriminalized by the government in 2006.

Illegal drug use has been a component of the toxic stew of negative news that has swirled around the Rio Olympics since the city secured hosting rights in 2009. This year alone saw the Brazilian Doping Control Laboratory suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency for refusing to conform to international standards for laboratories, even after receiving $60 million in funding to improve its facilities.

And this month, all but one athlete on the Russian track and field team were banned from the games for the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs and were soon followed by seven members of its swimming contingent, including 2012 bronze medalist Yulia Emifova. These incidents contributed to calls for the entire Russian contingent to be banned, which the International Olympic Committee rejected earlier this month.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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