Russia’s Rio status hangs by thread as IOC considers ban

  • AFP, Montreal
  • Updated: Jul 19, 2016 15:08 IST
Russia, which strongly denies any state involvement in doping, is already banned from international athletics by world governing body IAAF because of doping exposed last year. (AP File Photo)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is holding emergency talks Tuesday to decide Russia’s status for the Rio Olympics after an investigation found rampant state-run doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and other events.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) called for all Russian competitors and officials to be banned from next month’s Games and other events after the report unveiled what IOC president Thomas Bach called “a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sports and on the Olympic Games.”

A probe by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren for WADA found Russia’s secret service helped “the state-dictated failsafe system” carried out by the Moscow sports ministry and sprawling into 30 sports over five years.

“The scale of what was happening requires Russia be banned from the Olympics and Paralympics,” said British IOC athletes commission member Adam Pengilly.

When asked if no ban imposed could mark the beginning of the end of the IOC, former skeleton competitor Pengilly replied, “it certainly has that potential.”

WADA’s executive committee said the IOC and the International Paralympics Committee should “decline entries, for Rio 2016, of all athletes submitted by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and the Russian Paralympic Committee.”

It also called for Russian officials implicated in the scandal to be sacked and for “Russian government officials to be denied access to international competitions, including Rio 2016.”

McLaren said the coverup started in 2010 after Russia’s “abysmal” results at the Vancouver Winter Olympics and continued until 2015 after the Sochi Games. It included the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow and 2013 World University Games in Kazan.

President Vladimir Putin made the Sochi Games a showcase event and spent more than $50 billion staging the Games.

Russia, which strongly denies any state involvement in doping, is already banned from international athletics by world governing body IAAF because of doping exposed last year.

There will be mounting pressure for that to be extended, even though Bach and some international federations have called for a way for Russian athletes proved to be clean to compete in Rio.

“The IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organization implicated,” Bach said in a statement announcing the IOC conference on Tuesday to consider provisional sanctions.

Failsafe doping

McLaren’s bombshell report said the sports ministry under Vitaly Mutko organized the subterfuge under which tainted urine samples were replaced and kept away from international observers.

“The Moscow laboratory operated for the protection of doped Russian athletes within a state-dictated failsafe system,” McLaren said.

“The Sochi laboratory operated a unique sample-swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the Winter Olympic Games,” he added.

According to the report, “the Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes’ analytical results or sample swapping.”

It pointed to “the active participation” and assistance of the FSB federal security service, athletes training groups and the Moscow and Sochi laboratories.

With the Rio Games due to start August 5, US Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun said the IOC, WADA and world governing bodies must “impose sanctions that are appropriate in relation to the magnitude of these offenses and give clean athletes some measure of comfort they will be competing on a level playing field in Rio.”

WADA president Craig Reedie said Russia must sack government officials implicated in the wide-ranging doping scheme.

The Kremlin said officials named in the report would be suspended, but also denounced the “dangerous” interference of politics in sport. It did not say which officials would be affected.

However, Mutko and his deputy Yury Nagornykh were among those named in the report.

Russian media appeared resigned to a blanket ban in Rio.

“The WADA report makes Russia’s disqualification very probable,” the Kommersant newspaper suggested, while headlined their story “why Russia has already lost the Games”.

In China, the state-run Global Times took the view that “Banning Russia will tarnish Olympic spirit”.

For Germany’s best-selling Bild “Putin’s state-doping is proven”. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described the Sochi 2014 doping scandal as: “Hospitality the Russian way”.

An editorial in Spain’s El Mundo backed a Rio ban - “State doping in Russia deserves an exemplary punishment” it wrote.

In the United States, the Wall Street Journal’s website ran with “Olympic doping just part of sick spectacle”. The Los Angeles Times told its readers: “IOC on the verge of historic vote to ban Russia from the Rio Olympics”.

Mind-blowing corruption

Britain’s Sun tabloid headlined its sports section with: “‘Urine Big Trouble - Russia on the verge of blanket Games ban”.

The Times front page took a similar line: “Russia faces Olympic ban as doping scandal grows”.

US Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart said the report had revealed “a mind-blowing level of corruption” in Russian sport and all the way up to Putin’s government.

WADA mandated McLaren to investigate allegations made by former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov in May -- he is now in hiding in the United States and wanted by Russian authorities.

Rodchenkov said the doping program was “working like a Swiss watch” at Sochi and helped at least 15 Russian medalists avoid doping detection.

McLaren insisted that he was “supremely confident” in the findings of the inquiry, even though “we’ve had a very intense 57 days.”

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