Rio Olympics 2016: 2 days to go

IOC steered clear of Rio 'nuclear option'

Bach rejects criticism over Russia decision, says clean athletes are not collateral damage

RIO DE JANEIRO • A blanket ban on Russia at the Rio de Janeiro Games would have had devastating consequences, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said yesterday.

The IOC opted not to ban all Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics starting on Friday, after revelations of a wide state-backed doping programme across many sports.

Instead, it chose a set of criteria for athletes to meet, including a clean doping past and sufficient testing at international events, that so far has allowed more than 250 out of the original 387 Russian athletes to be cleared for Rio.

Bach, speaking at the IOC session in the Brazilian city, said preventing clean athletes from competing and treating them as "collateral damage" would have been wrong.

"This blanket ban of the Russian Olympic Committee has been called by some the 'nuclear option' and the innocent athletes would have to be considered as collateral damage," he said.

"Leaving aside that such a comparison is completely out of any proportion when it comes to the rules of sport, let us just for a moment consider the consequences of a 'nuclear option'. The result is death and devastation.

"The cynical 'collateral damage approach' is not what the Olympic movement stands for."


What is not acceptable is the insinuation (by) some proponents of the blanket ban that those who do not share their opinions are not fighting against doping.

THOMAS BACH, IOC president, slamming critics who claim that the body is not coming down hard enough on drug cheats.

Several anti-doping bodies, including the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) as well as those from the United States, Canada and Germany, among others, had called on the IOC to implement a blanket ban on all Russian athletes.

They expressed disappointment following the IOC's decision to allow some Russians to compete and accused the Games' ruling body of lacking the leadership and courage to punish Russia.

"What is not acceptable is the insinuation (by) some proponents of the blanket ban that those who do not share their opinions are not fighting against doping," Bach said. "On behalf of all these supporters I reject this insinuation in the strongest terms.

"We may disagree (on) how we get there but we all work towards the same goal of protecting clean athletes. Despite these discrepancies, we agree we must not allow such a situation to happen again."

The IOC chief said the uncovering of Russia's widespread doping had shown up deficiencies in the system run by Wada and it needed complete restructuring.

"Recent developments have shown that we need a full review of the Wada anti-doping system," he said. "The IOC is calling for a more robust and efficient anti-doping system.

"This requires clear responsibilities, more transparency, more independence and better worldwide harmonisation."

On Monday, tensions over the Russian doping scandal spilt over into a war of words between Bach and the president of Wada, Craig Reedie.

The IOC president had complained about the timing of a bombshell report into Russia's doping conspiracy and suggested that the agency had overlooked information provided to it more than two years ago.

The report, by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, caused a crisis for the IOC in the lead-up to the Rio Olympics and a three-person panel will work up until the opening ceremony on Friday to decide which Russian athletes will be eligible to compete.

Reedie has accepted that the report was "destabilising" to sports but insisted that Wada had acted as quickly as possible - it was only in May that the disclosures of organised cover-ups at the Sochi Winter Olympics were made public.

"Wada's executive committee supported Professor McLaren's independent mandate, which was to obtain evidence as quickly as possible in the interest of clean athletes," he said.

"While it is destabilising in the lead-up to the Games, it is obvious, given the seriousness of the revelations that he uncovered, that they had to be published and acted upon without delay."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2016, with the headline 'IOC steered clear of Rio 'nuclear option''. Print Edition | Subscribe