Sun | Sep 24, 2017

IOC leaders reject complete ban on Russia

Published:Monday | July 25, 2016 | 7:00 AM
IOC President Thomas Bach

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP):

Rejecting calls by anti-doping officials for a complete ban on Russia, Olympic leaders yesterday gave individual global sports federations the task of deciding which athletes should be cleared to compete in next month's Rio de Janeiro Games.

Citing the need to protect the rights of individual athletes, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided against taking the unprecedented step of excluding Russia's entire team over allegations of state-sponsored doping.

Instead, the IOC left it to 27 sports federations to make the call on a case-by-case basis.

"Every human being is entitled to individual justice," IOC President Thomas Bach said after the ruling of his 15-member executive board.

At the same time, Bach said the IOC had decided on a set of "very tough criteria" that could dent Russia's overall contingent and medal hopes in Rio, where the Olympics will open on August 5.

Under the measures, no Russian athlete who has ever had a doping violation will be allowed into the Games, whether he or she has served a sanction, a rule that has not applied to athletes in other countries.

In addition, the international sports federations were ordered to check each Russian athlete's drug-testing record, with only doping controls conducted outside Russia counting toward eligibility, before authorising them to compete. Final entry is contingent on approval from an independent sports arbitrator.

 

DECISION CRITICISED

 

The IOC decision was sharply criticised by anti-doping bodies as a sell-out that undermines clean athletes and destroys the idea of a level playing field.

"In response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership," U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement.

"The decision regarding Russian participation and the confusing mess left in its wake is a significant blow to the rights of clean athletes."

Russia's track and field athletes were already banned by the IAAF, the sport's governing body, in a decision that was upheld Thursday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The IOC accepted that ruling, but would not extend it to all other sports. Russia's current overall team consists of 387 athletes, a number likely to be significantly reduced by the measure barring Russians who have previously served doping bans.

"An athlete should not suffer and should not be sanctioned for a system in which he was not implicated," Bach told reporters on a conference call after yesterday's meeting. "It is fine to talk about collective responsibility and banning everybody, but at the end of the day, we have to be able to look in the eyes of the individual athletes concerned by this decision."

Bach acknowledged the decision "might not please everybody".

"This is not about expectations," he said. "This is about doing justice to clean athletes all over the world."

Asked whether the IOC was being soft on Russia, Bach said: "Read the decision. ... You can see how high we set the bar. This is not the end of the story, but a preliminary decision that concerns Rio 2016."

The IOC also rejected the application by Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, an 800-metre runner and former doper who helped expose the doping scandal in her homeland, to compete under a neutral flag at the Games.

Stepanova, now living in the United States, competed as an individual athlete at last month's European Championships in Amsterdam.

But the IOC said Stepanova did not meet the criteria for running under the IOC flag and because she had been previously banned for doping, did not satisfy the "ethical requirements" to compete in the Games.

 

DISMAY

 

Tygart expressed dismay at the decision to bar Stepanova.

"The decision to refuse her entry into the Games is incomprehensible and will undoubtedly deter whistleblowers in the future from coming forward," he said.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said "the majority" of Russia's team complies with the IOC criteria and will be able to compete. About "80 per cent" of the Russian team regularly undergoes international testing of the kind specified by the IOC, he said.

Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov presented his case to the IOC board at the beginning of yesterday's meeting, promising full cooperation with investigations and guaranteeing "a complete and comprehensive restructuring of the Russian anti-doping system".

He issued a strong plea against a full ban.

"My question is this: If you treat the cancer by cutting off the patient's head and killing him, do you consider this as a victory in the fight?" he said in remarks released later. "That does not seem like a victory to me. But that is what is happening right now, as dozens of clean athletes are forced to miss the Olympic Games through no fault of their own."