Russia bids to avoid Rio ban as IOC reports new test failures
Moscow, July 22
Russia on Friday made a last-ditch bid to avoid a blanket ban at the Rio Games over state-run doping as a fresh batch of drug test failures from Beijing 2008 and London 2012 rocked the Olympics.
The IOC’s executive board are to hold a conference call on Sunday to discuss barring Russia from the Olympics starting on August 5 over bombshell doping revelations. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Thursday rejected an appeal by Russia’s track and field team against their suspension from Rio in a decision seen as a key indicator as the IOC debates whether to kick out the whole Russian team.
Russia is a sporting powerhouse whose absence from Rio would create the biggest crisis in decades for the Olympic movement and President Vladimir Putin launched a final push to avert a ban. “The official position of the Russian authorities — the government, the president and all of us — is that in sport there is not and can be no place for doping,” Putin told government ministers.
The Kremlin strongman ordered officials to cooperate with the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency and Russia’s Olympic committee to establish an anti-doping commission. Against the backdrop of the current doping scandal engulfing Russia the IOC reported separately on Friday 45 new doping failures from the last two Games, bringing the total number of positive drug tests to 98 since a retesting programme was launched.
The IOC has reanalysed more than 1,200 samples, with the emphasis on medal winners, in a bid to clean up the Olympics’ reputation. It said it was not able to identify the athletes concerned or their nationalities for legal reasons but said 30 positives came back from Beijing, including for 23 medal winners, and 15 from London. The IOC is facing international pressure to act tough on Russia and ban the entire team over incendiary revelations of a state-run doping system that has seen the country cheat its way to victory.
Fourteen national anti-doping agencies including the United States, Canada and Germany sent a joint letter to IOC President Thomas Bach on Thursday urging him to ban Russia from Rio. Officials in Moscow have slammed the decision by CAS to reject its appeal against a ban from the world athletics body IAAF, calling it part of a broader political campaign by the West against Russia.
The suspension of the track and field team already means that star athletes like pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and hurdler Sergey Shubenkov will not be in Rio. Isinbayeva — who has threatened to call time on her career over the ban — slammed the CAS ruling as a “funeral for athletics.” Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko — who has clung on despite the scandal — said Moscow now hopes the IOC will defer to individual international sporting federations to decide whether other Russian squads can compete.
The CAS ruling has been the focus of Olympic attention since an independent WADA report this week said Russia ran a “state-dictated failsafe system” of drug cheating in 30 sports at the 2014 Sochi Games and other major events. But Russia has found support from some international sports bodies, with the International Judo Federation (IJF) insisting all clean athletes should be allowed to take part in Rio.
Individual Russian sports federations said they were now looking nervously ahead for the IOC to make its next move. “We’re all in suspense waiting for the IOC decision,” wrestling federation president Mikhail Mamiashvili told AFP. “I hope that the common sense and personal responsibility of those who will take the decision will prevail.” The IAAF banned all of the Russian track and field team over allegations of state-sponsored doping but said athletes who prove they were not tainted by their country’s corrupt system could be cleared. The IAAF has only given permission for one Russian team member to compete in Rio as a neutral: US-based long jumper Darya Klishina.
The IOC has appeared to back the principle that international sporting federations could clear individual athletes in case of a blanket ban but with just two weeks to go until Rio, time is slipping away. The Russian press had widely predicted that CAS would decide against Moscow and reaction was a mixture of soul-searching and criticism over systemic failings. “Alas, everything that is happening with our sports is the fruit of our own errors,” a column in the usually pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda said, citing years of mismanagement. “It is far from certain that even the current apocalyptic storm will force us to change our sport. Maybe only if the IOC buries our team on Sunday.”