Court to rule on banned Russian athletes’ fate as the rest of country’s Olympics squad hold their breath
IOC delaying decision on total ban ahead of Thursday’s CAS ruling
The Court of Arbitration for Sport is to rule on Thursday on an appeal by 68 Russian athletes barred from the Rio Games in a test case, as the IOC debates a blanket ban on Russia over its state-run doping.
The International Olympic Committee decided on Tuesday to wait until after the CAS ruling before deciding whether to hit Russia with a total ban from the Rio Games, which begin in barely two weeks.
The IOC, which said it needed to study all “legal options” before punishing Russia for rampant doping, has now signalled it will take every day possible in agonising over one of the most important decisions in Olympic history.
Despite the pressure growing on the IOC to act and time running down fast, Olympic bosses said on Wednesday it would take up to a week to decide whether to ban all Russian competitors from the Games.
The CAS ruling though could go a long way towards deciding what the IOC does with Russia, whose doping programme was laid bare in a report this week detailing how urine samples of doping Russian athletes were swapped at the Sochi 2014 Olympics through a hole in a wall.
The IOC has banned Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko – a long-time ally of President Vladimir Putin – and all other ministry officials from the Rio Games and withdrawn backing for international events in Russia in reaction to the revelations.
Despite all the uncertainty and calls from some rival countries for Russia to be banned en masse from Rio, its Olympic committee pressed on with its preparations, approving a 387-strong team to compete in the Games starting on August 5.
The court in Lausanne has been weighing an appeal by 68 Russian athletes against an Olympic ban on the Russian track and field team ordered by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The IAAF, athletics’ governing body, suspended all Russian track and field competitors after an earlier inquiry found widespread “state-sponsored” doping in athletics.
The bombshell independent report published on Monday by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has rattled the Olympic movement to its core.
He said there was a “state-dictated failsafe system” of Russian drug cheating over several years. IOC president Thomas Bach called Russia’s actions a “shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games.”
Wada has called for Russia to be banned and are believed to have backing from the United States, Canada, Germany and Japan.
“It’s a complex issue to ban a country, but we’re delighted to see they’re considering it,” New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary-general Kereyn Smith said.
But some senior officials have expressed doubts whether the IOC wants to expel Russia.
Dick Pound, an IOC member and former Wada president, said it was right for the IOC to take time to make a decision.
But he added: “I do get the impression reading between the lines, however, that the IOC is for some reason very reluctant to think about a total exclusion of the Russians.”
Several national Olympic committees have also voiced support for Russia’s case that it would be wrong to exclude Russian athletes who have not failed drug tests.
The Association of Summer Olympic Federations has also urged caution.