LAUSANNE: All potential Olympians from Russia and Kenya must face added scrutiny before being cleared to compete in the Rio Games because of suspicions about their country’s anti-doping programmes, IOC executives said Tuesday.
“The presumption of innocence” of athletes from both countries had been put “seriously into question,” the International Olympic Committee’s executive panel said following a special summit aimed at keeping drug cheats away from Rio de Janeiro.
The broad condemnation from the powerful IOC panel of the two nations came as the August 5 start of the Games loomed with the IOC seeking to tame a series of raging doping scandals.
Russia’s entire track and field team has already been banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), following revelations of massive, state-sponsored cheating.
But the IAAF left a window slightly open, saying individuals who definitively prove they were not tainted by the Russian system could still compete in Brazil.
While the IOC has strongly backed the IAAF’s move, Moscow has reacted with outrage, condemning a policy of collection punishment over individual responsibility for doping culprits.
Tuesday’s IOC meet was closely watched for hints as to whether any Russian track stars could be given the green-light for Rio, and which flag they would compete under.
IOC president Bach dismissed suggestions that Russians could appear under a neutral or Olympic flag.
Any Russian athlete cleared by the IAAF “will compete as members of the team of the Russian Olympic Committee,” he told reporters after the summit.
It remains highly unlikely, however, that many Russian track athletes will be in Brazil, as the strict eligibility guidelines laid out by the IAAF seem to preclude anyone who trains inside Russia.
– ‘Individual evaluations’ –
Speaking after the meet, IOC chief president Thomas Bach detailed fresh consequences of Russia and Kenya being declared non-compliant by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
He said the absence of a positive drug test from inside those countries should not be considered “sufficient” evidence that an athlete is drug free.
This applies to competitors in all 27 Olympic sports, aside from track and field, which is under separate scrutiny.
“Each athlete coming from these two countries will have to be declared eligible following…an individual evaluation,” Bach said.
Crucially, the IOC did not detail how each sports federation should carry out this individual scrutiny and with the Games just over six weeks away, time is running short to conduct robust evaluations of every athlete from both countries.
– Russian fury –
A chorus of Russian leaders spent Tuesday condemning the IAAF and IOC for the blanket ban on the country’s track stars.
Russia’s Duma lower house of parliament said that banning the entire team was tantamount to “using sport as an instrument in a political battle” and said “repressions against competitors never implicated in unfair game” would undermine the Olympic movement.
Those criticisms were echoed in Russian Olympic committee’s president Aleksander Zhukov’s address to IOC executives in Lausanne.
He called the ban “an extreme injustice and humiliation” and a violation of Olympic values.
Zhukov said dozens of Russian samples had been checked by independent, foreign anti-doping authorities after the suspension of Russia’s RUSADA lab, questioning who the IAAF now did not trust.
“Out of the several thousand samples taken from Russian athletes in and out of competition over this period, only three turned out to be positive, including one in athletics, for substances other than (recently banned) meldonium,” which was found in 49 samples, he said.
He sought to highlight the hypocrisy of American celebrity sprinters Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin running in Rio — both of whom have previous positive drug tests — while Russian athletes with clear histories would be barred.
“Banning clean athletes from the Rio Olympic Games…is also legally indefensible,” he added, while offering some hope this alleged injustice could be reversed in court.
“I think the possibility for Russian track and field athletes to take part at the Olympic Games is still not closed,” Zukhov told journalists in Lausanne, news agency Interfax reported.
“I think that the majority of them will appeal to the international court for sports and that they don’t have a bad chance of winning their case.”