LAUSANNE: Olympic president Thomas Bach has indicated in his new year message that, all being well, he intends to see the Russian doping scandal consigned to the past once the imminent Winter Games have been concluded writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Russian competitors accepted as clean can compete in PyeongChang next month under the ‘Olympic Athlete of Russia’ label after three years overshadowed by what Bach described as “an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport.”
Putting a positive face on events, the president of the International Olympic Committee said: “The [IOC] decision sanctions those responsible for the past violations while creating a path forward for the future. This proportional sanction could draw a line under this damaging episode.
“It was a difficult decision but it was a necessary one to ensure the integrity of the Olympic Games. If everyone draws the right conclusions, it could serve as a catalyst for a more robust anti-doping system under the leadership of WADA.”
He appeared to be suggesting that, for better or worse, the IOC intends happily to welcome Russia back into the full fold for the summer Games in Tokyo in 2020 – though the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Association of Athletics Federations may not be so easily persuaded.
The past year has seen the IOC sort out Olympic summer hosting for the foreseeable future with the awards of 2024 and 2028 to Paris and Los Angeles respectively though this was mentioned by Bach almost as an afterthought in his message.
The immediate concern focuses on South Korea and PyeongChang amid the uncertainty created by political tensions and uncertainties.
Bach trod traditional ground in asserting that “the Olympic Games must always be beyond all political division.”
He added: “The Olympic Games are about dialogue. They are a symbol of hope and peace. In our troubled times, they are the only event that bring the whole world together in peaceful competition.
“PyeongChang 2018 promises to be very successful and this will just be the beginning of an exciting Olympic year.”