A complete ban for Russia would make a statement | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 18.07.2016
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A complete ban for Russia would make a statement

Doping, along with match-fixing, is the biggest scourge in sport. To combat it, authorities need to be bold against Russia but the IOC faces a series of obstacles to an outright Rio ban, DW's Mark Meadows says.

In truth, nothing will make doping go away altogether but a total ban on Russia competing in the Rio Games would send the strongest possible signal to any other nation contemplating a state-run doping program.

Richard McLaren’s report says the Russian state was complicit in doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. It did not hint at it, it was damning in its proof.

The report author went to extreme lengths to double check that bottles of urine had been tampered with. From a random selection of samples, he said "100 percent of the bottles had been scratched" but it would "not have been visible to the untrained eye". It was a clear indication of foul play for McLaren.

This suggests that the world of sport is looking at its greatest ever doping scandal and anything other than an outright Russian ban at Rio would be seen by many clean athletes, fans and pundits as an indictment of how weak the authorities are in truly fighting doping.

Even the World Anti-Doping Agency said it wants a blanket ban to be considered.

The problem is that the International Olympic Committee's own rules make an outright ban difficult to enforce.

IOC President Thomas Bach has previously inferred that each individual sport's governing body has to make the call, as in the case of athletics when the IAAF already made a ruling banning Russian track and field athletes from Rio after a separate WADA probe.

Even now, Russian track and field athletes who prove they are clean can still make the plane to Brazil. There is confusion about the process involved in selecting clean athletes and what flag they will compete under, and this is all just in one sport.

If the ban was extended to all 28 sports, that is a lot of governing bodies who have to get involved and a lot of individual Russian competitors to sift through.

Rio Games start on August 5

The problem for the IOC is time. The Rio Games start on August 5 and Russian sportsmen and women are already in their final phase of preparation, as are the organizers who have planned for Russians to compete.

To rejig all the start lists now, possibly inviting athletes from other nations who previously thought they had not qualified, is a mammoth task.

Another issue for the IOC is the threat of litigation. Russia is already appealing the track and field ban with the Court of Arbitration for Sport due to rule this week. But if a blanket ban is somehow enforced, Russia will no doubt appeal again, leaving everything up in the air just days before the Games start.

There is also the political element. Russia is one of the biggest sporting nations on Earth. Banning the entire nation from the Games will infuriate President Vladimir Putin despite his attempts to sound conciliatory.

On the one hand he says “there is no place for doping in sport” and officials involved will be suspended, but on the other hand he says the evidence is based on the testimony of one man (former Russian anti-doping head Grigory Rodchenkov) and that the Olympic movement could see a split because of the scandal.

IOC President Bach will not want a splintering and face the sort of crisis the Olympics witnessed in the 1980s when the Soviet Union and the United States boycotted each others’ Games in Moscow and Los Angeles, leading other nations to pull out too.

Schweiz IOC - PK in Lausanne - Präsident Thomas Bach

IOC President Thomas Bach has a big decision to make

Bach must find a way of living up to the IOC’s aim of implementing “the toughest sanctions” available while also not alienating Putin entirely.

It is not an easy task and Bach will hope for support from other leading sporting institutions such as soccer’s FIFA.

Beset by its own corruption problems, FIFA is facing renewed calls to strip Russia of the 2018 World Cup because of the doping storm. There is already an investigation ongoing into whether Russia bought the votes to host the tournament, something Moscow has always denied.

Bach has acknowledged he is close to Putin and said earlier this month: "The fact is we have of course worked very well together with Russia and Mr. Putin in the preparation and the organization of the Winter Olympics."

He indicated in that interview with German news outlets that an outright ban for Russia would be unfair given it was a Winter Games issue and could not be extrapolated to the Summer version.

But with the Olympics’ showcase sport athletics already seeing Russians banned for Rio, and with WADA weighing in so heavily, Bach may end up with no choice.

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