Spare clean athletes from country bans: Olympians Association

LAUSANNE • The World Olympians Association (WOA) has called blanket bans on competitors from doping-tainted nations "unjust".

It has also called for urgent action to ensure that clean athletes are allowed to participate in major sporting events.

The Russian Athletics Federation (Araf) was suspended last month following a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency's (Wada) independent commission that exposed widespread and systematic state-sponsored doping and related corruption.

Russian athletes are therefore set to miss the world indoor athletics championships in the United States in March and face a race against time to be cleared to compete at the Rio Olympics in August.

The WOA, without mentioning Russia specifically, released a statement that supported the rights of clean athletes.

"We believe banning clean athletes is unjust and that sport and its many fans will ultimately pay the price as they will miss the opportunity to see their clean heroes compete at the highest level," WOA president Joel Bouzou said in a statement on the body's website.

"The individual rights of clean athletes should also be respected, as well as their right to train and to continue competing in the sport that they love.

"One thing is clear. An urgent solution is needed for athletes who are seeking to qualify for and participate in major events allowing them to train, prepare and compete with certainty."

The WOA was established by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1994 to represent those sportsmen who have competed at the Games.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last Friday published a long and detailed list of criteria that the Russians must satisfy before the ban imposed on them is lifted.

Bouzou accepted that athletes, officials and doctors who cheat should be sanctioned.

However, he has also suggested that athletes from banned countries - who have clean doping records - could undergo "extraordinary testing sessions" to allow them to compete.

The Frenchman, a four-time Olympian in modern pentathlon, also said the WOA supported the IOC's proposal for Wada to run independent dope testing on behalf of the sports federations and national olympic committees in the future.

Overall, however, his main concern was to ensure that athletes who have never been found guilty of wrongdoing would not suffer for the offences of others.

"It is not only the rights and reputations of athletes at stake but also their ability to act as role models, inspiring young people and encouraging the next generation to take up sport," Bouzou said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline 'Spare clean athletes from country bans: Olympians Association'. Print Edition | Subscribe