KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- Russia has NOT been banned in its entirety from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next month though its track and field athletes will certainly be absent.
The executive board of the International Olympic Committee, in a meeting organised out of Lausanne, charged itself with producing a Judgment of Solomon which, as president Thomas Bach admitted in a massive understatement, “may not please everybody on either side.”
Individual international sports federations have been charged with ruling which Russian athletes may participate in their disciplines in Rio. They need to demonstrate an unblemished dope-test record ratified by the federation and then by the IOC on the advice of an independent arbitrator chosen by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
That process was described as “rigorous” by Bach but how it can be implemented effectively in less than two weeks from the Opening Ceremony was unexplained. Bach told a news conference that he thought most federations had already undertaken such ‘homework’.
The most exception is the International Association of Athletics Federation which had already decided to suspend Russia from all international competition and been vindicated last week by CAS.
Bach said that the ultimate decision was agreed by 14 members of the board with one abstention. The decision was welcomed by Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, doubtless with a massive sense of relief out of concern for what might have happened.
However, critics of the IOC flooded social media with derisory complaints that the IOC had “bottled” and “chickened out” of taking a blanket ban decision which would have sent a clear message to world sport about the sin of doping.
In a blow to all potential whistleblowers the IOC also ruled that whistleblower Yulia Stepanova was not eligible to compete under a neutral flag in Rio, as she had hoped.
Sir Craig Reedie, did not take part on the grounds that he also president of the World Anti-Doping Agency which generated the two reports which laid bare the length, breadth and depth of the Russian strategy of doping and cover-up.
Demands for the entire Russian team to be banned from the 2016 Olympics followed the revelations in a World Anti-Doping Agency report published on Monday by Canadian professor Richard McLaren alleging a state-organised doping and cover-up strategy operating across all major sports between 2011 and 2015.
Pressure for a blanket ban was issued simultaneously by anti-doping officials in the United States and Canada though this was opposed by a number of major Olympic sports’ international federations including judo and gymnastics.
The demand for a ban was seen in Moscow as supporting an objection by Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country was the victim of a geopolitical plot which risked a 1980s-style Olympic schism.
Subsequently the Russian Olympic Committee failed with an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the country’s international suspension by world athletics.
In the meantime the IOC’s executive board agreed to “carefully evaluate” its legal options surrounding a blanket ban of Russian athletes for the 2016 Olympics as well as withdrawing backing for any sports event or meeting in the country.
Bach and Co also agreed to launch disciplinary action against officials within the Russian Ministry of Sports and other persons mentioned in the in the McLaren Report because of violations of the Olympic Charter and the World Anti-Doping Code. These did not apparently include Vitaly Mutko, the Sports Minister.
Mutko is also centrally involved in the staging in Russia of the 2018 World Cup. He is head of the local organising committee and of the Russian football federation as well as being a member of the governing committees of world federation FIFA and European counterpart UEFA.
The Russian doping scandal erupted only after a German television documentary by investigative reporter Hajo Seppelt in 2014. That prompted the World Anti-Doping Agency to set up a investigation under former president Dick Pound which produced a shattering report about Russia’s state-led doping culture.
A ban on Russia by world athletics was followed by further damning revelations from former Moscow laboratory boss Grigory Rodchenkov about the length, depth and breadth of a doping-cover-up culture endorsed by the Sports Ministry and federal security bureau.
This led on to the WADA report from McLaren which sparked this past week’s round of crisis meetings.