27 May 2016

IOC ‘discussing’ how athletes from ‘contaminated’ federations could compete

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is discussing how athletes from ‘contaminated’ federations could be allowed to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics, after IOC President Thomas Bach suggested the possibility last week. The IOC said that it was unable to give details about how such a system might operate in practice, “as the process is currently under discussion”.

The topic has become a tricky point for both the IOC and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), after Yuliya Stepanova asked the IAAF Council to consider if she could be ruled eligible to compete in Rio. Stepanova and her husband famously blew the whistle on the systemic doping that was occurring in Russian athletics back in December 2014. It would be embarrassing for both bodies if the very athlete that blew the whistle on systemic Russian doping is banned from the Olympics.

Last week the IOC also asked the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to investigate allegations that the laboratory used for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics may have been corrupted. As Thomas Bach pointed out, this raised the possibility that other sports may have been contaminated. This has not gone unnoticed by national anti-doping agencies in Canada, the US and Switzerland, who have called for all Russian athletes to be banned from Rio – not just track and field athletes.

WADA today clarified that Richard McLaren would present his report to WADA ‘by 15 July 2016 at the latest’, after which it will be published in full by WADA within five days. This is likely to make it even more difficult for a ‘clean’ Russian athlete to be able to present a strong case that they have been adequately tested and can therefore compete in Rio.

The IAAF has yet to announce whether Stepanova will be allowed to compete in Rio, as its Taskforce was to ‘report back with a recommendation, hopefully in early May’. It is expected that the IAAF Council will make a decision on her case at its 17 June meeting, which will also consider whether Russia can be readmitted to the IAAF and, hence, the Rio Olympics.

This puts the IAAF in a difficult position, as it must make a decision on both Stepanova and Russia before WADA presents its report into the allegations that the Sochi 2014 laboratory was subverted. If the IAAF readmits Russia or – alternatively – retains Russia’s ban but allows Stepanova to compete, it may have to revisit both decisions after 15 July.

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