Olympics: IOC rejects criticism over handling of Russia doping

International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach has rejected criticism of his handling of the Russia drugs scandal, taking a thinly veiled jab at the World Anti-Doping Agency’s reaction.
International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach has rejected criticism of his handling of the Russia drugs scandal, taking a thinly veiled jab at the World Anti-Doping Agency’s reaction. PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach on Sunday rejected criticism of his handling of the Russia drugs scandal, taking a thinly veiled jab at the World Anti-Doping Agency's reaction.

The bombshell publication of a WADA-commissioned report this month which detailed a vast state-backed Russian scheme to evade drug-testers, left the IOC scrambling to formulate a policy for Russian athletes aiming to complete in Rio de Janeiro.

In reaction to the report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, the IOC did not order a blanket ban on Russian participation in Rio, instead leaving individual sports federations to determine which Russian athletes could take part.

The composition of the Russian team in Brazil is still unconfirmed just five days from the opening ceremony, with three swimmers making emergency appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

IOC president Bach rejected suggestions at a press conference that the IOC was to blame for the legal imbroglio.

Asked if he felt the saga represented a "huge failure" of the IOC, Bach replied tersely: "No. And this is for very obvious reasons. The IOC is not responsible for the timing of the McLaren report.

"The IOC is not responsible for the fact that different information which was offered to WADA ready a couple of years ago was not followed up." WADA has faced criticism that it dragged its feet when first presented with evidence of Russian doping by whistleblower Vitaly Stepanov. Stepanov says he first began passing information to WADA in 2010.

WADA has said it did not have the power to act on the information and insisted that its priority was to protect Stepanov and his wife Yulia Stepanova, who are now living in hiding in the United States.

Bach meanwhile added the IOC had no responsibility for overseeing the accreditation or supervision of anti-doping laboratories, which falls under WADA's remit.

"So therefore the IOC cannot be made responsible neither for the timing nor for the reasons of these incidents we have to face now and which we are addressing and have to address just a couple of days before the Olympic games," Bach said.