LONDON • The International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s decision not to impose a blanket ban on Russia from the Rio Games over state-run doping left international sports leaders and athletes divided yesterday, less than two weeks before the opening ceremony.
There would have been little place for the IOC or its president Thomas Bach to hide with the brickbats they received, the IOC being described as "spineless" and Bach being labelled - among other things - "a Pontius Pilate figure".
Four-time Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent led a cacophony of British condemnation of the IOC decision.
Pinsent said the IOC performed a "hospital pass" on Sunday in asking sports federations to decide who from the Russian team could compete in Rio after the revelations of state-run doping directed from Moscow.
"IOC has passed the buck - pure and simple," wrote the 45-year-old Pinsent in The Times, while fellow rowing Olympic legend James Cracknell said the IOC "bottled it".
THEY DODGED THE ISSUE
IOC has passed the buck - pure and simple.
MATTHEW PINSENT, British four-time Olympic rowing champion.
THEY HELD FIRM UNDER PRESSURE
Doping is in all countries and there are violators everywhere. Why should we be singled out?
ALEKSANDER LESUN, Russia's modern pentathlon world champion.
THEY RETREATED WHEN IT MATTERED
In response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership.
TRAVIS TYGART, Usada chief.
Defending Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford, 29, also weighed in.
"(The IOC's decision) is a spineless attempt to appear as the nice guy to both sides," he told The Guardian.
Another athlete set to compete in Brazil, oarsman Andrew Triggs Hodge, wrote in The Times he would find it hard to believe that he would be competing against clean athletes in Rio.
"Thomas Bach, the IOC president, has shown extraordinarily weak leadership," wrote Triggs Hodge. "This was a moment in his career when he could define himself as an anti-doping champion. It needs someone of character, principle and mind to drive the IOC forward and he has completely neglected that."
Swimming's governing body Fina reacted quickly to ban seven Russian swimmers from competing at Rio, including Yulia Efimova, a bronze medallist at London in 2012.
Meanwhile, Russian athletes past and present have understandably spoken out in support of the IOC.
The three members of Russia's archery team for Rio were cleared to take part by the World Archery Federation (WA) yesterday.
The WA said Russia's Tuiana Dashidorzhieva, Ksenia Perova and Inna Stepanova, who formed last year's world championship-winning women's recurve team, met the requirements set down to guarantee their participation in Brazil.
It also supported the IOC's "courageous decision" against imposing a blanket ban on Russia, which it felt would have been unfair to clean Russian athletes.
World champion modern pentathlete Aleksander Lesun said: "Doping is in all countries and there are violators everywhere. Why should we be singled out?
"Thank God the grown-ups at the IOC made this decision and didn't collapse under pressure from the newspapers and everyone else."
The legendary Greco-Roman wrestler Alexander Karelin, who will reportedly be a member of the special anti-doping commission announced by President Vladimir Putin on Friday, said the IOC had made the "most elegant decision amid the clamour, tendentiousness, unprecedented pressure, desire of some national Olympic committees to remove an obvious contender for Olympic medals from the race by any means".
Sporting chiefs were as divided as the athletes in their stance.
United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) chief Travis Tygart - one of many who urged a total ban against Russia accused the IOC of creating "a confusing mess".
"In response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership," the Usada boss said in a statement.
"The fight against doping in sport requires strong international leadership, none more so in this case, where the integrity of an entire Olympic and Paralympic Games is at stake," added Australian Sports Minister Sussan Ley.
On the other hand, the Republic of Ireland's Pat Hickey, president of the European Olympic Committees, said the group completely supports the IOC decision which will enable the participation of only clean Russian athletes at Rio.
The Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) also backed the IOC, with ANOC president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah saying an all-out ban "would have unfairly punished many clean athletes".
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN