'Extra scrutiny' on Russia as 61 countries covered by pre-Olympics testing
The International Olympic Committee has announced that more than 14,000 doping tests have been conducted in advance of next month’s winter Olympic Games to help ensure clean competition.
The testing carried out by the Pre-Games Anti-Doping Taskforce has covered over 6,000 athletes from 61 countries, making it “the most rigorous pre-testing programme in Olympic history,” according to the IOC
The IOC said that the total number of tests undertaken by national anti-doping organisations and international winter Olympic sports federations between April and December 2017 represents a 70-per-cent increase on the same period in 2016, “and reflect a collective effort to optimise the protection of clean athletes ahead of PyeongChang 2018.”
Given what it described as the "extra scrutiny" on Russian athletes, the IOC stressed twice as many were tested in November and December than athletes from any other country.
This follows evidence of widespread anti-doping violations by Russia at the last winter Olympics, held on home soil in Sochi in 2014, detailed in the McLaren report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The IOC has excluded Russia from fielding a team at the PyeongChang games, which take place from 9 to 25 February, albeit selected ‘clean’ athletes from the country can compete in the games under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia’, and competing under the Olympic flag, with the Olympic anthem to be played at any ceremony.
Outlining the anti-doping provisions adopted before this year's winter Olympics, Dr Richard Budgett, the IOC medical and scientific director, said: “Protecting clean athletes by fighting doping is a top priority for the IOC. The sporting integrity of the Games is vital, and we are committed to working with our partners to ensure that PyeongChang 2018 provides a level playing field for all clean athletes.
“The number, reach and specific targeting of our pre-testing programme highlights the importance of intelligent and intensive testing through a coordinated effort with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), IFs and NADOs, as well as our commitment for a cleaner future in sport.”
As well as the increased in volume in testing, the IOC claims to have adopted more targeted methods, focusing on specific disciplines and nationalities considered to be high risk and any suspicious change in performance or adverse testing history.
Meanwhile, it has transpired that the Russian competitors at the PyeongChang winter Olympics will wear plain grey and red kits.
Sketches issued by Russian sportswear company Zasport on Thursday show what it says are the IOC-approved designs for the athletes.
As the IOC does not allow neutral uniforms to display national symbols, there are no Russian flags, just a badge on the chest reading 'Olympic Athletes from Russia'.