New crack appears as FIL declines to sanction banned Russian lugers
A new crack has appeared in sport’s united front against the Russian doping scandal after the FIL, the international luge federation, declined to sanction two Russian lugers who have been banned for life from competing at the Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee.
Following a meeting of its disciplinary committee yesterday, the FIL said that it had “decided not to impose sanctions” against Tatyana Ivanova and Albert Demchenko, both silver medallists at the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics, whose lifetime bans were announced by the IOC last week.
The FIL’s disciplinary commission said that it “was unable to ascertain with full conviction that the two athletes had violated anti-doping regulations at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.”
The IOC did not identify the substances involved in the cases of the two lugers, or the evidence against them, but said that it will “issue its motivated decision within a reasonable time after the notification of the present decision[s].”
In December, the FIS, skiing’s world governing body, performed an about-turn over its controversial decision not to suspend six Russian cross-country skiers that had been banned for life for doping by the IOC, citing the IOC’s detailed decision on the case of one of the six, Alexander Legkov, for its change of mind.
As a result of the ‘reasoned decision’ on Legkov, the FIS imposed provisional suspensions on all six skiers, having earlier declined to do so on the basis that it did not yet have legally-binding proof of their alleged doping.
Conversely, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation took the opposite course, lifting provisional suspensions on nine Russian athletes and officials, on the basis that “there is still not yet sufficient evidence… that would justify the provisional suspension being maintained for the time being.”
The IBSF urged the IOC “to present the IBSF with a reasoned decision, as soon as possible, in order to potentially re-consider the position of the individual athletes and officials.”
The contrasting actions appeared to illustrate confusion among international federations over the validity of the lead being shown by the IOC in dealing with the alleged Russian doping scandal.
Later last month, the IOC ruled that selected ‘clean’ Russian athletes can compete in next month’s winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, but only under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia’, wearing uniforms bearing this name, and competing under the Olympic flag, with the Olympic anthem to be played at any ceremony.
The IOC also suspended the Russian Olympic Committee, excluded Vitaly Mutko, the former Russian sports minister, now deputy prime minister, from all future Olympic Games, and suspended Alexander Zhukov, the Russian Olympic Committee president, as an IOC member.
The announcement followed a meeting of the IOC’s executive board at which the board heard from the chairs of two IOC commissions set up in the wake of the scandal, led by Denis Oswald, the veteran Swiss IOC member, and Samuel Schmid, the former Swiss president.
The winter Olympics held in Sochi have been the subject of a major investigation into an alleged doping programme in the country involving over 1,000 athletes competing in summer, winter and Paralympic sports (including non-Olympic sports).
The athletes were involved in, or benefited from, manipulations to conceal positive tests between 2011 and 2015, according to the independent McLaren report, commissioned by WADA.
Schmid insisted that his commission relied solely on “scientific proof, testimonies and exchanges of correspondence. We only included testimonies of witnesses corroborated by other types of evidence, and on the basis of facts we drew appropriate conclusions. We concluded there was systemic manipulation in Russia of the anti-doping rules and system. This was also prevalent during the games in Sochi.”
Russian officials, from the president Vladimir Putin down, have repeatedly denied allegations that the manipulation was state-supported, but Schmid said: “The operational anti-doping fight was under the authority of the Russian sports ministry. That is why the then sports minister has responsibility for the failure of the system.”