By Karolos Grohmann
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will not impose a blanket ban on Russia for next month’s Rio Olympics over the nation’s doping record but will leave decisions on individual athletes’ participation to the relevant sports federations.
The IOC’s announcement follows the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) call for a Rio ban in response to the independent McLaren report that found evidence of widespread state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The world governing body’s ruling 15-member executive board met on Sunday via teleconference — with the Rio Games’ Aug. 5 opening ceremony less than two weeks away — and decided that responsibility for ruling on the eligibility of Russians remains with the international federations.
While calls had been growing for a blanket ban after the damning evidence in the McLaren report, the IOC said that Russians would be able to participate if cleared by their respective international federations.
“Under these exceptional circumstances, Russian athletes in any of the 28 Olympic summer sports have to assume the consequences of what amounts to a collective responsibility in order to protect the credibility of the Olympic competitions, and the ‘presumption of innocence’ cannot be applied to them,” the IOC said.
However, the IOC added that the rules of natural justice mean that each athlete must be given the opportunity to show that such collective responsibility is not applicable in his or her individual case.
SPOTLESS RECORD REQUIRED
For individuals to be excluded from the “collective responsibility” they must have a spotless international records on drug testing, the IOC said, adding that no athlete who has been sanctioned for doping will be eligible to compete in Rio.
That would include middle-distance runner Yulia Stepanova, the whistleblower and former drug cheat whose initial evidence led to one of the biggest doping scandals in decades.
The report produced by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren described extensive doping and cover-ups across a series of summer and winter Olympic sports and particularly at the Sochi Winter Olympics hosted by Russia in 2014.
The IOC said this week that it would not organise or give patronage to any sports event in Russia, including the planned 2019 European Games, and that no member of the Russian Sports Ministry implicated in the report would be accredited for Rio.
It had also ordered the immediate re-testing of all Russian athletes from the Sochi Olympics and instructed international winter sports federations to halt preparations for major events in Russia.
Since then a series of international federations, anti-doping agencies and athletes have called for a blanket ban, though some have said they are against punishing innocent athletes.
“It would be quite difficult for us to think we should ban an entire team, which will include some cyclists who are not implicated in any of these stories we’ve been hearing,” said Brian Cookson, president of the International Cycling Union.
“We’re going to have look at it case by case, rider by rider and team by team. At the end of the day, Russians are not the only sportsmen or women who have been found doping.”
Russian officials and government officers have said the doping allegations are part of a Western conspiracy against their country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned that the affair could split the Olympic movement, bringing echoes of the 1980s. The United States led a political boycott of the Moscow Games of 1980 and the Soviet Union led an Eastern Bloc boycott of the Los Angeles Games four years later.