Russian athletes face ban from Rio Olympics

Putin with sportsmen, on the first anniversary of the Sochi Winter Olympics. [The Kremlin]

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) yesterday (18 July) recommended that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee should consider banning all athletes entered by the Russian Olympic Committee for next month’s Rio Olympics.

WADA was responding to a damning independent report produced by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren and published on Monday that revealed evidence of widespread state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

WADA made seven recommendations after the report was published, including one that Russian government officials be denied access to international competitions, including Rio 2016.

Among the other recommendations, WADA said international federations from sports implicated in the report consider action against Russian national bodies and that McLaren and his team complete their mandate provided WADA can secure funding.

“Shamefully, the McLaren Report corroborates the allegations, exposing a modus operandi of serious manipulation of the doping control process in the satellite laboratory set up in Sochi for the 2014 Games; and, the Moscow laboratory since 2011 and after the Sochi Games,” WADA president Sir Craig Reedie in a statement.

“Not only does the evidence implicate the Russian Ministry of Sport in running a doping system that’s sole aim was to subvert the doping control process, it also states that there was active participation and assistance of the Federal Security Service and the Centre of Sports Preparation of National Teams of Russia.”

The WADA-backed independent report confirmed allegations made by former Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory head Grigory Rodchenkov, who two months ago told the New York Times that dozens of Russians used performance-enhancing drugs in Sochi with approval from national sports authorities.

The report said Russia’s Sports Ministry had overseen the manipulation of athletes’ analytical results for years before Sochi.

In Sochi itself, where international observers were scrutinising the drug tests, positive results could not simply be brushed away, so a system of sample-swapping was put in place with the help of the FSB intelligence service, the report said.

A ‘politically motivated’ report?

Russia President Putin saw the report as politically motivated.

“Now we are witnessing a dangerous relapse of politics’ interference into sports”, Putin said. He continued: “Yes, formats of such interference have changed but its essence is the same – to make sports an instrument of geopolitical pressure, of forming a negative image of countries and nations. The Olympic movement which is playing a colossal uniting role for the humankind may once again be driven to the brink of a split”, the Russian president said.

Putin also said that the accusations against Russian athletes were based on the testimony of one person [Grigory Rodchenkov], whom he called “a man with a scandalous reputation”.

Putin said last November that Russia needed to conduct its own investigation into allegations its athletes had systematically taken performance-enhancing substances.

Putin seeks way out doping scandal

President Vladimir Putin said yesterday (11 November) that Russia needed to conduct its own investigation into allegations its athletes had systematically taken performance-enhancing substances.

Thomas Bach, the president of IOC, reacted to the report, calling Russia’s actions a “shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sports and on the Olympic Games.”

The IOC will meet today (19 July) to discuss a punishment for the Russian Olympic team. It says it will study the report and “not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organization.”

Several anti-doping agencies, including those of the United States and Canada, called on Saturday for a complete ban on Russia competing at this year’s Rio Olympics if the report’s findings were damning.

Russian gymnasts must be allowed to compete in the Olympic Games and not tarred with the same brush as the country’s banned track and field athletes, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) said on Monday.

“FIG is concerned about the increasing number of officials asking for a blanket ban of Russian athletes to participate at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Rio,” the sport’s governing body said in a statement.

“Whilst FIG fully supports the IOC’s policy of “Zero Tolerance in Doping”, it strongly feels that not all Russian athletes of all sports should be banned and found guilty for actions in other sports and federations.”

Russia hosted the Sochi Winter Olympics from 6-23 February 2014 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. In the run-up to the Sochi games a number of controversies broke out, including allegations of corruption leading to the severe cost overruns, along with concerns from politicians and athletes over the effects of Russia’s ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” during the Games.

EPP leader calls for ‘political boycott’ of the Sochi games

Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a vice-president of the European People's Party and president of the EPP group in the European Parliament, has called for a “political boycott” of the Sochi Olympics.

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