Cas upholds Rio Olympics ban on 68 Russian athletes

News - Olympic Games
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• IAAF suspended country after investigation revealed systematic doping
• IOC was waiting on ruling as it decides whether to ban entire country

The court of arbitration for sport upheld the ban on Russia’s track and field team from competing at the Rio Olympic Games and in doing so dramatically increased the pressure on the International Olympic Committee to extend such a ban to other Russian sports.

The IOC president, Thomas Bach, who is a close friend of Vladimir Putin, is known to be firmly against a blanket ban but is facing growing calls to make sure Russian competitors in other sports are either excluded or made to undergo an individual examination by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The IOC’s executive board will decide whether to ban the 387-strong Russian Olympic team at an emergency conference on Sunday.

The Cas said it had unanimously voted to uphold the decision of the IAAF, athletics’ governing body, which decided in November to ban Russia following long and sustained revelations about state-sponsored doping.

The IAAF had argued no athlete who had trained inside the Russian system could be trusted to be clean because positive samples were routinely switched or destroyed, athletes were forewarned of tests, and there was a deep-rooted culture of performance-enhancing drugs. The Cas decision to accept the IAAF’s position means 68 Russian athletes who had appealed, with the backing of the Russian Olympic Committee, have nowhere left to turn.

As things stand, the long jumper Darya Klishina, who trains in Miami and was cleared to compete by the IAAF’s Doping Review Board, will be the only Russian track and field star in Rio. The whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova, who was also approved to run by the IAAF, still has to wait for IOC approval to compete.

The news was welcomed by the IAAF, which said the verdict had “created a level playing field for athletes and upheld the rights of the IAAF to use its rules for the protection of the sport and support the credibility and integrity of competition”. The IAAF president, Sebastian Coe, struck a conciliatory tone, saying: “While we are thankful our rules and our power to uphold our rules and the anti-doping code have been supported, this is not a day for triumphant statements. I didn’t come into this sport to stop athletes from competing. It is our federation’s instinctive desire to include, not exclude.

“Beyond Rio the IAAF taskforce will continue to work with Russia to establish a clean safe environment for its athletes so its federation and team can return to international recognition and competition.”

The Kremlin quickly expressed its disapproval of the decision, which was thought by most sports lawyers to be in the balance. Its spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “I certainly regret such a decision by the court which refers to absolutely all of our athletes [who filed the claims]. The principle of collective responsibility is hardly acceptable.” Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, added: “I regret this decision. Unfortunately, a certain precedent has been established for collective responsibility.”

The political wrangling will continue over what to do with other Russian sports. Some senior figures believe the Russia team could be banned outright based on the IOC’s Olympic charter. Article 4.5 warns national Olympic committees that, while they can work with governments, “they shall not associate themselves with any activity which would be in contradiction with the Olympic charter”. Article 4.6 states they “must preserve their autonomy and resist pressures of any kind which may prevent them from complying with the Olympic charter”.

Those figures point out that on Monday the law professor Richard McLaren revealed that Yuri Nagornykh, the former Russian deputy minister of sport, who was also a member of the ROC, had the job of deciding whether every positive drugs test from the Moscow Laboratory from 2011 would be covered up or not. The attempt to distort sport went right to the heart of government and the ROC.

Many in the IOC would prefer to allow individual federations the opportunity to ban Russian competitors from their sport. Whatever happens, Russian track and field athletes are unlikely to be the only ones banned. The International Weightlifting Federation is on the verge of confirming Russia’s team will be banned from Rio, along with Belarus, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan, and there are also questions about Russia’s swimmers and rowers.

Bach is likely to continue to face pressure from anti-doping groups and athletes to take a strong position on Russia. The president has received an urgent letter from more than a dozen national anti-doping organisations urging the IOC to immediately suspend the ROC and ban all Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics – allowing them to compete under a neutral flag only if a taskforce, approved by the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency, verified they were clean.

This, they argued, would strike a fair balance between the IOC’s stated concerns between collective responsibility and individual justice “so that no truly clean elite Russian athlete is barred from the Olympic Games”.

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