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No complete Russian Olympic ban

Ross Dunbar
July 24, 2016

Russian athletes have not been completely banned from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro by the International Olympic Committee. The final decision will rest with the international sporting federations.

Symbolbild Leichtathletik Russland Doping
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Eisele

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided not to impose a full suspension on Russia athletes participating at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Athletes from Russia will be allowed to compete, if they can demonstrate to their respective sporting federations that they are clean. However, any Russian competitors who have previously been sanctioned for doping offences will not be permitted to compete at the Rio Games, even if the sanction has been served, an official statement confirmed.

In a seperate case, considered by the IOC Ethics Commission, whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova, an 800m runner, who hoped to compete as a neutral after giving evidence, has been barred from Rio. Long-jumper Darya Klishina, based in the United States, is the only exception.

Russia is already subject to a blanket ban from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF); it is this sort of legislation that the IOC has now left to the discretion of other umbrella sports organizations, rather than moving to exclude Russia from the Games as a whole.

The decision from the IOC comes less than a week after a damning report on Russian doping commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which then called for an outright Russian ban upon seeing the McLaren Report's findings.

Canadian law professor Richard McLaren found that Russia conducted a state-sponsored doping program related not only to track and field, but to many other sports.

It claimed to have strong evidence that Russia's Sports Ministry covered up widespread doping at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, two years ago, with help from the FSB secret services formerly known as the KGB.

On Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the IAAF ban against Russia. The IOC had said that any ruling on a total ban would have to await this appeal's results; Russian athletes had argued that it was unfair to penalize them all when some might not have cheated.

Russland National Anti Doping Agency RUSADA
Decisions expected from international sporting federations soonImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Zemlianichenko

Germany, US criticize ruling

The anti-doping agencies of Germany (NADA) and the United States (USADA) reacted angrily at the IOC's decision.

Saying it was "disappointed" at the decision, NADA continued: "The NADA would have liked a clear message in favor of clean sports, which did not come today. Sadly the decision leaves many open questions and thereby weakens the anti-doping system."

NADA criticized plans to palm the decision off to individual sporting federations at such short notice. "There are no uniform rules for a consistent and consideread approach from all the international organizations. This will lead to a different approach from sport to sport," it continued, while USADA chief executive Travis Tygart accused the IOC of not taking decisive leadership on the matter.

Both agencies disagreed with the decision to suspend Stepanova from the Olympic Games. "In regard to Yuliya Stepanova, the decision to refuse her entry in to the Games is incomprehensible and contrary to CAS precedent. The attempt to enforce it will undoubtedly deter whistleblowers in the future from coming forward," said Tygart on behalf of USADA.

Meanwhile, Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, a close ally of president Vladimir Putin, has praised the IOC for its decision and claimed the majority of Russian athletes would meet the eligibility criteria in the coming days.

"It was objective and taken in the interests of world sport and the unity of the Olympic family. We are grateful to the IOC for such a decision," Mutko told R-Sport agency.

"As far as the criteria announced for the Russian team on the eve of the Olympic Games they are of course very tough," he added. "It is a specific challenge for our sportsmen but I am absolutely sure that the majority of the Russian team will meet the criteria."

ITF backs Russian stars

The world governing body for tennis (ITF) has given its backing to seven Russian athletes who are aiming to compete at the Olympics, which begin on August 5. Through an already stringent anti-doping program, the ITF said in an official statement that it had collected a total of 205 samples and believes that is sufficient grounds to meet the IOC's criteria.

Other sporting federations are expected to release details in the coming days. The IAAF, who suspended track and field athletes from competing, have offered to assist associations on the eligibility of Russian athletes.

"We have created and been through the process. We know how hard it is emotionally and rationally to get the process right," Coe said. "I have offered the help of the IAAF team to ASOIF (Association of Summer Olympic International Federations) and we continue to stand by to assist and offer advice to any international sports federations."

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