Thomas Bach.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach defended the decision not to ban Russia from the forthcoming Rio Games and said the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) could have acted earlier.

"The IOC had to make a difficult decision," Bach told dpa in an interview Tuesday. "We had to decide between the punishment for a system and the extent to which you can hold athletes responsible for such a system."

On Sunday the IOC decided to allow Russian athletes in Rio if they were picked by their respective sports federations under strict criteria - despite allegations of widespread and state-sponsored doping in the country by WADA which had recommended a full ban.

"I don't want to make any accusations here," Bach said. "But I think it can be pointed out that the whole problem could have been avoided if WADA would have investigated the evidence from Mr Stepanov (husband and coach of Russian whistleblower Julia Stepanova) in 2010."

"Even in the (Richard) McLaren report (commissioned by WADA to investigate the allegations) it was noted WADA has announced so-called surprise visits to the Moscow anti-doping laboratory in advance."

Bach reiterated the IOC's position that the anti-doping system must be made independent of sports organizations and that he was pleased the Court of Arbitration for Sport now sanctions doped athletes rather than the IOC.

"But there is still more to do," he said. "The whole system, who is responsible for what needs to be made transparent.

"This would also make it clear who is responsible for the laboratories, who is responsible for the checks, who is responsible for sanctioning and who is responsible for the whole time outside of the Olympics Games.

"And then you will find that the IOC is not responsible for everything and nor can it be."

Several national anti-doping agencies and individual athletes were enraged by the decision not to ban Russia with German Olympic discus champion Robert Harting on Tuesday saying Bach was "part of the doping system for me, not of the anti-doping system."

That drew a furious response from Bach who said it was "not acceptable" to "insult someone who is not of the same opinion as you in such a manner."

Bach insisted that handing responsibility for determining the eligibility of Russian athletes to individual federations was a "balanced solution."

"On the one hand the athletes bear collective responsibility for the system," he said. "On the other hand it gives athletes the possibility to show, by clearing very high hurdles, they weren't involved in the system."

With the Rio Games opening August 5, the federations had limited time to make their decisions. Some 85 athletes from the 387-strong Russian Olympic team named last week have been banned for previous doping sanctions or being named in the McLaren report as being involved in the current scandal.

"The international federations are responsible for the anti-doping system together with WADA 365 days of the year," Bach said. "This means you have all the data on tests, biological passports or possible punishments.

"This work is being done at the moment in all organizations. Yes, this is an ambitious undertaking. But the IOC could not change there being so little time between after publication of the WADA report."

Bach said he "strictly rejected" the allegation that his close relationship to Russian President Vladimir Putin had any impact on the decision, adding "the decision was taken unanimously by the IOC executive board."

Bach also defended the decision not to invite 800-metre runner Stepanova to Rio to compete under a neutral flag due to her previous doping history.

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