Rus­sia kicked out of ’18 Olympics

Clean Rus­sians can com­pete in­de­pen­dently

Woonsocket Call - - Sports - By WILL HOB­SON The Wash­ing­ton Post

The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Committee banned the Rus­sian fed­er­a­tion from the up­com­ing Win­ter Olympics in South Korea on Tues­day, while leav­ing the door open for in­di­vid­ual Rus­sian ath­letes to com­pete, in a his­toric act of pun­ish­ment for wide­spread dop­ing Olympic of­fi­cials be­lieve was sup­ported by the Rus­sian govern­ment.

Rus­sia's flag and an­them will be ab­sent from Fe­bru­ary's PyeongChang Games, the IOC de­cided, as penal­ties for a dop­ing regime that in­cluded the sab­o­tage of drug test­ing dur­ing the 2014 Win­ter Games in Sochi.

Rus­sian ath­letes who can prove their in­no­cence of drug cheat­ing will be per­mit­ted to com­pete in PyeongChang un­der the des­ig­na­tion of an “Olympic Ath­lete from Rus­sia (OAR).” The Olympic an­them will be played in any cer­e­mony for medals won by these ath­letes, and Rus­sia's of­fi­cial medal count for the games will stand at zero.

In a Tues­day evening news con­fer­ence in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land, IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach called Rus­sia's dop­ing sys­tem “an un­prece­dented at­tack on the in­tegrity of the Olympic games and sports.”

“This de­ci­sion should draw a line un­der this dam­ag­ing episode and serve as a cat­a­lyst for a more ef­fec­tive and a more ro­bust anti-dop­ing sys­tem,” Bach said.

Bach was joined Tues­day by Sa­muel Sch­mid, the for­mer pres­i­dent of Switzer­land, who led a com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing the al­le­ga­tions against Rus­sia for the IOC. Sch­mid's report con­firmed “the sys­temic ma­nip­u­la­tion of the anti-dop­ing rules and sys­tem in Rus­sia,” he said.

A na­tion's Olympic team had never been banned for dop­ing, or any com­pet­i­tive vi­o­la­tion. The IOC has is­sued po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated bans in the past, such as those im­posed against Ger­many and Ja­pan dur­ing World War II, and against South Africa dur­ing apartheid.

Rus­sian law­mak­ers and other of­fi­cials quickly re­jected the IOC de­ci­sion as po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

“We won't apol­o­gize,” Py­otr Tol­stoy, a lead­ing mem­ber of the Rus­sian State Duma, Rus­sia's lower house of leg­is­la­ture. “We won't apol­o­gize to Bach, to the for­mer pres­i­dent of Switzer­land, who pre­pared this report so sweetly. We have noth­ing to apol­o­gize for and nei­ther do our ath­letes.”

For­mer Rus­sian sports min­is­ter Vi­taly Mutko, whom the IOC banned for life from Olympic Games, did not re­ply to re­quests to com­ment. Mutko con­sis­tently has de­nied Rus­sian govern­ment in­volve­ment in drug cheat­ing, and told re­porters at an event in Moscow last week pro­mot­ing the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia that “there is no proof” of state-spon­sored dop­ing.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, whose spokesman did not re­ply to a re­quest to com­ment Tues­day, pre­vi­ously had termed a po­ten­tial ban as “hu­mil­i­at­ing,” and im­plied it would pro­voke a Rus­sian boy­cott.

Bach, who has had a close re­la­tion­ship with Putin in the past, told re­porters in Lau­sanne he had not dis­cussed the IOC's pun­ish­ment with Putin. A del­e­ga­tion from Rus­sia made a last-minute plea for le­niency, Bach said, be­fore the IOC's ex­ec­u­tive board made its de­ci­sion.

“An Olympic boy­cott has never achieved any­thing,” Bach said. “I don't see any rea­son for a boy­cott by the Rus­sian ath­letes, be­cause we will al­low the clean Rus­sian ath­letes to par­tic­i­pate.”

Rus­sia's anti-dop­ing agency has been sus­pended since 2015, call­ing into question how the IOC will ver­ify ath­letes who have trained in Rus­sia have done so with­out the as­sis­tance of banned sub­stances.

To de­ter­mine which Rus­sian ath­letes will be al­lowed to com­pete, the IOC plans to es­tab­lish an in­de­pen­dent test­ing author­ity, Bach said, that will in­clude of­fi­cials from the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency. The IOC fined Rus­sia's Olympic Committee $15 mil­lion, which it in­tends to use to pay for this in­de­pen­dent test­ing author­ity, as well as for past in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sian dop­ing.

Anti-dop­ing of­fi­cials - some of whom heav­ily crit­i­cized the IOC for not levy­ing a sim­i­lar pun­ish­ment be­fore the 2016 Sum­mer Games in Rio de Janeiro - praised Tues­day's de­ci­sion.

“Over the past three years, a high­stakes game of chicken has been played be­tween those will­ing to sac­ri­fice the Olympic ideals by em­ploy­ing a state­di­rected dop­ing pro­gram to cheat to win and, on the other side, ath­letes un­will­ing to stand silent while their hopes and dreams were stolen and the Olympic Games hi­jacked,” said Travis Ty­gart, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the U.S. Anti-Dop­ing Agency. “To­day the IOC lis­tened to those who mat­ter most - and clean ath­letes won a sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory.”

“The IOC took a strong and prin­ci­pled de­ci­sion,” U.S. Olympic Committee chief ex­ec­u­tive Scott Black­mun said. “There were no per­fect op­tions, but this de­ci­sion will clearly make it less likely that this ever hap­pens again.”

The ab­sence of Rus­sian ath­letes would sap many events of top com­peti­tors. In the 2014 Win­ter Games in the Black Sea re­sort of Sochi, Rus­sia led the medal count, with 33 over­all and 13 golds. But Rus­sia's suc­cess at those Olympics, ac­cord­ing to for­mer Moscow an­ti­dop­ing lab di­rec­tor Grig­ory Rod­chenkov, came with some as­sis­tance be­hind the scenes.

Rod­chenkov has said he over­saw a state-run dop­ing sys­tem that pro­vided hun­dreds of top ath­letes with banned per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing sub­stances for years. When the Olympics came to Rus­sian soil, ac­cord­ing to Rod­chenkov, he ran a clan­des­tine ef­fort, with the as­sis­tance of govern­ment agents, to re­place tainted urine sam­ples taken from cheat­ing Rus­sian ath­letes dur­ing the Sochi Games with clean urine sam­ples he col­lected months be­fore.

Rod­chenkov's tes­ti­mony, bol­stered by two other Rus­sian whistle­blow­ers, have been sup­ported by a series of in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency since late 2015 that have con­cluded more than 1,000 Rus­sian ath­letes across at least 30 sports, in­clud­ing both sum­mer and win­ter events, had been in­volved in dop­ing that dated from at least 2011.

Rus­sian sports min­istry of­fi­cials have apol­o­gized for wide­spread dop­ing among their ath­letes, but force­fully have de­nied al­le­ga­tions of govern­ment in­volve­ment and painted Rod­chenkov as a rogue ac­tor.

Last month, a Rus­sian court is­sued an ar­rest war­rant for Rod­chenkov, who fled the coun­try for the United States in 2015 after two col­leagues at Rus­sia's anti-dop­ing agency died sud­denly. Rod­chenkov, who was the sub­ject of the Net­flix doc­u­men­tary “Icarus” ear­lier this year, is liv­ing some­where in the United States un­der the pro­tec­tion of fed­eral author­i­ties.

File photo

The Rus­sian na­tional an­them won’t be played dur­ing the 2018 Win­ter Olympics be­cause of dop­ing vi­o­la­tions stem­ming from the 2014 Sochi games.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.