Russia's bid to avert blanket ban for games

Putin, Gorbachev at forefront of concerted campaign to allow clean athletes to compete

MOSCOW • Russian leaders on Friday made a last-ditch bid to avoid a blanket ban at the Rio Games over state-run doping as a fresh batch of drug test failures from Beijing 2008 and London 2012 rocked the Olympics.

However, as Russia launched a desperate rearguard action, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced it is seeking a suspension which would sideline the Russians from the Paralympics in Rio in September.

The IOC's executive board will hold a conference call today to discuss barring Russia from the Olympics, starting on Aug 5, over bombshell doping revelations.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Thursday rejected an appeal by Russia's track and field team against their suspension, in a decision seen as a key indicator as the IOC debates whether to kick out the whole Russian team.

Russia is a sporting powerhouse whose absence from Rio would create the biggest crisis in decades for the Olympic movement and President Vladimir Putin launched a final push to avert a ban.

PERSONAL INTERVENTION

For me the principle of collective punishment is unacceptable.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV , the last Soviet Union leader, in a letter that urged IOC president Thomas Bach to spare clean athletes

"The official position of the Russian authorities - the government, the President and all of us - is that in sport there is not and can be no place for doping," Putin told government ministers.

The Kremlin strongman ordered officials to cooperate with the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency and Russia's Olympic committee to establish an anti-doping commission.

He also picked an 81-year-old former national Olympic committee chief, Vitaly Smirnov, to head the new commission.

The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, also intervened, urging IOC president Thomas Bach to spare clean athletes in a letter released by Match TV sports channel.

"For me the principle of collective punishment is unacceptable," wrote 85-year-old Gorbachev, asking Bach to make a "just decision".

Meanwhile, the IPC said that, in light of last week's McLaren report, it expected to announce a decision on whether or not it will suspend Russia in the week commencing Aug 1.

The IPC said it has been provided with the names of the Paralympic athletes associated with the 35 "disappearing positive samples" from the Moscow anti-doping laboratory which were highlighted in McLaren's report.

It is also sending 19 samples from the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi for further analysis, after they were identified as having been potentially doctored as part of a sample-swopping regime.

The Paralympics take place in Rio from Sept 7 to 18.

"The McLaren report revealed an unimaginable scale of institutionalised doping in Russian sport that was orchestrated at the highest level. McLaren's findings are of serious concern for everyone committed to clean and honest sport," said Philip Craven, the IPC president. "With regard to NPC Russia, we have started proceedings to consider the suspension of their membership of the IPC."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 24, 2016, with the headline 'Russia's bid to avert blanket ban for games'. Print Edition | Subscribe