In a leaked letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) the officials from the U.S. and Canadian anti-doping agencies call for a complete ban on Russians if the Sochi report compiled by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren is damning.
A scathing report outlining a state-sanctioned doping system in Russia prompted immediate calls for the nation’s entire team to be sidelined from the Summer Games, raising the possibility that the Olympics could go on without a sports superpower for the first time since the 1980s.
The investigation released Monday confirmed a scheme run out of the anti-doping lab in Moscow that ensnared 28 summer and winter sports, from track to snowboarding to table tennis. It lasted at least four years and involved at least 312 positive tests that went unreported at the behest of higher-ups in the country’s sports ministry.
“A mind-blowing level of corruption within both Russian sport and government,” said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency
The World Anti-Doping Agency swiftly called for the International Olympic Committee to consider a full ban of the Russian team from the Summer Olympics, which start Aug. 5 in Rio de Janiero. IOC president Thomas Bach said the committee wouldn’t hesitate to apply the toughest sanctions available.
The IOC executive board will meet Tuesday to begin sorting through options.
Russia`s track and field athletes are already banned from competing at next month`s Olympics. In the ongoing case involving Russia’s track team, it was that sport’s federation, the IAAF, that ultimately banned the team from the Olympics. But 68 Russian track-and-field athletes are appealing this week to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to compete in Rio, with a decision due Thursday.
In a move that accentuates how complicated the matter can become, the IOC has said there is no contingency for a large group of Russians competing under a neutral flag — that Russians should compete for the Russian team if they’re allowed in. However, FIG said Russian gymnasts have been subject to controls equal to those of our other leading gymnastics federations and that they should be in Rio.
“The rights of every individual athlete must be respected,” FIG resident Bruno Grandi said.
“Participation at the Olympic Games is the highest goal of athletes who often sacrifice their entire youth to this aim”
“The right to participate at the Games cannot be stolen from an athlete, who has duly qualified and has not be found guilty of doping. Blanket bans have never been and will never be just.”
Several national anti-doping agencies have called for a blanket ban on Russians attending the Rio Games ahead of the publication later on Monday of a report into allegations of state-backed doping at the Sochi winter Olympics.
“FIG is concerned about the increasing number of officials asking for a blanket ban of Russian athletes to participate at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Rio,” the sport`s governing body said in a statement.
“Whilst FIG fully supports the IOC`s policy of “Zero Tolerance in Doping”, it strongly feels that not all Russian athletes of all sports should be banned and found guilty for actions in other sports and federations.”
“Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic Gymnastics and Trampoline athletes cannot be judged based on other sports,” according to FIG. “Before any actions are taken against FIG’s athletes, facts must be presented and doping offenses must be proven.”
It’s no sure thing the Russians will receive a blanket ban. It’s a decision filled with political ramifications that involve a key Olympic country. It puts the IOC in the position of ruling against against one of its biggest supporters, a nation that spent more than $50 billion hosting the Winter Games in Sochi just two years ago. Not since the back-to-back boycotts by the United States in 1980, then the Soviet Union in 1984, have the Olympics been contested without one of its biggest players.
Bach has frequently spoken about the fine line between “collective responsibility and individual justice.” And for every anti-doping agency and athlete group calling for a full ban, there’s seemingly another sports organization or leader urging restraint.
Gymnastics was not among the sports listed in the report. Wrestling, meanwhile, accounted for 28 of the 312 unreported positives. The head of that international federation, Nenad Lalovic of Serbia, told The Associated Press “we will absolutely follow the decisions of the IOC.”
But in making decisions about Russia’s team as a whole, the IOC could put onus on the international sports federations to determine the penalties.
Time is crucial because the Olympics begin Aug. 5, and decisions about Russia’s participation in Rio must be made.
WADA president Craig Reedie, who is also an IOC member, said WADA is working to establish guidelines that will help the IOC and international sports federations identify exceptions to a potential Russian ban — notably, athletes who trained in other countries that had robust, clean anti-doping systems. Those athletes, WADA said, should be allowed to compete in Rio under a neutral flag.
McLaren said he was “unwaveringly confident” in his report, and insisted there was no leak, as several sports leaders suggested over the weekend, when draft letters calling for Russia’s ban were leaked to the media.
One of the letters’ co-signers was Paul Melia, who heads Canada’s anti-doping organization and was in Toronto for McLaren’s presentation.
“I’m shocked and devastated by what’s been going on,” Melia said. “And I can only imagine how betrayed the clean athletes of the world are feeling today in the face of this evidence.”