Tuesday 17 July 2018

Olympic chiefs insist Russians will face 'rigorous' testing

Members of the Russian Olympic team arrive in Rio airport. Picture Credit: REUTERS/Pilar Olivares
Members of the Russian Olympic team arrive in Rio airport. Picture Credit: REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

Ben Bloom

Up to 90 per cent of Russia's team for the Olympics could still be banned from next month's Games, despite the International Olympic Committee's refusal to expel the entire country from the event.

It is understood that that the IOC is expecting the majority of the rogue nation's athletes to fail to meet the eligibility criteria laid down after the decision of its executive board not to issue a blanket ban on them competing at Rio 2016.

Read More: Outrage as IOC rules out banning Russia from Rio

The IOC was standing by that decision yesterday in the face of a furious backlash from across the world of sport, with president Thomas Bach remaining adamant it had struck the right balance between safeguarding the integrity of the Games and respecting due process in response to an independent report which found Russia guilty of state-sponsored doping on a staggering scale.


As well as denying admission to any Russian to have been sanctioned for doping, the IOC will use an independent expert to weed out those considered to have undergone insufficiently rigorous drug-testing in the build-up to Rio.

It was anticipated last night that this process would reduce the Russia team from what would have been almost 400 at full strength to a delegation as small as 40.

A cull in the hundreds would go some way to appeasing critics of the IOC's refusal to follow the lead of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), whose outright ban on Russia's track-and-field team from Rio was ratified last week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Bach and his executive board were condemned on Sunday for passing the buck to the IAAF's fellow international federations by ordering them to assess the testing records of Russians under their jurisdiction before submitting them for consideration by an independent CAS arbiter.

The IOC was banking on the federations adhering to the criteria laid down and not putting forward individuals whose subsequent expulsion would cause them huge embarrassment. As of yesterday, only three of the 23 governing bodies affected had announced they were satisfied the Russians in their competitions met the IOC criteria - those of tennis, archery and triathlon.

World Archery said the country's three qualified archers, Tuiana Dashidorzhieva, Ksenia Perova and Inna Stepanova, had been "tested extensively" and had never previously committed a doping offence. Expressing its "shock and concern" over the Russian doping scandal, it added in a statement: "The IOC executive board should be congratulated on its courageous decision not to put a blanket ban on the Russian federation, which would have been extremely unfair to any clean Russian athlete."

Others prepared to comment publicly on the IOC decision - the federations of swimming, cycling, rowing, gymnastics, boxing, sailing, equestrianism and table tennis - also backed its ruling and said they would determine the eligibility of each of their competitors on a case-by-case basis.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) announced the expulsion of seven of the 36-strong Russian swimming team and said that it would retest all samples provided by the country's athletes at last year's World

Championships in Kazan, one of the events, along with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, found to have been sabotaged by state-sponsored doping. Fina also established a commission to investigate the potential implications of the findings for the entire Russian Swimming Federation.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA), which must rule on the fate of 11 Russians, including two world champions, said it was "reviewing and analysing" their respective anti-doping records. It added: "This information and the decision of AIBA in respect of the athletes' eligibility will be submitted to the IOC for confirmation."

The International Federation of Gymnastics said it would "as soon as possible establish the 'pool of Russian eligible athletes' ... and will have it verified as requested ... then forward it to all concerned parties".

Some federations are expected to struggle to demonstrate that any of their Russian athletes have been sufficiently tested outside a national anti-doping system that an independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report last week found had been corrupted into covering up positive findings using methods akin to those in a spy novel.

The governing bodies of team sports such as handball, volleyball, synchronised swimming and water polo may find it impossible to prove enough of their Russian competitors meet the criteria for the country to take part in their events.

A total delegation already reduced by 68 thanks to the IAAF ban was further cut yesterday after the head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, confirmed 13 of its proposed entrants had a doping history. They include Ilnur Zakarin, who won stage 17 of the Tour de France last week, and disgraced breaststroke champion and London 2012 medallist Yuliya Efimova.

Zhukov admitted the total number could rise further, while more expulsions would follow if the country loses an appeal to the CAS over the exclusion of its entire weightlifting team imposed because of its recent doping record.

That would still leave about 300 Russian Rio hopefuls, with the exact number of whom end up banned from the Games likely to determine the credibility of Sunday's ruling by the IOC.


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