KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: If it had been a boxing match the referee would have called a halt at the end of the first round after Thomas Bach employed all the punching power at his command to smash WADA to the canvas at the IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro.
Doubtless to the delight of Russian politicians and sports officials the row over the country’s anti-doping ‘strategy’ has deviated into a nasty little scrap between the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Given that Bach’s IOC provides half the clearly inadequate funding for WADA it was remarkable to hear IOC members queueing up to lather their president with praise and spew bile all over the agency which – more than any sports federation – has sought to “protect clean athletes” – in that overblown, over-used phrase.
WADA may have been at fault in not inquiring sooner into the Russian doping farrago but, given that journalists told the IOC itself about suspicions back in 2010, the Olympic Games’ governing body has questions of its own to answer – which its own members omitted to raise so keen were they to keep the jabs and uppercuts flowing.
At the end of a ‘debate’ which was as contrarily one-sided as the allegations registered by WADA investigators Dick Pound and Richard McLaren aganst the Russians, the IOC voted overwhelmingly in support of the devolved responsibility decision taken nine days ago by its executive board.
One vote against the proposal was registered, by British IOC member Adam Pengelly. There were no abstentions.
Sir Craig Reedie, British vice-president of the IOC and head of WADA and sat next to a straight-faced Bach, was exposed to all the battering before scrambling to his feet at a count of nine and promising a response tomorrow.
Bach had justified the executive board’s decision – which has left a pall of indecision hanging over a string of Russian and other countries’ competitors just days from the Games – as the only way to avoid the “nuclear option” of a blanket ban.
Repeating his news conference comments of a day earlier, he said: “It is not the IOC that is responsible for the accreditation and supervision of anti-doping laboratories; it is not the IOC which can be held responsible for alleged corruption between the leadership of an international federation and a national member federation to cover up doping.
“The IOC has no authority to declare any organisation non-compliant with the WADA code; the IOC has no authority over the testing program of athletes outside the Olympic Games; the IOC has no authority to follow up on information about the failings of the testing system.”
Bach said the doping system and WADA’s modus operandi needed completely restructuring. He added: “Engagement and not isolation is the key to build a more robust anti-doping system.”
One of the most powerful punchers in support of Bach was Russian Olympic president Alexander Zhukov who urged the IOC to resist what he alleged to be a political campaign aimed at splitting the movement.
Remarkably he also blamed WADA, rather than his own country’s sports and security officials, for the shortcomings revealed in Russia’s anti-doping agency and accredited laboratories.