IOC, IAAF disagree over Russian athletes' representation

LAUSANNE • A row between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) is brewing after it emerged that Russian track and field athletes may be allowed to compete under their country's flag at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

IOC president Thomas Bach has insisted that Russian athletes who compete in Brazil will do so under the Russian banner.

That contradicts the sanction imposed by the IAAF, athletics' ruling body, which banned Russia's track and field team from taking part but said that it may allow a handful of Russian athletes, who have been based abroad and subject to international drug-testing, to compete under a neutral banner.

Bach, however, said an emergency summit meeting on doping, involving all sports, had decided on Tuesday that any Russians who compete in Rio will do so under the Russian Olympic Committee.

"When it comes to the Olympic Games, all athletes then are part of the team of the Russian Olympic Committee," he said.

In response, the IAAF said that it will continue to push strongly for the ban and the neutrality ruling to be applied, stating: "The IAAF will now work with the IOC to ensure the decision is respected and implemented in full."

Bach also addressed problems with global anti-doping efforts, which are led by officials from his own organisation.

Tacitly acknowledging that the current structure is rife with conflicts, he ordered a complete rethinking of it.

"We want to make the anti-doping system independent from sports organisations," he said. "The anti-doping system has some deficiencies."

A New York Times investigation this month found that the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) was hampered by politics and possible conflicts of interest.

For years, the agency's leadership failed to pursue allegations of widespread cheating in Russia.

Many within Wada had differing views on the organisation's core purpose, with some seeing it as more of a passive coordinator than a pro-active policing authority.

The organisation is jointly funded by national governments and sports organisations, including the IOC. Its decision-makers are government and Olympic officials, people who might not be inclined to reveal doping transgressions that could mar the integrity of the games or discredit athletes from their own countries.

Meanwhile, a handwritten note has emerged from Wada president Craig Reedie to Sergey Bubka, the IAAF vice-president, talking about a programme on doping screened by the German broadcaster ARD.

The note, which has been published by the BBC, ends: "Hope no more damage will be done. Craig."

A Wada spokesman said: "This certainly was not meant to imply in any way that the Wada president wouldn't want doping issues to be exposed."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'IOC, IAAF disagree over Russian athletes' representation'. Subscribe