Saturday 24 August 2019

Fears mounting over Cold War-style Rio Olympics boycott

Sebastian Coe
Sebastian Coe
The International Association of Athletics Federations, led by Sebastian Coe, will meet on Friday to discuss provisionally suspending Russia after being urged to do so by an independent commission

Ben Rumsby

World sport is braced for a Cold War-style Olympic boycott if any Russian athletes are banned from competing at the Rio Games next year over an unprecedented drugs scandal.

Russia and its allies pulling out of the 2016 Games is considered a clear and present danger at the highest level of sport, with senior figures speculating on how Vladimir Putin and his government would react to being branded pariahs.

A return to the bitter divisions of the Eighties which spilt on to the ­Olympic stage was declared a "risk" by the chairman of UK Athletics, Ed Warner, who claimed that it was a price worth paying if Russia continued to engage in the kind of state-sponsored doping that was laid bare on Monday.

The International Association of Athletics Federations, led by Sebastian Coe, will meet on Friday to discuss provisionally suspending Russia ­after being urged to do so by an ­independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which found that the country had "sabotaged" London 2012.

Putin and other senior Russian officials railed against the verdict yesterday, reducing the prospect of reforms being implemented that would allow the nation's track-and-field athletes to enter Rio 2016.

The Russian president would then have to decide whether to pull out of the Games altogether - something that could prompt his allies to follow suit.

Two major boycotts of the Olympics occurred during the Cold War.

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The first was in 1980 when 65 countries - led by the United States - refused to compete following the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviets responded in kind by snubbing the 1984 Los Angeles Games, along with 17 other nations.

Warner, who is also chairman of the 2017 World Championships in London, urged the IAAF to ban Russia whatever the consequences and to strip the county of the World Junior Championships next summer.

The first sanctions resulting from the WADA report were issued yesterday when Russia's drug-testing laboratory in Moscow was provisionally suspended following the "intentional destruction" of more than 1,400 samples.

That was carried out by its director, Grigory Rodchenkov, who resigned yesterday amid the threat of him being banned for life.

The International Olympic Committee also provisionally suspended Coe's predecessor as IAAF president, Lamine Diack, as an honorary member following his arrest by French police on suspicion of taking bribes to cover-up positive drugs tests.

The IOC also promised to "take all the necessary measures and sanctions" to strip Russian ­dopers of their medals from London 2012 and previous Olympics.

The IOC's commercial partners either refused to comment or did not respond to request for comment on the scandal and whether Russia's athletes should be banned from Rio 2016.

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