Rio Olympics 2016: 11 days to go

Russia welcome Rio reprieve

IOC slammed for not imposing blanket ban and leaving decision to sports federations

GENEVA • Russian athletes will be allowed to go to the Rio Olympics if they are able to prove "to the full satisfaction of his or her International Federation (IF)" that they are demonstrably clean.

However, crucially, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) yesterday raised the bar on Russian entry by deciding that "the absence of a positive national anti-doping test cannot be considered sufficient by the IFs".

Instead, individual federations will be required to "carry out an individual analysis of each athlete's anti-doping record, taking into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete's sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field".

With 11 days to go before the Olympics start, each sport will be up against it.

The Russian Olympic Committee will not be allowed to enter any athlete for the Olympics in Rio who has ever been sanctioned for doping, even if he or she has served the terms of that sanction.


From left: United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki Moon with IOC president Thomas Bach, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and other dignitaries during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, where the host nation’s elaborate method of swopping urine samples was later exposed. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Already, there are widespread accusations that the decision is a huge fudge.

"Disappointingly, 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," Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency said in a statement.

"It is so frustrating that in this incredibly important moment, they would pass the baton to sports federations who may lack the adequate expertise or collective will to appropriately address the situation within the short window prior to the Games. The conflict of interest is glaring."

At the very least, the decision to delegate the decision to the individual federations could lead to huge inconsistencies.

Some organisations, such as the International Weightlifting Federation, would be most likely to ban Russians because of the huge numbers of positive tests in that sport.

Others, like judo, appear inclined to let as many Russians as possible compete in Rio.

As Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation, explained succinctly last week: "The presence of Russian athletes is very important as the Russian Judo Federation is a prominent member of the International Judo Federation, with Russian judo playing a great role in the history of sport."

  • PAST BLANKET BANS

    1920, Antwerp

    Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary and Turkey are not invited because they are the successor states to the Central Powers during World War I.

    1924, Paris

    Germany is still excluded for spearheading World War I.

    1948, London

    Germany and Japan are not invited because of their World War II roles. Both countries are banned until 1956.

    1964, Tokyo

    South Africa is suspended from the Olympics until the '92 Games in Barcelona because of its policy of apartheid.

    1972, Munich

    Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) is banned because a majority of African nations threaten to boycott over the country being ruled by a white minority government.

Yesterday, while hailing the "objective" decision by the IOC not to ban its entire team, Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko said that he is convinced that the "majority" of the 387-strong Russian team would meet the strict criteria to compete.

"The criteria announced are of course very tough," he said. "It is a specific challenge for our sportsmen, but I am absolutely sure that the majority of the Russian team will meet the criteria."

Shamil Tarpishev, the president of Russia's tennis federation, told the Tass news agency: "I don't see any problem with the participation of our tennis players at the Olympics. I am sure that the whole team that we've named will compete at Rio."

The IOC's decision comes after months of agonising in the corridors of international sport about how to deal with the cascade of revelations of state-sponsored doping in Russia.

Earlier, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) the world governing body, banned all Russian track and field athletes from international competition unless they could prove they had been comprehensively tested outside the Russian system.

Only two athletes, Darya Klishina, who trains in Miami, and the whistle-blower, Yuliya Stepanova, were given permission to go to the Games if they competed under a neutral flag.

However, in a controversial decision, the IOC yesterday decided against allowing Stepanova to compete in Rio, even though she was a whistle-blower.

The IOC said: "The sanction to which she was subject and the circumstances in which she denounced the doping practices which she had used herself do not satisfy the ethical requirements for an athlete to enter the Olympic Games."

"The decision to refuse her entry in to the Games is incomprehensible and will undoubtedly deter whistleblowers in the future from coming forward," Tygart lamented.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2016, with the headline 'Russia welcome Rio reprieve'. Print Edition | Subscribe