25 Jul 2016

Russia escapes IOC blanket ban for Rio Olympics

9:46 am on 25 July 2016

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has rejected calls for Russia to receive a blanket ban from Rio 2016 over the nation's doping record.

Olympic rings made of recycled plastic installed on Copacabana Beach.

Photo: AFP

The committee ruled that decisions on individual competitors will be left to the international sports federations.

The World Anti-Doping Agency's (Wada) 14 national anti-doping organisations had called for a blanket ban in response to the independent McLaren report that found evidence of state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Track and field athletes have already been banned.

"I think in this way, we have balanced on the one hand, the desire and need for collective responsibility versus the right to individual justice of every individual athlete," IOC President Thomas Bach said on a conference call.

"In this way we are protecting the clean athletes because of the high criteria we set."

Mr Bach, a former Olympic fencing champion, said that Russian sportsmen and women "will have to clear the highest hurdle to take part in the Olympics".

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko described the decision as "objective" but "very tough", while the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) claimed the IOC had failed to show leadership with its decision.

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko said the decision cleared the way for Russian participation. Photo: AFP

"Many, including clean athletes and whistleblowers, have demonstrated courage and strength in confronting a culture of state-supported doping and corruption within Russia," Usada chief Travis Tygart said.

"Disappointingly, however, in response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership. The decision regarding Russian participation and the confusing mess left in its wake is a significant blow to the rights of clean athletes."

The IOC's decision comes less than two weeks before the Rio Games open on 5 August.

New Zealand Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley told Morning Report he backed the IOC's decision and said Russian athletes who attended the Rio Olympics would face serious scrutiny.

"Basically every Russian athlete is basically proven guilty until proven innocent".

"They've set a very, very high bar in terms of the Russian athletes that want to attend."

Former New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary-general Barry Maister is a member of the International Olympic Committee. He told Morning Report that despite no blanket ban the decision had "effectively frozen Russia out of all sports at the moment".

"Unless they have a track record of clean, international testing outside of Russia then they're out," he said.

"The end result will be... a much-reduced Russian team."

He predicted the consequences of the affair would have a long-term impact.

"I think it can be seen as a positive, because the outcomes ... could be the most significant shake up of the doping testing we've ever seen."

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko said the decision cleared the way for Russian participation.

"I hope that the majority of international federations will very promptly confirm the right of (Russian) sportspeople in different types of sports to take part in the Olympic Games," Mr Mutko said.

The International Tennis Federation quickly confirmed that Russia's seven players nominated for Rio complied with the IOC ruling. The federation said the players had been subject to a rigorous anti-doping programme outside Russia, which it considered sufficient to meet the IOC's requirements.

For individuals to be allowed to compete at Rio they must have a spotless international record on drug testing, the IOC said, adding athletes who have been sanctioned in the past for doping will not be eligible.

That would dash the hopes of middle-distance runner Yulia Stepanova, the whistleblower and former drug cheat whose initial evidence led to one of the biggest doping scandals in decades.

New Zealand former boardsailer Barbara Kendall is a member of the IOC Athletes Commission. She told Morning Report the IOC's move was the right one.

"I think it's a really good decision by the Olympic Committee."

Ms Kendall said it would have been wrong to ban all athletes as those who could prove they had been clean and were clean had the "right" to compete.

The committee had said this week that it would not organise or give patronage to any sports event in Russia and that no member of the Russian Sports Ministry implicated in the McLaren report would be accredited for Rio.

It also ordered the immediate re-testing of all Russian athletes from the Sochi Olympics.

- Reuters / BBC

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