Olympic of­fi­cials hold off on Russia ban, for now

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - RE­BECCA R. RUIZ

The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee, un­der pres­sure to re­spond ag­gres­sively to a dop­ing scheme that cor­rupted the re­sults of the past two Olympics, said Tues­day that it was con­sid­er­ing le­gal op­tions to dis­ci­pline Rus­sian ath­letes ahead of the com­ing Rio Games and had ap­pointed a fiveper­son dis­ci­plinary com­mis­sion.

The an­nounce­ment came af­ter an ur­gent meet­ing of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s top lead­ers. Some were gath­ered in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land, where the IOC is head­quar­tered, while oth­ers from around the world were on the phone.

Their an­nounce­ment, which could ul­ti­mately lead to gap­ing holes through­out the com­pe­ti­tions in Rio, re­flected a strug­gle to pre­serve the in­tegrity of one of the sports world’s most pres­ti­gious events.

Russia’s track and field team was barred from Rio by the sport’s gov­ern­ing body last month, a de­ci­sion sup­ported by the IOC and chal­lenged by Russia with the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport. That hear­ing was tak­ing place in Lau­sanne on Tues­day, at the same time that IOC of­fi­cials met. Olympic of­fi­cials in­di­cated they were await­ing a rul­ing in that case, ex­pected Thurs­day, be­fore an­nounc­ing fur­ther ac­tion.

The court’s de­ci­sion about the le­gal­ity of the ban on Russia’s track team could heav­ily in­flu­ence what course of ac­tion Olympic of­fi­cials ul­ti­mately take. The ban left a “nar­row crack in the door” for ath­letes who could prove they have been sub­jected to rig­or­ous drug-test­ing out­side of Russia to pe­ti­tion to com­pete.

As of Monday, the day Olympic ath­lete ros­ters were to be fi­nal­ized, that hur­dle had been cleared by two Rus­sian ath­letes, both of whom had been liv­ing in the U.S.

In its state­ment, the IOC said it would “ex­plore the le­gal op­tions with re­gard to a col­lec­tive ban of all Rus­sian ath­letes for the Olympic Games 2016 ver­sus the right to in­di­vid­ual jus­tice.”

The state­ment also said that the fed­er­a­tions that gov­ern in­di­vid­ual sports should be­gin de­ter­min­ing the el­i­gi­bil­ity of Rus­sian ath­letes while the IOC con­sid­ers its op­tions.

The case against Russia was dra­mat­i­cally bol­stered Monday when a re­port com­mis­sioned by the World An- ti-Dop­ing Agency was re­leased.

Point­ing to foren­sic ev­i­dence, it con­firmed a Rus­sian whistle­blower’s claims of govern­ment-or­dered cheat­ing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The re­port de­tailed fur­ther state­spon­sored dop­ing that dated back years and ex­tended across the spec­trum of sports, af­fect­ing re­sults of both the Win­ter and Sum­mer Games.

World an­tidop­ing of­fi­cials urged Olympics of­fi­cials to bar Russia from Rio af­ter the re­port, the prod­uct of a two-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the claims of Russia’s long­time an­tidop­ing lab chief, was re­leased.

“There ought to be a mes­sage that a state can’t do this and then show up at the Olympics,” Travis Ty­gart, head of the U.S. Anti-Dop­ing Agency, said this week.

In re­sponse, Russia said that such ac­tivism was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin re­leased a state­ment Monday, hours af­ter the Sochi re­port was pub­lished, sug­gest­ing that the claims had been made “to make sports an in­stru­ment of geopo­lit­i­cal pres­sure; to for­mu­late a neg­a­tive im­age” of Russia.

While the dis­ci­plinary com­mis­sion ex­am­ines the sit­u­a­tion ahead of Rio, the IOC an­nounced pro­vi­sional mea­sures. No of­fi­cial of the Rus­sian min­istry of sport will be al­lowed at the Rio Games, the or­ga­ni­za­tion said. That will ex­tend to Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports min­is­ter who is also an ex­ec­u­tive of FIFA, global soc­cer’s gov­ern­ing body.

Per­haps most sting­ing of all, “The IOC will not or­ga­nize or give pa­tron­age to any sports event or meet­ing in Russia,” the com­mit­tee said, call­ing for win­ter sports fed­er­a­tions to “freeze their prepa­ra­tions for ma­jor events in Russia,” and to “ac­tively look for other or­ga­niz­ers.”

Among the events Russia is set to host next year are the bob­sled and skele­ton world cham­pi­onships in Sochi. The fed­er­a­tion for that sport did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quest for com­ment Tues­day.

Russia is also pre­par­ing to host the next soc­cer World Cup, one of the big­gest sport­ing events in the world, in 2018. Re­spond­ing Tues­day to the IOC an­nounce­ment ear­lier that day, a spokesper­son for FIFA em­pha­sized that the IOC had di­rected its ad­vice only to win­ter sports.

(The Sochi in­ves­ti­ga­tion, how­ever, con­cluded that ev­i­dence of govern­ment-spon­sored Rus­sian dop­ing ex­tended to sum­mer sports, in­clud­ing soc­cer; FIFA said it had re­quested in­for­ma­tion on the vi­o­la­tions in­ves­ti­ga­tors had un­cov­ered.)

“FIFA is cur­rently in full prepa­ra­tion for the FIFA Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup 2017 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia,” the spokesper­son wrote, “and is con­vinced they will be suc­cess­ful events for fans and par­tic­i­pat­ing teams.”

Asked last week in Moscow if he had re­ceived par­tic­u­lar sup­port from sports of­fi­cials amid the al­le­ga­tions against his ad­min­is­tra­tion, Mutko named Gianni In­fantino, the pres­i­dent of FIFA.

The pro­vi­sional mea­sures the IOC an­nounced will be in ef­fect un­til the end of the year, the state­ment said.

The de­ci­sion about Rus­sian ath­letes’ el­i­gi­bil­ity for Rio de Janeiro, how­ever, has a more ur­gent timetable, as the Games are set to open Aug. 5.

There ought to be a mes­sage that a state can’t do this and then show up at the Olympics. TRAVIS TY­GART U.S. ANTI-DOP­ING AGENCY

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