IOC declines to issue blanket ban of Russian team


July 24, 2016

IOC declines to issue blanket ban of Russian team In the face of calls to ban Russia from competing in the upcoming Rio Olympics, the International Olympic Committee on Sunday deferred decisions about the eligibility of the country’s athletes to the international federations that govern each sport.

July 24, 2016

IOC declines to issue blanket ban of Russian team In the face of calls to ban Russia from competing in the upcoming Rio Olympics, the International Olympic Committee on Sunday deferred decisions about the eligibility of the country’s athletes to the international federations that govern each sport.

The decision now moves the heavy lifting of determining whether individual athletes can meet the criteria set out by the IOC to demonstrate sufficient anti-doping records, a challenge for the international federations (IFs) as the IOC has advised reversing the presumption of innocence.

The IOC’s executive board made the decision that will certainly be unpopular in sport and anti-doping communities. The World Anti-Doping Agency, a group of 14 leaders of national anti-doping organizations and athletes worldwide had called for a collective ban.

“This is about doing justice to clean athletes all over the world,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “In this way, we protect these clean athletes because of the high criteria we set to for all the Russian athletes. This may not please everybody on either side. … The result today is one which is respecting the rules of justice and which is respecting the right of all the clean athletes all over the world.”

The IOC’s decision presumes all Russian athletes entered into the Games are considered to be affected by a system that subverted and manipulated anti-doping rules.

That system was revealed most clearly in a WADA-commissioned report, which was led by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren and released Monday, that showed even more widespread doping and government involvement than was previously known.

According to the IOC’s statement, Russian athletes “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 Russian Anti-Doping Agency was declared non-compliant in November, and more revelations about doping mean IFs cannot trust negative drug test results from that agency. The World Anti-Doping Agency brought in UK Anti-Doping to take over testing in February, but a WADA report in June detailed attempts at obstruction, obfuscation and avoidance of drug testing.

The IOC said it would only accept entries from the Russian Olympic Committee if athletes could meet the following criteria:

The IOC will accept the entry only if it meets those conditions and that is upheld by a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) expert.

Russia’s track and field athletes remain banned collectively after CAS upheld that decision by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last week.

Though the IOC decision attempted to find a balance between collective responsibility and individual justice — which has been the IOC’s stated goal in protecting clean athletes in and outside Russia — it’s most likely to be seen as a punt by the movement’s most powerful organization.

Questioned about how he feels about being called weak, Bach encouraged people to read the IOC’s decision.

“You can see how high we have set the bar for Russian athletes to participate in the Games,” he said. “You can see how far we took the collective responsibility. There you can see this is not the end of the story but a preliminary decision that concerns Rio 2016. There you can see that we want to have more information from WADA. There you can see the Russian Olympic Committee, unlike any other national Olympic committee, cannot propose any athlete for participation which has ever been sanctioned for doping.”

The decision creates further chaos with less than two weeks until the Rio Games open on Aug. 5. While some federations are likely equipped for such a review, others may face difficulty in that process.

Bach said some had begun the review process already, although it’s unclear if they had the criteria the IOC provided on Sunday.

“I think they will be able to produce their documents already in a couple of days,” he said.

The International Weightlifting Federation is also considering banning the Russian team because of the number of positive tests it has faced, but leaders of the International Federation of Gymnastics and FINA, which governs swimming, have opposed a blanket ban.

The IOC found itself in this position after media reports and two investigations commissioned by WADA revealed a system of widespread doping and covering up of positive tests as anti-doping officials worked with government agencies to subvert the anti-doping system in the country.

The McLaren report confirmed allegations reported by 60 Minutes and the New York Times in May of doping of Russian athletes during the Sochi Olympics and the swapping out of dirty urine for clean urine with the help of the Federal Security Service.

It revealed a much larger doping system than had previously been known. Dubbed the Disappearing Positive Methodology in the report, the system included the Ministry of Sport, Center of Sports Preparation of the National Teams of Russia, the FSB and the Moscow and Sochi labs working together to cover up more than 600 positive drug tests in 29 Olympic sports from 2011 until August 2015.

The officials involved included a deputy sports minister who is on the executive board of the Russian Olympic Committee and a former staffer for the ROC.

The IOC noted that the McLaren report made no findings against the ROC as an institution.

The IOC waited to act until after it received a decision from CAS, which upheld the IAAF’s extension of a ban of Russia that had been in place since November when an independent commission report revealed widespread doping in Russian athletics.

That report was largely based on evidence provided by whistleblowers Vitaly and Yuliya Stepanov. Vitaly Stepanov was an employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency when he first took evidence to WADA in 2010. Yuliya Stepanova, an 800-meter runner, joined her husband’s efforts in 2013 after being suspended for irregularities with her athlete biological passport. Frustrated with a lack of progress with WADA, the Stepanovs shared their evidence with German broadcaster ARD, which aired a documentary on the allegations in late 2014.

The independent commission began investigating in January 2015, yet the McLaren report revealed the system of covering up positive tests continued to run for eight months while the country was under investigation.

In reaching its decision in June, the IAAF heard a report from a taskforce charged with measuring verification criteria in the country which found a culture of tolerance to doping remained. A report released by WADA earlier that month found continued obstruction and obfuscation of testing efforts by Russian athletes and coaches.

In banning Russia, the IAAF created a rule change to allow athletes to apply for exceptional eligibility if they could show they have been subject to an effective anti-doping system outside of Russia and had not been tainted by the Russian system.

Stepanova, who left Russia in 2014 and now lives in the United States, was the first to receive such eligibility. Long jumper Darya Klishina, who trains in Russia, is the only other Russian to be granted that status.

The IOC decided not to let Stepanova compete in Rio but has invited her and her husband to be the IOC’s guests.

The IOC’s ethics committee, which reviewed her case, considered that before she provided evidence of doping in Russia, Stepanova served a two-year ban for irregularities in her athlete biological passport and was part of the doping system for at least five years.

It cited the timing of when she came forward as a whistleblower, which was after “the system did not protect her any longer,” as a reason for not accepting her to compete in Rio.

“I think it will be an encouragement for all the future whistleblowers because there the ethics commission and its advice and the executive board has accepted this advice has balanced very well the whole CV of Mrs. Stepanova,” Bach said. “They have appreciated that she was coming out, but also put it into the perspective of what happened in the five or six years before she was coming out and the timing of when she was coming out.”

Courtesy: USA Today