IOC endorses ban on Russian athletes from Rio Olympics

IOC endorses ban on Russian athletes from Rio Olympics
IOC decision leaves door open for clean athletes to compete.
By bne IntelliNews June 21, 2016

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has backed the ruling of world athletics chiefs to ban Russia's track and field team from the summer Games in Brazil, IOC head Thomas Bach said after the top Olympic governing body met in Lausanne on June 21 to discuss persistent doping scandals plaguing the country.

But the committee also left an avenue of hope open for athletes untainted by accusations or convictions of doping with banned substances.

"The summit does not take decisions, it can only give directions for further work," Bach said. "At the same time, the IOC respects, endorses and fully supports the decision of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) Council not to lift suspension of the All-Russia Athletics Federation," he added. 

Russian athletes not involved in doping scandals can participate in the Olympic Games in Rio after the approval of their nominations by international sports federations, Bach said. 

Therefore, the IOC decided not to suspend the entire Russian team from the Games. However, the IAAF should decide on the admission of Russian athletes on an individual basis. 

"Russian athletes admitted to the Games will participate as members of the Russian team, of the Russian Olympic Committee," Bach said, noting that all members of the national team involved in doping cases, including the coaches and doctors, will not be admitted.  

On June 17, the IAAF decided not to lift the suspension it imposed last November after the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) commission recommended that the All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) be suspended from competition. More than 4,000 Russian track and field athletes were barred from major international events since then. 

Meanwhile, ARAF is considering the possibility of filing a lawsuit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne to challenge the ban. Some athletes, including the two-time Olympic champion in pole vaulting Yelena Isinbayeva, said they will file the individual appeals.

On June 15, the New York Times published a story titled "Let Me Compete in Rio", in which Isinbayeva urged the commission to permit her to participate in the Olympics. "I understand that the IAAF has to take strong action to eradicate doping, but I think it is not fair to forbid me or other clean Russian athletes from competing," the athlete wrote.

Russia was represented at the Lausanne summit by the President of the National Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov. He warned that the decision to take "collective responsibility" for the use of doping could lead to the "destruction of the Olympic Movement".

"We believe that CAS will make an objective, fair and lawful decision, despite the public stance of its president," said Zhukov.

Russian sporting chiefs have fluctuated in recent weeks between statements acknowledging the problem and the need to address it, to asserting like Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko that the doping problem in Russia was "no worse" than elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin rejected as "absolute slander" accusations by WADA that Russia's doping problem was "state supported".

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has a black belt in judo and takes exceptional pride in Russia's sporting accomplishments, ordered an investigation into claims that authorities ignored the issue for years, including during the 2012 London Olympics.