Russia escapes total ban from Rio Games
In the aftermath of state-run doping, the International Olympic Committee says individual sports federations will decide if Russian competitors should take part
The International Olympic Committee on Sunday ordered individual sports federations to decide whether Russian competitors should take part in the Rio Games after failing to agree on a total ban over Russia’s state-run doping.
The IOC executive decided that any Russian athlete wanting to go to Rio, where the Games start on August 5, will have to prove that he or she was not involved in the doping which an independent investigator said was organised by the sports ministry and Russian secret service.
An IOC ethics commission also ruled that 800 metres runner Yuliya Stepanova, who turned whistle-blower on doping in Russian athletics, could not go to Rio even as a neutral.
“We have set the bar to the limit,” IOC president Thomas Bach said after the meeting in defending the action against the worst doping scandal in the Olympic movement’s history.
Bach said clean athletes should not be punished. “An athlete should not suffer and should not be sanctioned for a system in which he was not implicated,” he said.
He accepted that the decision “might not please everybody” but that “this is not about expectations – this is about doing justice to clean athletes all over the world”.
The IOC had faced widespread pressure for tough action against Russia, which denied any state role in the doping. But many IOC members were said to be reluctant to ban a country completely for the first time over doping.
“Under these exceptional circumstances, Russian athletes in any of the 28 Olympic summer sports have to assume the consequences of what amounts to a collective responsibility in order to protect the credibility of the Olympic competitions,” said the IOC.
It insisted that “the ‘presumption of innocence’ cannot be applied to them”.
But the Olympic leaders said “each affected athlete must be given the opportunity to rebut the applicability of collective responsibility in his or her individual case”.
Russia hailed the IOC decision. “It was objective and taken in the interests of world sport and the unity of the Olympic family,” said Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko. “We are grateful to the IOC for such a decision.”
The IOC said Russian athletes will have to satisfy the 28 federations who run the summer Olympic sports that they are clean. The conditions include:
● That “the absence of a positive national anti-doping test cannot be considered sufficient” by the federations.
● Federations will have to carry out an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record “taking into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules”.
● No competitor or national federation named in the report issued last week by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) can be considered. About 20 different summer Olympic sports were accused in the McLaren report.
The damning report said Russia’s sports ministry directed a vast doping programme with support from the state intelligence agency that saw thousands of tainted urine samples destroyed or swapped for clean ones.
The cheating went on during the 2014 Sochi Games and other major Olympic and international events, including the world athletics championship in Moscow in 2013.
Wada, along with 14 national anti-doping agencies – including the United States, Canada and Germany – and multiple national Olympic committees had called for Russia’s blanket ban from Rio de Janeiro.
Russia’s entire track and field squad had already been banned from the Olympics by athletics’ governing body the IAAF over an earlier Wada report which detailed “state-supported” doping.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport last week rejected an appeal by 67 Russian athletes against the IAAF ban.
Additional reporting by Associated Press