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Olympic chiefs' decision not to ban Russia from Rio Games is blasted

By Matt Slater

Published 25/07/2016

No go: Yuliya Stepanova has been banned from the Games by the IOC despite getting the nod from the IAAF
No go: Yuliya Stepanova has been banned from the Games by the IOC despite getting the nod from the IAAF

The International Olympic Committee's refusal to ban Russia from the Rio Games was widely condemned yesterday.

Despite calls for Russia to be thrown out of the Games for running a state-directed doping programme, the IOC's executive board opted against a blanket ban and asked each sport to vet proposed Russian competitors individually.

Under-fire IOC President Thomas Bach announced the result of his board's emergency meeting in a hastily-arranged teleconference. It was swiftly criticised by United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief executive Travis Tygart, who said the IOC had missed a chance to assert its leadership and left behind "a confusing mess".

Canadian Dick Pound, the former President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), said on that the IOC had a "huge opportunity to make a statement" which had been "squandered".

The United Kingdom's sports minister Tracey Crouch said that "the scale of the evidence in the McLaren report arguably pointed to the need for stronger sanctions rather than leaving it to the international federations at this late stage".

Athletics, the Olympics' largest sport, has already vetted Russian competitors, with only one US-based Russian now likely to take part in Rio's track and field programme.

But Tygart, who led the investigation that brought down disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, believes the IOC should be taking responsibility for clean sport.

"Disappointingly, in response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership," said Tygart.

"The decision regarding Russian participation and the confusing mess left in its wake is a significant blow to the rights of clean athletes."

With Rio's opening ceremony less than two weeks away, the IOC's decision means each sport will have to make an "individual analysis" of every Russian competitor, which will then be subject to approval by an "independent arbitrator" from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The International Tennis Federation has already said the players nominated for Rio by the Russian Olympic Committee have been subject to a total of 205 blood and urine tests since 2014, and will be allowed to play.

Cycling's world governing body may follow suit.

In defence of his board's decision, Bach said: "We have reversed the presumption of innocence for Russian athletes, making them assume collective responsibility.

"But natural justice requires that individuals have the chance to rebut this reversal."

But Bach, a trained lawyer, has perhaps created more uncertainty with the decision to block Russia from proposing any athlete who has served a ban before.

One athlete who may consider fighting the 'double punishment' is 800m runner Yuliya Stepanova, one of only two Russians to be cleared to compete by the IAAF who finds herself banned again by the IOC.

Stepanova and her anti-doping expert husband, who were forced to flee Russia and live in the US, were the first two whistle-blowers about the cheating, but she has served a two-year doping ban.

Tygart said: "The decision to refuse her entry will deter whistle-blowers coming forward."

For Russia, the IOC's compromise was probably the best they could have hoped for.

"The IOC showed a balanced approach," Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said. "An objective decision has been made - it's a just and fair decision and we hope every federation will take the same kind of decision."

Belfast Telegraph

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