IOC explores options on banning all Russians
With just over two weeks until the opening ceremony, Russia still do not know whether their athletes - all or even some - will be competing in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It may all come down to the lawyers.
While the International Olympic Committee decided yesterday to ban from the Rio Games all Russian sports ministry officials and other administrators implicated in allegations of a state-run doping program, it delayed a ruling on whether to take the unprecedented step of barring the entire Russian Olympic team.
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 rights to individual justice".
The IOC has also said it could let individual international sports federations decide on whether to ban Russians from their events in Rio, just as the IAAF has done by ruling track and field athletes from the Games. The 28 international federations that govern the individual sports at the Summer Games have made clear that they do not support a blanket ban.
The IOC's legal options may become clearer after tomorrow when the highest court in sports will rule on an appeal by 68 Russian track and field athletes seeking to overturn their ban from the Games.
Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva was among those arguing the Russian track and field team's case yesterday in Geneva at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Should the court rule tomorrow in their favour, it would seemingly eliminate the chance of the IOC imposing a blanket ban.
If the court upholds the IAAF's exclusion of the track athletes, however, that would keep the possibility of a total ban in play. Further appeals are also possible, meaning that the final word on the Russians may go down to the wire before August 5, when the Rio Games open.
Still, it will take a major leap for the IOC to impose the ultimate sanction of kicking out Russia entirely. IOC President Thomas Bach has repeatedly called for a balance between "individual justice and collective punishment".
No country as a whole has ever been barred from the Games for doping and Russia is a major force in the Olympic movement, as well as a sports powerhouse. The last time Russia was missing from the Olympics was when it boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games in retaliation for the US boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the doping allegations "a dangerous return to ... letting politics interfere with sport".
"The Olympic movement, which is a tremendous force for uniting humanity, once again could find itself on the brink of division," he said in a statement Monday after the release of the report into Russian doping issued by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren.