Tue, Jul 26, 2016 - Page 16 News List

Russia avoids blanket ban from IOC

‘HOT POTATO’:The heads of national anti-doping agencies accused the committee of creating ‘a confusing mess’ by passing the buck to individual sports federations

AFP, LAUSANNE, Switzerland

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision not to ban Russia from the Rio Games over state-run doping yesterday left international sports leaders divided, less than two weeks before the opening ceremony.

Seeking to justify Sunday’s decision, IOC president Thomas Bach said an outright ban would trample the rights of clean Russian athletes who are hoping to compete at the upcoming Games.

Individual sports federations are to have primary responsibility for determining every Russian athlete’s eligibility for Rio, the IOC executive said.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) last week called for Russia to be banned after detailing how the Russian Ministry of Sports had directed a massive cheating program with help from Russia’s state intelligence agency.

US Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart — one of many who urged a total ban against Russia — accused the IOC of creating “a confusing mess” with its decision.

“In response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership,” Tygart said in a statement.

Drugfree Sport New Zealand chief Graeme Steel also criticized the IOC’s decision to “pass the hot potato to international federations.”

“The fight against doping in sport requires strong international leadership, none more so in this case, where the integrity of an entire Olympic and Paralympic Games is at stake,” Australian Minister for Sport Sussan Ley added.

WADA officials said they were “disappointed” with the IOC’s decision, which director-general Olivier Niggli said would “inevitably lead to a lack of harmonization, potential challenges and lesser protection for clean athletes.”

The cheating affected 30 sports, including at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and other major events, WADA said, in revelations that widened the worst drug scandal in Olympic history.

Russia’s entire track and field squad has already been barred from Rio following a similar WADA report on “state-supported” doping in that sport.

A total of 14 national anti-doping agencies, as well as several national Olympic committees, had demanded Russia’s exclusion from Rio.

However, others, including global swimming governing body FINA, opposed a blanket ban, as did countries such as Italy and others closer to Russia.

European Olympic Committees president Pat Hickey said the group “completely supports” the IOC decision, which would “enable the participation of clean Russian athletes at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, just days away.”

The Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) also backed the IOC, with ANOC president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah saying an all-out ban “would have unfairly punished many clean athletes.”

“ANOC commends the IOC for favoring individual justice over collective responsibility and giving international federations responsibility to ensure clean competitions in their sports at Rio 2016,” he said.

Bach said the IOC decision considered the severity of the misconduct while also sending “a message of encouragement to clean Russian athletes.”

“This result is one which is respecting the rules of justice and all the clean athletes all over the world,” he said.

Russian Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko — a key player in the WADA report who has been banned from Rio — hailed the IOC’s “objective” decision.

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