IOC decides against full ban of Russian athletes from Rio Games

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Sunday decided against a ban of all Russian athletes from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in connection with allegations of widespread and state-organized doping.

The IOC said after an executive board teleconference it will leave the final decision on Russians to compete at the August 5-21 Games with the international sports federations.

The IOC said that it will only accept Russian athletes who have met strict conditions set up by the IOC and which the federations must apply, plus the consent of an arbitrator from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in every case.

It will accept no Russian athlete who has been sanctioned for doping rule offences in the past.

Russia's athletics team is already banned from competing in Rio over a ruling by the sport's governing body IAAF which was upheld on Thursday by CAS, the only exception being United States-based long-jumper Darya Klishina.

"We have set the bar to the limit by establishing a number of very strict criteria which every Russian athlete will have to fulfil if he or she wants to participate in the Olympic Games Rio 2016," IOC president Thomas Bach said.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko welcomed the decision, quoted by the Tass news agency as telling a news conference: "We are thankful to the IOC for allowing Russian athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics ... I am sure most of the members of the Russian team can meet the IOC criteria."

Russia has nominated 387 athletes for Rio, a figure that included the athletics team.

Russia's Olympic Committee faced a blanket ban since Monday when World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commissioned report by its investigator Richard McLaren spoke of doping in various Russian sports, and manipulation of test samples from Russian athletes during the Winter Olympics 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

There had been plenty of calls for a full ban and Bach himself had said "the IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available" but the IOC eventually shied away from the harshest sanction.

"I think in this way, we have balanced on the one hand, the desire and need for collective responsibility versus the right to individual justice of every individual athlete," Bach said.

The IOC set up a list of criteria the federations must apply to allow Russians to Rio, such as application of the World Anti-Doping Code and other principles, and that a clean domestic doping record alone is not good enough.

"The IOC will not accept any entry of any Russian athlete in the Olympic Games Rio 2016 unless such athlete can meet the conditions set out," the IOC said.

Once accepted, Russian athletes will "be subject to a rigorous additional out-of-competition testing programme in coordination with the relevant IF and WADA. Any non-availability for this programme will lead to the immediate withdrawal of the accreditation by the IOC."

Sunday's decision was also welcomed by the Association of National Olympic Committees whose president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said in a statement that "banning the entire Russian team would have unfairly punished many clean athletes."

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said his federation could help others in the selection process.

“We have created and been through the process. We know how hard it is emotionally and rationally to get the process right," Coe said.

"I have offered the help of the IAAF team to ASOIF (Association of Summer Olympic International Federations) and we continue to stand by to assist and offer advice to any international sports federations.”

The IOC executives meanwhile turned down the bid by Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, an 800-metres runner, to compete as a neutral athlete because she herself was caught doping before helping uncover these practices.

It followed a recommendation by the IOC ethics committee which said: "The sanction to which she was subject and the circumstances in which she denounced the doping practices which she had used herself, do not satisfy the ethical requirements for an athlete to enter the Olympic Games."

But the IOC invited Stepanova and her husband to Rio in order to "express its appreciation for Mrs Stepanova’s contribution to the fight against doping and to the integrity of sport."

Last update: Sun, 24/07/2016 - 19:22
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