Thomas Bach defends IOC handling of Russia doping scandal

The Olympic rings are in place at the Beach Volleyball Arena on Copacabana Beach. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
The Olympic rings are in place at the Beach Volleyball Arena on Copacabana Beach. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Thomas Bach has defended the International Olympic Committees handling of the Russian doping crisis ahead of the Rio 2016 Games.

With five days to go before the Games open there is still huge uncertainty about which Russian athletes will be able to compete in Rio.

We need to resolve the situation before the Games start

Thomas Bach

But IOC president Bach, speaking at a press conference following the IOC’s executive board meeting, denied that the organisation’s credibility had been damaged by the situation. “I don’t think this event will be damaging,” he said. “I trust people will realise the difficult situation we are in. We did our best to address the situation in a way to protect clean athletes.”

The IOC adopted a three-step procedure in the wake of the World Anti-Doping Agency McLaren report, which recommended a blanket ban for the Russian team ahead of the Rio Games, after providing evidence of a four-year Russian doping programme across the majority of Olympic sports.

The IOC invited International Federations to decide if the Russian athletes in their sports were eligible to compete in Rio and set up an independent IOC panel to make a final decision on the eligibility of athletes. Finally it ruled that Russian athletes who had previously been banned for anti-doping violations could not compete in Rio.

Bach defended that approach and issued a firm denial when asked if he had been politically influenced by the Russian delegation since the publication of the McLaren report.

“No, I haven’t been talking to any Russian government officials since the publication of the McLaren report,” said Bach. “We need to resolve the situation before the Games start and then, afterwards, we will have more time to analyse the situation and study it with a certain distance.”

Bach revealed that 4,500 urine tests and 1,000 blood test would be conducted during the Rio Games as part of the IOC’s fight against doping. He also denied that the IOC was divided over the Russian question.

He added: “In these difficult decisions you will never have a 100 per cent majority. These are complicated and complex questions on the legal and moral side. What you should not forget is the broad support that the IOC executive board has for this decision.”

“The McLaren report revealed a system which is an attack on our Games and an attack on our values but you cannot deny the right of athletes to attempt to prove their innocence.”

Asked if the uncertainly over the participation of Russian athletes so close to the start of the Games was embarrassing for the IOC, Bach replied, “no, the IOC is not responsible for the timing of the [McLaren] report.”

Bach said the independent IOC panel that will have the final say on the participation of Russian athletes would now “receive recommendations” from Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) appointed experts.

On the IOC’s overall efforts to protect clean athletes in the run-up to the Games, Bach referred to the targeted pre-testing programme in which 2,200 athletes were selected and also hailed what he said was “the most comprehensive re-analysis programme” for athletes who competed in the Beijing and London Games.