Total ban: United States and Canada want all Russian teams kicked out of Rio Olympics
European Olympic Committees chief shocked by a North American-led call to throw the whole team out of the Games before crucial findings and evidence are presented in a report on Monday
A North American-led campaign to ban Russia from the Olympics has opened up an international divide on how to deal with the doping scandal engulfing Russia.
European Olympic Committees (EOC) president Pat Hickey said he was “shocked” by a move led by the United States and Canada to have Russia banned from the Games, which start in Rio on August 5.
Russia is already banned from international athletics because of a doping storm.
Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren’s report is due on his investigation of allegations that the Russian government manipulated doping samples taken at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to protect Russian competitors.
Hickey said a US-Canadian attempt to get a blanket ban before the report had been released “has shocked and concerned me on a number of levels”.
“My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree on an outcome before any evidence has been presented,” Hickey said. “Such interference and calls ahead of the McLaren Report publication are totally against internationally recognised fair legal process and may have completely undermined the integrity and therefore the credibility of this important report.”
Hickey said that Beckie Scott, the Canadian chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) athletes commission and an IOC member, had sent out an email appeal to back a letter from the US and Canadian anti-doping agencies to IOC president Thomas Bach.
“This letter calls upon the IOC to instigate a wholesale ban of the Russian Olympic Committee team in Rio 2016. This unprecedented call for such a ban is based on what the US and Canadian national anti-doping agencies say are the findings of the independent McLaren Report.”
A leaked draft letter reads: “The only appropriate, and permissible, course of action in these unprecedented circumstances is for the IOC to immediately suspend the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committees from the Olympic Movement ... and declare that no athlete can represent Russia at the Rio Olympic Games.”
The letter was signed by US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) CEO Travis Tygart and Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES) chief Paul Melia.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said he was surprised by the letter. “The McLaren report is yet to be published, but for them [Usada] everything is already clear,” he said. “This is surprising. Maybe it was Tygart who wrote the report himself?”
The McLaren report is meant to remain confidential until its publication today.
Hickey said: “It is clear from the email and letter that both the independence and the confidentiality of the report have been compromised,” he said.
His disquiet was echoed by Croatia and Greece.
“It seems incredible important members of the Olympic movement are seeking to build a global coalition to get another national Olympic committee banned even before the requisite evidence has been published,” said Zlatko Matesa, EOC executive member and president of the Croatian Olympic Committee.
He added: “This is not in the Olympic spirit and casts a shadow over the integrity of the McLaren report.”
His Greek counterpart, Spyros Capralos, said: “All of us want zero tolerance of doping and all forms of cheating in sport. However this must be conducted in an open and transparent way, not through building alliances of national prejudice based on supposition rather than evidence.”
CCES chief Melia said the draft letter was backed by other anti-doping agencies. “A global group that includes various athletes committees and anti-doping organisations, including those of the United States, Germany, Japan and New Zealand, are preparing for the McLaren report,” Melia said.
“If the McLaren report produces clear and convincing evidence of state-sponsored doping in sport in Russia, they are prepared to call on the IOC to ban the Russian Olympic Committee from the Games in Rio.”
According to Hickey, three European anti-doping agencies have been approached to sign the US-Canadian letter.
“It is clear that only athletes and organisations known to support a ban of the Russian Olympic team have been contacted,” he said. “I have to question on what authority the USA and Canadian anti-doping agencies prepared their letter and what mandate they have to lead an international call for a ban of another nation in the Olympic family.
“Whilst I fully understand and share concerns over the recent doping allegations, we cannot allow any individuals or groups to interfere or damage the integrity of fair and due legal process.”
Agence France-Presse, Reuters