RIO2016: Russian Track and Field Banned from Olympic Competition Amid Doping Scandal

July 20, 2016

New York Times: The International Olympic Committee, under fierce pressure to respond aggressively to a doping scheme that corrupted the results of the past two Olympics, said Tuesday that it was considering legal options to discipline Russian athletes ahead of the coming Games in Rio de Janeiro and had appointed a five-person disciplinary commission.


The announcement was made after an urgent meeting of the organization’s top leaders. Some were gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the I.O.C. is headquartered, while others from around the world were on the phone. Their announcement, which could ultimately lead to gaping holes throughout the competitions in Rio, reflected a struggle to preserve the integrity of one of the sports world’s most prestigious events.


Russia’s track and field team was barred from Rio by the sport’s governing body last month, a decision supported by the I.O.C. and challenged by Russia with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. That hearing was taking place in Lausanne on Tuesday, at the same time that I.O.C. officials met. Olympic officials indicated they were awaiting a ruling in that case, expected on Thursday, before announcing further action.


The court’s decision about the legality of the ban on Russia’s track team could heavily influence what action Olympic officials take. The ban left, in the words of track officials, a “narrow crack in the door” for athletes who could prove they had been subjected to rigorous drug testing outside Russia to petition to compete.


As of Monday, the day that Olympic rosters were to be finalized, that hurdle had been cleared by two Russian athletes, both of whom had been living in the United States.

In its statement, the I.O.C. said it would “explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the right to individual justice.”


The statement also said the federations that govern individual sports should begin determining the eligibility of Russian athletes while the I.O.C. considered its options.


The report by Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer commissioned by WADA, confirmed “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Russia was involved in an elaborate doping scheme that stretched beyond the Sochi Games.



The case against Russia was dramatically bolstered Monday when a report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency was released. Pointing to forensic evidence, it confirmed a Russian whistle-blower’s claims of government-ordered cheating at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The report detailed further state-sponsored doping that dated back years and extended across the spectrum of sports, affecting results of both the Winter and Summer Games.


World antidoping officials urged Olympic officials to bar Russia from Rio after the release of the report, the product of a two-month investigation into the claims of Russia’s longtime antidoping lab chief.


“There ought to be a message that a state can’t do this and then show up at the Olympics,” Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said this week.


In response, Russia said that such activism was politically motivated. President Vladimir V. Putin released a statement Monday, hours after the Sochi report was published, suggesting that the claims had been made “to make sports an instrument of geopolitical pressure — to formulate a negative image” of Russia.


While the disciplinary commission examines the situation, the I.O.C. announced provisional measures. No official of Russia’s Ministry of Sport will be allowed at the Rio Games, the I.O.C. said. That will extend to Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister, who is also an executive of FIFA, global soccer’s governing body.


Perhaps most stinging of all, “the I.O.C. will not organize or give patronage to any sports event or meeting in Russia,” the committee said, calling for winter sports federations to “freeze their preparations for major events in Russia” and to “actively look for other organizers.”


Among the events Russia is set to host next year are the bobsled and skeleton world championships in Sochi. The federation for those sports did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Russia is also preparing to host the next World Cup of soccer, one of the biggest sporting events in the world, in 2018. Responding Tuesday to the I.O.C. announcement, a spokeswoman for FIFA emphasized that the I.O.C. had directed its advice only to winter sports.


(The Sochi investigation, however, concluded that evidence of government-sponsored Russian doping extended to summer sports, including soccer; FIFA said it had requested information on the violations investigators had uncovered.)


“FIFA is currently in full preparation for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia,” the spokeswoman wrote, “and is convinced they will be successful events.”


Asked last week in Moscow if he had received particular support from sports officials amid the allegations against his administration, Mr. Mutko named Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA.


The provisional measures the I.O.C. announced will be in effect until the end of the year, the statement said.


The decision about Russian athletes’ eligibility for Rio, however, has a more urgent timetable: The Games are set to open on Aug. 5.


Although antidoping authorities like Mr. Tygart have lobbied for a blanket ban on Russia’s Olympic Committee, which was implicated in the elaborate doping program detailed in this week’s report, the I.O.C. has the option of deferring to individual sports’ governing bodies to make decisions about Russian athletes.


The Summer Olympics involve 28 sports federations — including track and field’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, which already disciplined Russia. Some of those organizations have small staffs and little expertise in adjudicating doping offenses, which would require clear guidelines from Olympic and antidoping officials to ensure that uniform standards were applied across sports.


From the New York Times

A version of this article appears in print on July 20, 2016, on page B8 of the New York edition with the headline: Olympic Officials Hold Off on a Ban of All Russians.



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