State of emergency: IOC mulls ‘legal options’ before deciding whether to ban Russia from Rio Olympics
Probe by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren found Russia’s secret service helped “the state-dictated failsafe system” carried out by the Moscow sports ministry
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Tuesday it will study “legal options” before deciding whether to ban Russia from the Rio Games over its state-run doping programme.
But Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko was barred from attending the Games and the IOC ordered a disciplinary commission to look into his ministry’s role in what a report called a “state-dictated failsafe system” of drug cheating.
The IOC said it would not give backing to any international events in Russia because of the scandal but had to put back a decision on whether to bar Russia from the Rio Games which start August 5.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has called for Russia to be banned from international competition. And IOC president Thomas Bach called the doping scandal a “shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games.”
The IOC said it “will explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the right to individual justice.”
A probe by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren for Wada found Russia’s secret service helped Moscow’s sports ministry to rig test results and this sprawled into 30 sports over five years.
“The scale of what was happening requires Russia be banned from the Olympics and Paralympics,” said British IOC athletes commission member Adam Pengilly.
When asked if no ban imposed could mark the beginning of the end of the IOC, former skeleton competitor Pengilly replied, “it certainly has that potential.”
Wada’s executive committee said the IOC and the International Paralympics Committee should “decline entries, for Rio 2016, of all athletes submitted by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and the Russian Paralympic Committee.”
It also called for Russian officials implicated in the scandal to be sacked and for “Russian government officials to be denied access to international competitions, including Rio 2016.”
McLaren said the cover-up started in 2010 after Russia’s “abysmal” results at the Vancouver Winter Olympics and continued until 2015 after the Sochi Games. It included the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the 2013 World University Games in Kazan.
Russian president Vladimir Putin made the Sochi Games a showcase event and spent more than US$50 billion staging the Games.
Russia, which strongly denies any state involvement in doping, is already banned from international athletics by world governing body IAAF because of doping exposed last year.
There will be mounting pressure for that to be extended, even though Bach and some international federations have called for a way for Russian athletes proved to be clean to compete in Rio.
“The IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated,” Bach said in a statement announcing the IOC conference on Tuesday to consider provisional sanctions.
IOC executives also ordered a re-analysis of all samples by Russian athletes taken at the 2014 Winter Olympics, vowing punishment against anyone who helped competitors cheat.
Because the Sochi Games are so tainted, the IOC called on “all International Olympic Winter Sports Federations to freeze their preparations for major events in Russia.”
This includes world championships and World Cups, the IOC said, calling on winter federations “to actively look for alternative organisers.”
The Russian Olympic Committee has acknowledged the severity of the allegations but insisted that collective punishment against possibly clean athletes would leave “the integrity of the Olympic Movement...endangered.”
Senior sports and political leaders in Moscow have also questioned the credibility of McLaren’s key witness, the former boss of Russia’s anti-doping lab Grigory Rodchenkov, who admits he was central to the cheating scheme.
Rodchenkov is currently in hiding in the United States and is wanted by Russia.
McLaren said his team uncovered forensic evidence that proved Rodchenkov’s claims that Moscow set up a “failsafe” cheating system following the country’s poor performance in Vancouver.
McLaren’s bombshell report said the sports ministry under Vitaly Mutko organised the subterfuge under which tainted urine samples were replaced and kept away from international observers.
“The Moscow laboratory operated for the protection of doped Russian athletes within a state-dictated failsafe system,” McLaren said.
“The Sochi laboratory operated a unique sample-swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the Winter Olympic Games,” he added.
According to the report, “the Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes’ analytical results or sample swapping.”
It pointed to “the active participation” and assistance of the FSB federal security service, athletes training groups and the Moscow and Sochi laboratories.
US Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun said the IOC, Wada and world governing bodies must “impose sanctions that are appropriate in relation to the magnitude of these offences and give clean athletes some measure of comfort they will be competing on a level playing field in Rio.”
Wada president Craig Reedie said Russia must sack government officials implicated in the wide-ranging doping scheme.
“At a minimum, Russian (Anti-Doping Agency) Rusada’s return to compliance cannot be considered until all persons from the Russian Ministry of Sport and other government departments and agencies that are implicated by the report, including Rusada, are dismissed from their roles,” Reedie said.
The Kremlin said officials named in the report would be suspended, but also denounced the “dangerous” interference of politics in sport. It did not say which officials would be affected.
Mutko and his deputy Yury Nagornykh were among those named in the report.
US Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart said the report had revealed “a mind-blowing level of corruption” in Russian sport and all the way up to Putin’s government.
Rodchenkov said the doping programme was “working like a Swiss watch” at Sochi and helped at least 15 Russian medallists avoid doping detection.
McLaren called Rodchenkov “a credible and truthful person,” despite admitting to concocting doping cocktails for Russian athletes.
“I realise there are other aspects of his life that are not appropriate,” McLaren said. “I didn’t need to get into that.”
McLaren also insisted that he was “supremely confident” in the findings of the inquiry, even though “we’ve had a very intense 57 days.”
McLaren said his report was handed over to Wada on Saturday and had not been leaked in advance.
A prior US-Canadian letter pushing for a total ban on Russian competitors at Rio was based on “rampant speculation” about the findings, he said.