Mon, Jul 25, 2016 - Page 12 News List

IOC faces historic call on Russia ban

CONFERENCE CALL:Committee president Thomas Bach was to make a final decision on Russia’s eligibility after holding discussions with the organization’s executive board

AFP, LAUSANNE, Switzerland

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was yesterday set to decide on whether to ban Russia from the Rio Games over state-run doping, an unprecedented move that could spark the Olympic movement’s worst crisis in decades.

While nations have been banned from past Games for grave, political reasons, throwing an entire nation out for drug cheating would be a first. However, the IOC is facing global pressure to take bold action given the nature of the allegations against Russia.

According to an independent report from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the Russian Ministry of Sport directed a vast doping program with support from Moscow’s Federal Security Service. More than 30 sports were affected by the cheating that went on during the 2014 Sochi Games and other major events, said the WADA report released last week by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren. WADA, along with fourteen national anti-doping agencies — including the US, Canada and Germany — as well as multiple national Olympic committees, have urged the IOC to ban Russia from Rio.

IOC president Thomas Bach was to lead a conference call with the organization’s executive board yesterday. The IOC said a final decision on Russia’s eligibility could be issued after the call, but a definitive ruling might be put off until early this week. With the Rio Games set to start on Aug. 5, the IOC has taken every last agonizing day before ruling on one of the toughest questions it has faced in recent history.

The key issue is whether the extent of the alleged cheating in Russia gives the IOC grounds to punish athletes with no positive drug tests on their record.

“We will have to take a very difficult decision,” Bach said last week, addressing the ethical and legal tension “between a collective ban for all Russian athletes, and … the natural right to individual justice for every clean athlete in the world.”

Moscow officials led by Russian President Vladimir Putin have vowed to help crack down on doping, while voicing fierce opposition to the prospect of a blanket ban.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev also intervened: “For me, the principle of collective punishment is unacceptable,” the 85-year-old Gorbachev wrote in a statement, calling on Bach to make a “just decision.”

Russia’s entire track and field squad has already been banned from Rio by athletics governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) over an earlier WADA report that detailed “state-supported” doping.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week rejected an appeal by 67 Russian athletes against the IAAF ban.

The IOC has said it would closely study the CAS ruling as it tries to assess the legal basis for a collective national suspension.

An ongoing IOC reanalysis of samples from Beijing 2008 and London 2012 revealed 45 new doping failures. That brought the total number of positive drug tests to 98 since a retesting program was launched, underscoring the severity of the doping crisis within the Olympics.

If the IOC bans Russia from Rio, it would be the first time a nation has been excluded since 1988, when South Africa’s IOC suspension over apartheid was still in force. The most extensive set of national bans came at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium, when a long list of World War I “aggressors” — including Germany, Austria, Turkey and Hungary — were told to stay away.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top