Olympic summit seeks unity in doping battle
With the Russian doping scandal still causing bitter discord across the international sports world, Olympic leaders meet today to consider ways of revamping a global drug-testing system battered by political disputes and a loss of public confidence.
The role of the World Anti-Doping Agency, proposals for an independent testing body and the continuing investigation into state-backed Russian doping are expected to be discussed at the "Olympic Summit" in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The finger-pointing and blame game against WADA have ramped up recently, with several IOC members publicly blasting the organisation for its handling of the Russian doping crisis.
"There seems to be a lot of people who refuse to accept that the base problem was institutional Russian cheating," WADA President Craig Reedie told The Associated Press.
"WADA cannot and will not be held responsible for Russian cheating."
The International Olympic Committee said officials will debate ideas for "a more robust, more efficient and more independent worldwide anti-doping system," including further talks on making the entire system "independent from sports organisations."
"We will make recommendations for WADA to improve in a very constructive way," IOC President Thomas Bach said. "We will ask WADA to take the organisational measures to perform these tests in a more efficient and more robust way."
The closed-door meeting, to be held at a luxury Lausanne hotel, will be attended by about 20 officials, including IOC vice presidents, heads of major international sports federations, and presidents of the U.S., Russian and Chinese national Olympic committees.
It's uncertain whether the deliberations will produce concrete decisions or simply a set of broad principles ahead of an extraordinary world conference on doping next year.
The delegate with perhaps the most at stake is Reedie, whose agency has been harshly criticised by IOC members. The fallout from WADA's recommendation to ban Russia's entire team from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro - rejected by the IOC - continues to roil the waters and will hang over today's discussions.
A report by WADA investigator Richard McLaren detailed state-supported doping and cover-ups across dozens of winter and summer Olympic sports in Russia. It also backed allegations by Moscow's former lab director that doping samples of Russian athletes were manipulated during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
The IOC turned down WADA's call to impose an outright ban on Russia from the Rio Games. The IOC deferred to individual international sports federations, and about 270 Russian athletes wound up competing in Rio. Bach said the decision was made in the name of "justice" to prevent clean athletes from being punished for the violations of others.
The Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations said Thursday the IOC "lost the anti-doping battle" before the Rio Games, declaring: "The IOC failed the clean athletes of the world."
Some have suggested that WADA be restructured or replaced. But Reedie and others believe the agency should be strengthened with greater funding and more powers to investigate, monitor compliance and apply sanctions.
Bach has proposed the creation of an independent body - under WADA's umbrella - to carry out global drug-testing, making the system more independent by taking it out of the hands of sports federations. He said the body should be operational before the Pyeongchang Games.