The International Olympic Committee has postponed a decision on whether to ban the entire Russian Olympic team from the Rio Games but has announced a raft of measures in response to the report of state-directed doping.
The World Anti-Doping Agency had joined calls from national anti-doping agencies and athletes’ groups for the IOC to issue a blanket ban to Russia but its executive board has asked for more time to consider its options.
After a four-hour meeting, Olympic bosses said they would “explore their legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes...versus the right to individual justice”.
They added that they also wanted to take into consideration the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision on Russia’s appeal against the ban imposed by athletics’ world governing body the IAAF on the Russian track and field team. That appeal started yesterday and a decision is expected by tomorrow.
This reluctance to immediately heed the calls for a radical and rapid response to Russia’s flagrant cheating will frustrate many but IOC president Thomas Bach is mindful of legal challenges and the risk of antagonising an Olympic superpower.
It is also worth noting that Bach is at least now considering a “collective ban” having spoken mainly about “individual justice” in recent weeks.
That was, of course, before Richard McLaren’s 103-page report revealed a doping programme of staggering proportions – something Bach himself described as “a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sports and the Olympic Games”. This is why the former Olympic fencing champion from Germany called for an urgent teleconference of his executive board yesterday, although Wada president and IOC vice-president Sir Craig Reedie did not take part, citing a conflict of interest.
While the biggest decision was put on ice, the board has started disciplinary action against all those implicated by the report from the Russian sports ministry and elsewhere “because of violations of the Olympic Charter and the World Anti-Doping Code”.
A five-strong panel, chaired by French judge Guy Canivet, has been set up to deal with this quickly, and no invites to the Rio Games will be issued to Russian sports ministry staff.
It was reported by Russian news agency TASS yesterday that all of the officials named by McLaren, apart from the minister of sport Vitaly Mutko, had been sacked by Russian president Vladimir Putin, although Mutko’s position is far from secure after football’s world governing body Fifa said it would be asking Wada for the details of the allegations against him, with Fifa’s ethics committee set to take the lead on any disciplinary action deemed necessary against him.
The IOC has decided to withdraw its support for any major event hosted in Russia, including the proposed 2019 European Games, which will come as a hard blow for its biggest backer, IOC vice-president and European Olympic Committees president Pat Hickey of Ireland. Furthermore, because of the effective sabotage of the anti-doping programme at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi found by McLaren and his investigators, the IOC will now re-test every Russian sample for manipulation and ask all winter sports federations to “freeze” plans to host any events in Russia and make alternative arrangements.
The IOC board has also asked the 20 federations responsible for sports in the summer Olympic programme which were affected by Russia’s hiding of positive tests between 2011 and 2015 to follow the IAAF’s lead and consider banning their Russian member associations. Wada was also requested to extend McLaren’s mandate so he can continue his abridged 57-day investigation, and the IOC repeated last month’s calls for an extraordinary global anti-doping conference in 2017 to discuss ways forward. There was also a reference to the idea of reversing the “presumption of innocence” in doping matters for Russian athletes, although this will become much more relevant if the IAAF’s decision to implement this already is backed by CAS and other federations decide to follow suit.
All of the measures mentioned above are provisional until 31 December, 2016.