18 April 2019
Acrobats perform on the Olympics rings in Sao Paulo's financial center in Brazil on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
Acrobats perform on the Olympics rings in Sao Paulo's financial center in Brazil on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Russia escapes IOC blanket ban for Rio Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has rejected calls for Russia to be banned from next month’s Rio Olympics over the nation’s doping record, ruling that decisions on individual competitors will be left to the international sports federations, Reuters reports.

The IOC’s decision on Sunday, less than two weeks before the Rio Games opens on Aug. 5, follows the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) call for a blanket ban in response to the independent McLaren report that found evidence of state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the news agency said.

“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,” IOC president Thomas Bach said on a conference call.

“In this way we are protecting the clean athletes because of the high criteria we set. This may not please everybody, but this result is one which is respecting the rules of justice and all the clean athletes all over the world.”

WADA and 14 national anti-doping organizations had urged the IOC to impose a blanket ban in the wake of the damning McLaren report, but former Olympic fencing champion Bach said Russian sportsmen and women “will have to clear the highest hurdle to take part in the Olympics”.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said the IOC had failed to show leadership with its decision.

“Many, including clean athletes and whistleblowers, have demonstrated courage and strength in confronting a culture of state-supported doping and corruption within Russia,” USADA chief Travis Tygart said.

“Disappointingly, however, in response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership. The decision regarding Russian participation and the confusing mess left in its wake is a significant blow to the rights of clean athletes.”

Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, said the decision cleared the way for Russian participation.

“I hope that the majority of international federations will very promptly confirm the right of [Russian] sportspeople in different types of sports to take part in the Olympic Games,” Mutko said.

The International Tennis Federation wasted no time in clearing the seven Russian players nominated for Rio.

The ITF said the players have been subject to a rigorous anti-doping program outside Russia, which it considers sufficient to meet the IOC’s requirements.

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