LAUSANNE (REUTERS, AFP) - Russia will not face a blanket ban from the Rio Olympics, after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that it would be the responsibility of each sporting federation to check the doping records of Russian competitors under its jurisdiction.
The IOC has been under huge pressure to throw the country out of the Games after a second World Anti-Doping Agency-funded investigation found proof of a doping programme directed by the Russian state.
However, at its second emergency meeting in a week, the IOC's executive board opted against a collective sanction and asked all international sports federations affected by Russia's cheating to make their own judgments on eligibility against a set of strict criteria.
A statement from the IOC after the meeting said: "Entry (to the Rio Olympics) will be accepted by the IOC."
The announcement follows Wada's call for a Rio ban in response to an independent report that found evidence of widespread state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
It was feared that a complete ban would be such an unprecedented move that could spark the Olympic movement's worst crisis in decades.
According to an independent report from Wada, Russia's Sports Ministry directed a vast doping programme with support from the FSB intelligence agency.
More than 30 sports were affected by the cheating that went on during the 2014 Sochi Games and other major events, said the Wada report released last week by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren.
Wada, along with 14 national anti-doping agencies - including the United States, Canada and Germany - as well as multiple national Olympic committees, have urged the IOC to ban Russia from Rio.
With the Rio Games set to start on Aug 5, the IOC has taken every last agonising day before ruling on one of the toughest questions it has faced in recent history.
The key issue is whether the extent of the alleged cheating in Russia gives the IOC grounds to punish athletes with no positive drug tests on their record.
"We will have to take a very difficult decision," IOC president Bach said last week, addressing the ethical and legal tension "between a collective ban for all Russian athletes, and... the natural right to individual justice for every clean athlete in the world".
Officials in Moscow led by Russian President Vladimir Putin have vowed to help crack down on doping while voicing fierce opposition to the prospect of a blanket ban.
The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, also intervened: "For me, the principle of collective punishment is unacceptable," wrote the 85-year-old in a statement, asking Bach to make a "just decision".
Russia's entire track and field squad have already been banned from Rio by the International Association of Athletics Federation's, the sport's governing body, over an earlier Wada report which detailed "state-supported" doping.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week rejected an appeal by 67 Russian athletes against the IAAF ban.
The IOC has said it would study the CAS ruling closely as it tried to assess the legal basis for a collective national suspension.
Meanwhile, an ongoing IOC reanalysis of samples from Beijing 2008 and London 2012 revealed 45 new doping failures.
That took the total number of positive drug tests to 98 since a retesting programme was launched, underscoring the severity of the doping crisis within the Olympics.
If the IOC had banned Russia from Rio, it will be the first time a country has been excluded since 1988, when South Africa's IOC suspension over apartheid was still in force.
The most extensive set of national bans came at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, when a long list of World War I "aggressors" - including Germany, Austria, Turkey and Hungary - were told to stay away.
Multiple countries have boycotted Games, however, notably the United States at Moscow 1980, which preceded Russia's boycott of Los Angeles 1984.