Tue | Nov 24, 2020

'Doping won't keep Russia's athletes out of Winter Olympics'

Published:Thursday | September 14, 2017 | 6:45 PM

LIMA, Peru (AP):

If the Russians are worried about missing the upcoming Winter Olympics, one of their key leaders certainly isn't showing it.

Alexander Zhukov, a Russian member of the International Olympic Committee, told The Associated Press "all of them are going to Pyeongchang" when asked this week if he had any concerns about how the doping investigation in his country might affect eligibility for the Olympics next February.

"Most of the Russian athletes are training in major competitions" this winter, said Zhukov, who also serves as head of Russia's Olympic committee. "And they're preparing. I understand all of them are going to Pyeongchang."

Zhukov's confidence comes as a pair of IOC committees head into their 15th month of reviewing the findings of an investigation conducted by Richard McLaren. That probe found evidence of widespread, state-sponsored doping corruption inside Russia that impacted 1,000 athletes covering 30 sports.

At its meetings this week, the IOC will receive updates on those reports, one of which was to include reanalysis of 254 urine samples. But there are no plans to decide either about individual Russian athletes or the country's eligibility as a whole.

That feels like a delaying tactic to some of the IOC's own members, along with a group of anti-doping leaders who yesterday called for a ban of the Russian Olympic Committee at next year's Games.

"It wouldn't surprise me at all if the fix is in already, just like in Rio," said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, who was among those calling for the ban.

The IOC stopped short of a full ban of the Russian athletes at last year's Summer Games, instead giving international sports federations a handful of days to determine eligibility of individual athletes. It sent the wrong message and should not be repeated, according to IOC member Dick Pound, who conducted a separate investigation into doping corruption inside the Russian track team that came up with similar conclusions as the McLaren Report.

'WE HAVE TO BE CREDIBLE'

"It's our event, for (goodness) sake," Pound told AP. "We're the ones who have to establish that it's credible, and we have to be credible. We missed a huge opportunity in Rio."

Pound and the anti-doping leaders agree that there should be a system in place for Russian athletes to compete as neutrals if they can show they've been subject to a credible anti-doping regimen over the past several months. Last month, 19 Russian athletes competed at the IAAF World Championships under those circumstances.

Adding to the frustration of the anti-doping leaders was news this week that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) dismissed all but one of the first 96 individual cases to stem from the McLaren Report, due to lack of evidence.

WADA director general Olivier Niggli told AP that because part of the Russian doping scheme involved getting rid of positive samples, proving some of the cases will be difficult.