GENEVA • The Russian flag will be flying at next month's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, after all, and the athletes from a nation mired in an ongoing drug scandal will be allowed to compete on the sporting world's largest stage.
Less than two weeks before the start of the Rio Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruled against barring Russia from the Olympics but did approve measures that could reduce the number of Russian athletes participating. The Russians named a 387-strong contingent last week.
Members of its executive board met in a conference call yesterday and granted wide-reaching powers to the 28 individual federations that govern each sport to rule on which Russian athletes would be permitted to compete in their respective disciplines.
While that could curtail Russia's participation in the Rio Olympics, it means that the exact number of participants and medal hopefuls representing the nation could remain in flux until days before the opening ceremony, which is scheduled for Aug 5.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport last Thursday rejected the appeal by 68 Russian track and field athletes seeking to overturn the ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations following allegations of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups.
"We have set the bar to the limit," IOC president Thomas Bach said after the meeting in defending the action against the worst doping scandal in the Olympic movement's history.
The IOC had faced widespread pressure for tough action against Russia, which denied any state role in the doping.
But many IOC members were said to be reluctant to ban a country completely for the first time over doping.
"Under these exceptional circumstances, Russian athletes in any of the 28 Olympic summer sports have to assume the consequences of what amounts to a collective responsibility in order to protect the credibility of the Olympic competitions," said the IOC. It insisted that "the 'presumption of innocence' cannot be applied to them".
But the Olympic leaders said "each affected athlete must be given the opportunity to rebut the applicability of collective responsibility in his or her individual case".
Mr Ng Ser Miang, Singapore's IOC member, told The Straits Times last night: "It's a fair and strong message by the IOC. It shows it is determined to fight doping but also mindful of its charter to protect the rights of all athletes, which in this case are the clean and innocent Russian athletes."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST