Olympics: IOC chief fires fresh warning to drug cheats

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach at a news conference on June 3, 2016.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach at a news conference on June 3, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

LAUSANNE (AFP) - The International Olympic Committee wants to catch "as many dopers as possible" before the Games in Rio de Janeiro start in two months, president Thomas Bach warned on Friday.

Confronted with a fresh series of doping scandals, many centred on Russia, the IOC has reinforced its testing programmes in an 11th-hour bid to keep drug cheats away from the Games in August.

"We have been taking decisive actions and we will not hesitate to sanction everybody within our reach," Bach told reporters following a three-day IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.

At the heart of those actions is the re-analysis of samples from the Beijing Games in 2008 and London 2012, which has already produced 53 new doping cases.

Russia has confirmed that 14 of its athletes are implicated, while the IOC has warned that more could be snared and that past medal winners are the main target for future retests.

Russia's athletics federation has been suspended after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accused Moscow of "state-sponsored" cheating.

The IAAF, athletics' world governing body, will decide on June 17 whether to readmit Russia.

Asked if he hoped Russian athletes would be allowed to compete at Rio, Bach said: "I'm not living in the world of hopes."

 

The Rio Games have been beset by a range of challenges, including a political crisis that led to the suspension of president Dilma Rousseff and an epidemic of the mosquito-born Zika virus.

Concerns have also been raised about unfinished venues, ventilation issues at the swimming pool and pollution in the bay that will host Olympic events.

Bach said he was "very confident" of the city's readiness following a presentation from Rio organising committee chief Carlos Nuzman.

The IOC president also said he had a reassuring telephone conversation with Brazil's interim president Michel Temer and planned to visit him in the coming weeks.

The political crisis has sparked major protests by opposing camps, but Bach voiced hope that the Games could offer a chance for the country to come together.

"Now, in this divided Brazil, the Olympic Games are the one project which really unite the Brazilians," he told journalists.