Monday 27 March 2017

Loopholes for dopers could leave Rio tainted

On Friday, the Russians got their just reward when the IAAF voted to uphold the ban, thus appearing to rule the second most powerful athletics nation in the world out of the Games. Photo: Getty
On Friday, the Russians got their just reward when the IAAF voted to uphold the ban, thus appearing to rule the second most powerful athletics nation in the world out of the Games. Photo: Getty

Eamonn Sweeney

I suppose it might have been possible for Russia to make less effort to clean up their act in order to be reinstated by the IAAF in time for the Olympics. They could, for example, have stuck to their initial contention that the doping scandal which earned them a temporary ban was some kind of nefarious Western plot. Or they could have stuck their fingers in their ears and said, "Nah nah nah nah, I can't hear you."

But what they did wasn't much better. WADA has said that since the Russians were suspended by the IAAF seven months ago, 73 tests on athletes could not be collected, 736 tests were declined or cancelled, 23 tests were missed and 52 athletes were found to be doping. Athletes ran away from doping control officers and ran out of the stadium during a race to avoid being tested while one athlete was caught using a container, "presumably containing clean urine" inserted within her. When caught she tried to bribe the officials.

Doping control officers have been threatened with expulsion from Russia, packages containing samples from WADA laboratories have been tampered with and national championships have been held in cities where civil conflicts are taking place, thus preventing tests.

On Friday, the Russians got their just reward when the IAAF voted to uphold the ban, thus appearing to rule the second most powerful athletics nation in the world out of the Games. When the Russians were given the chance to put their house in order seven months ago few imagined this would happen. But their utter failure to make even the semblance of an effort underlines just how rotten things must be.

So perhaps the question really should have been, not whether Russian track and field athletes are allowed to compete in Rio, but whether the country as a whole should be banned. The violations listed by WADA were, after all, not confined to athletics. Why should competitors in other sports be forced to compete against a nation which obviously benefited from a state-sponsored doping programme at previous games?

It's not beyond the bounds of possibility that some compromise may yet be hammered together to ensure Russian athletes make it to Rio. The IOC don't normally over-rule a governing body but the organisation's president Thomas Bach is close to Vladimir Putin.

A meeting on Tuesday in Lausanne of the IOC, the anti-doping bodies and various sporting bodies is set to discuss, "Whether and if individual athletes should be given individual justice." In other words to examine if the way could be cleared for Russian athletes who haven't tested positive to compete as individuals. However, given the massive level of doping in Russia there are obviously problems with this approach.

John Coates, the president for the CAS, the body most likely hear individual appeals, said that anyone wishing to compete would have to be tested and analysed outside Russia.,Not many Russians will qualify under those criteria.

Tuesday's meeting would indicate a hunger on the part of the IOC to grant Russian athletes a loophole. But they probably can't do that without making the entire athletics programme look tainted. Do they care I wonder?

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