Russia clear to compete in Rio Olympics after ban call

Russia clear to compete in Rio Olympics after ban call
Russia's tricolor will fly in Rio.
By bne IntelliNews July 25, 2016

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has rejected calls for a blanket ban on Russia taking part in the Rio Olympics next month in the wake of widespread doping charges, and  allowed international sports federations to decide on the eligibility of individual athletes to compete.

But a separate ban on the country's track and field athletes remains in force, drawing strong protests from athletes who sought in vain to have their exclusion overturned.

The IOC decision on July 24 followed a call by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and 14 national anti-doping organisations for a full ban because of evidence found of state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

"I think in this way, we have balanced on the one hand, the desire and need for collective responsibility versus the right to individual justice of every individual athlete," IOC President Thomas Bach said on a conference call.

"In this way we are protecting the clean athletes because of the high criteria we set. This may not please everybody, but this result is one which is respecting the rules of justice and all the clean athletes all over the world."

However, Russian athletes previously caught in doping abuse will be banned even if their suspension term is expired, the IOC said in a statement.

The 31st summer Olympic Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil from August 5-21.

Wada officials said they were "disappointed" that their recommendation to ban Russia from the Games was rejected, while US sports authorities said the IOC had failed to show leadership.

"Many, including clean athletes and whistleblowers, have demonstrated courage and strength in confronting a culture of state-supported doping and corruption within Russia," the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief Travis Tygart said.

A ban on Russian track and field athletes was imposed late last year over a string of doping incidents. However, the push for a full national team ban follows the release on July 18 of a Wada report that accused Russia's sporting authorities and the FSB intelligence service of coordinated efforts to manage and conceal the use of banned drugs by athletes in 30 different sports.

Individual athletes in other disciplines can now still apply to take part in the upcoming Games, but IOC chief Bach, a former Olympic fencing champion, said Russian sportsmen and women "will have to clear the highest hurdle to take part in the Olympics".


Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko thanked the IOC for the decision to allow the national athletes to participate in the Games.

"The decision made by the IOC was weighted and, in this case, based on a report by an independent Wada commission. It is objective, adopted in the interests of the world sport and the unity of the Olympic family. We are grateful to the IOC for such a decision," R-Sport cited Mutko as saying on July 24.

"I'm grateful for common sense. We are all happy, the whole team is happy," the coach of Russian men's volleyball team Vladimir Alekno told the Zvezda TV channel, while players said they would accept a heightened testing regime if it meant they can compete.

"Over the last year I passed the doping tests three or four times, the last one was three days ago. We are controlled by international organisations," volleyball player Sergei Tetyukhin told the Match TV channel. "We have not yet been told how many doping tests as it was necessary to pass. If you we need to, we can take tests at the Olympics every day."

However, because of the decision to uphold the ban on Russian track and field athletes, the only one to be allowed to participate at the Olympics is long jumper Darya Klishina, who has been training in the United States over the past three years.

"Lawlessness and outrage"

"This is the end of our struggle for Rio," the now banned pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva wrote on Instagram. "I'll not get back on the highest step of the podium at the Olympics, or hear the Russian national anthem in my honour again," she added. "No one stood up for me and defended my rights. It is sad how helplessness we are against this lawlessness and outrage."

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and 68 athletes including Isinbayeva had attempted to overturn the track and field ban, imposed late last year by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) on July 21 ruled to uphold the suspension.

Wada said it stands by its call for a full ban and criticised the IOC for its decision. "It will inevitably lead to a lack of harmonization, potential challenges and lesser protection for clean athletes," said Wada director general Olivier Niggli.

Wada president Sir Craig Reedie said investigators had "exposed, beyond a reasonable doubt, a state-run doping program in Russia that seriously undermines the principles of clean sport embodied within the World Anti-Doping Code".

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the suspension of all Russian officials named in the Wada report pending an investigation into the charges. But he also expressed concern that the issue was becoming "politicised" .