19 July 2016

Analysis: IOC delays decision on blanket ban for Russian athletes

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that it will ‘explore the legal options’ with regards to a blanket ban on Russian athletes from the Rio 2016 Olympics, delaying a final decision until after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decides whether the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ban on the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) can be upheld on 21 July. At present, the status quo remains. As outlined by the IOC exactly a month ago, Russian athletes can compete in Rio, if they can prove that they have not been ‘tainted’ by the Russian state doping system. This will be a hard task, given the findings of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Independent Person (IP) Report unveiled yesterday.

The IOC has started ‘disciplinary processes’ regarding the officials mentioned in that report, however it did not name the officials. A five-person Disciplinary Commission has been set up to formulate sanctions, as outlined in the IOC statement. A second Disciplinary Commission, under the command of Denis Oswald, will conduct reanalysis of all Russian participants at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, as well as their support staff and coaches.

The IOC said that it would not ‘organise or give patronage to’ any sports events or meetings in Russia. It specifically said that this included the 2019 European Olympic Games, despite Russia denying that it ever applied to host the competition. Russia is hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, however that was not mentioned in the IOC release.

It also appears that Russian Minister for Sport and FIFA Council member, Vitaly Mutko, will not be going to Rio. The IOC said it would not grant Russian Ministry of Sport (MoS) officials accreditation, ‘nor any person implicated in the IP Report’.

Russian inquiry

The MoS has started its own inquiry into the officials named in the report – well, almost all of them. Mutko was conspicuously absent. It announced that the following would be suspended from duty whilst the allegations against them are investigated:

• Yuri Nagornykh, Deputy Minister of Sport & board member of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC);
• Natalia Zhelanova, anti-doping advisor to the Russian Minister of Sport;
• Dr. Avak Abalyan, Deputy Director of the Department of Education and Science at the MoS;
• Irina Rodionova, Deputy Director of the Centre of Sports Preparation (CSP) of the national teams of Russia;
• Alexey Velikodniy, a CSP analyst.

A ‘special commission’ has been created for the MoS Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 16.43.49investigation, which the MoS said would involve international lawyers. There was no mention of any suspension of Mutko, despite the IP Report’s finding that he gave the order to ‘save’ a Russian footballer from a doping positive.

WADA failings

The IOC statement did not address many of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) failings highlighted in The Sport Integrity Initiative’s coverage of the IP Report yesterday. In short, these are:

• that WADA tipped off the Director of the Moscow laboratory, about a ‘surprise’ investigation in a 7 December 2014 letter, leading to the destruction of 8,000 samples;
• that WADA failed to investigate discrepancies within the Sochi laboratory highlighted by the WADA Independent Observer report produced after the Games;
• that WADA failed to follow up links between the Moscow and Lausanne laboratories, including the destruction of 67 samples sent from Moscow to Russia;
• that the IP Report failed to speak to the Russian authorities, opening the door to accusations of bias.

However, although it did not address these issues directly, the IOC statement noted ‘with great concern the deficiencies revealed by the IP, Richard McLaren, in the fight against doping’. It reiterated its call for a Extraordinary World Conference on Doping in 2017, stating that further details would be announced at the Olympic Summit on 8 October. It added that the IOC is ‘reinforcing the request issued by the Olympic Summit on 17 October 2015 to make the entire anti-doping system independent from sports organisations’.

In short, the IOC appears to have recognised the need for an independent anti-doping body. The IP Report appears to have strengthened its resolve to put one in place.

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