KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTS: Yulia Stepanova, the Russian doping whistleblower, should now be cleared to run at the Olympic Games after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Thomas Bach’s ideas of ‘natural justice’ are not all he purports them to be.
Two weeks ago the president of the International Olympic Committee and his executive board decided on a strategy of devolution rather than expulsion for Russia’s would-be Olympians. Participation decisions were left to the international federations, subject to subsequent vetting by first a CAS panel and then by an IOC sub-committee.
However, Bach and his board also ruled that, as an additional punishment, any Russian who had served a dope-cheat ban in the past should be barred from the Rio Games, even if approved under the devolution process.
Bach is a lawyer so how he could present this with a straight face and then continue to defend it, while spouting the IOC’s respect for ‘natural justice’ was, has been and continues to be, baffling.
Firstly, it is plain and simple discrimination which clearly runs contrary to ‘natural justice.’ Secondly, it took no account of how CAS, before London 2012, had outlawed the now-notorious Osaka Rule which had sought to impose precisely that bar and was judged to be double jeopardy (punishing someone twice for the same offence).
Yesterday the special court set up in Rio de Janeiro by CAS reiterated the illegality of double jeopardy in the cases of Russian rowers Anastasia Karabelshikova and Ivan Podshivalov as well as swimmer Yulia Efimova.
CAS said it “noted the clear and correct references to the rules of natural justice” in the suspension rulings but this was undermined by the IOC’s refusal “to provide the athletes with an opportunity to rebut the presumption of guilt and to recognise the right to natural justice.”
In other words, the view of ‘natural justice’ presented by Bach and his board did not tally with the interpretation by the CAS panel whose supremacy in such matters Bach is always at stated pains to respect.
Stepanova had served a doping ban before returning to the track and then turning whistleblower. She is a self-declared refugee, for obvious reasons, and had hoped to compete in Rio even though, in the circumstances, mere participation itself would have been her likely only victory.
That was denied her by Bach and the IOC. Now CAS has made the IOC’s right to deny her a place on the start line indefensible.
Bach could rescue some respect for himself among critics – and he has acknowledged the strength of argument and feelings on both sides of the doping divide – by letting Stepanova run.
Both natural justice and real justice as delivered by CAS demand it. If Bach respects both versions of justice, as the president of the IOC surey must, then he should see to it.
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