IOC swaps blanket ban on Russia for 'confusing mess'

  • 25/07/2016
The Russian Olympic Committee headquarters in Moscow, Russia (Reuters)
The Russian Olympic Committee headquarters in Moscow, Russia (Reuters)

Russia has avoided a blanket ban on its Olympic team from the Rio Games.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) will instead leave decisions on individual athletes' participation with international sports federations.

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko is relieved.

"This is in the interests of world sport, the Olympic family, because doping is clearly an international evil and not just Russia's problem… We are very grateful for the decision to consider that instead of collective responsibility, to look at the rights of individual sportspersons."

IOC swaps blanket ban on Russia for 'confusing mess'

Vitaly Mutko (Reuters)

The IOC has been criticised by the US Anti-Doping Agency, which it says failed to show leadership and called the situation a "confusing mess".

Former IOC vice-president Dick Pound is stunned the IOC passed up an opportunity to show unity against drug cheats.

"To pass on that responsibility to international federations, what it means is that we have zero tolerance for doping unless of course it's Russia."

IOC swaps blanket ban on Russia for 'confusing mess'

Dick Pound (Reuters)

Calls for a ban came from the World Anti-Doping Agency after an independent report found evidence of state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014Winter Olympics in Sochi.

"I think in this way, we have balanced on the one hand, the desire and need for collective responsibility versus the right to individual justice of every individual athlete," says IOC President Thomas Bach.

"In this way we are protecting the clean athletes because of the high criteria we set. This may not please everybody, but this result is one which is respecting the rules of justice and all the clean athletes all over the world."

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has thrown its support behind the decision. In a statement, the committee says the impact of the Russian state-sanctioned doping programme has been widespread. It believes the IOC has taken the strongest possible measures by ensuring Russian athletes have to prove they're clean. 

For individuals to be allowed to compete at Rio they must have a spotless international record on drug testing, the IOC said, adding athletes who have been sanctioned in the past for doping will not be eligible.

That would dash the hopes of middle-distance runner Yulia Stepanova, the whistleblower and former drug cheat whose initial evidence led to one of the biggest doping scandals in decades.

The IOC had said this week that it would not organise or give patronage to any sports event in Russia and that no member of the Russian Sports Ministry implicated in the doping report would be accredited for Rio.

It also ordered the immediate re-testing of all Russian athletes from the Sochi Olympics.

Though a series of international federations, anti-doping agencies and athletes have since called for a blanket ban, some have said they are against punishing innocent athletes.

"It would be quite difficult for us to think we should ban an entire team, which will include some cyclists who are not implicated in any of these stories we've been hearing," said Brian Cookson, president of the International Cycling Union.

"We're going to have to look at it case by case, rider by rider and team by team. At the end of the day, Russians are not the only sportsmen or women who have been found doping."

Russian officials and government officers have said the doping allegations are part of a Western conspiracy against their country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned that the affair could split the Olympic movement, bringing echoes of the 1980s. The United States led a political boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games and the Soviet Union led an Eastern Bloc boycott of the Los Angeles Games four years later.

The Rio Games begin on August 5.

Reuters / Newshub.