IOC set to face more criticism over political expediency with Russia decision
The International Olympic Committee looks set to endure more criticism after announcing today that it is following through on its promise to end the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee if there were no further positive doping tests from ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’ at the PyeongChang winter Olympic Games.
The Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations is among the critics of the IOC’s perceived political expediency, having warned it in a hard-hitting open letter not to lift the restrictions it had placed on OAR for the closing ceremony of the games.
In the event, the IOC retained the restrictions, but vowed to lift its suspension of the ROC in “a few days or a few weeks” if there were no more doping violations by Russian athletes.
The IOC said in a brief statement today: “The final notification of all remaining test results from the Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) delegation has been received from the Doping-Free Sport Unit (DFSU).
“The IOC can confirm that all the remaining results are negative. Therefore, as stated in the Executive Board decision of 25th February the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee is automatically lifted with immediate effect.”
Following the executive board decision, the World Anti-Doping Agency issued a statement pointing out that, “the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) remains non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) as it has not yet met the necessary criteria of RUSADA’s Roadmap to Compliance, following Russia’s proven systemic manipulation of the doping control process. This manipulation was first exposed by WADA’s independent McLaren Investigation in July 2016.”
Craig Reedie, WADA’s president, told the BBC that those unfulfilled criteria include: fully acknowledging the allegations of a state-supported doping conspiracy contained in reports by Richard McLaren, the Canadian law professor who led the independent investigation, and by former Swiss president Samuel Schmid who investigated the scandal on behalf of the IOC; and allowing access to samples at the Moscow anti-doping laboratory that WADA believes could shed further light on the conspiracy.
Thomas Bach, the IOC president (pictured), said last week that two failed doping tests by OAR at the games were “very disappointing and prevented the IOC from considering lifting the ban for the closing ceremony.”
However, he said of the tests: “There is no evidence of systemic doping and no evidence of the involvement of the Russian Olympic Committee in these cases.”
Nicole Hoevertsz, the head of the implementation group that reported to the IOC on the OAR delegation, cited the delegation’s “exemplary” behaviour in PyeongChang.
She added: “We have to draw a line and look towards the future. We need to bring this story to an end and look forward. It is never going to be business as usual in sport again or in Russia.”
In its open letter, iNADO had addressed IOC members directly, saying: “You may feel that the ROC is part of the Olympic family, and deserves to be welcomed back into the Olympic house. We would argue that Olympic Moments have been stolen by doped members of past Russian contingents with no acknowledgement of responsibility by the ROC nor indication of contrition; the sanction must align with the IOC ‘zero tolerance for doping’ policy.
“Who deserves your support more? An organisation from a supremely powerful and accomplished country which over multiple Games took doped teams and to this day has offered no apology or evidence of attempts to reconcile; Or, is it the multitudes of athletes who were deprived of their Olympic moments and who rightfully expect proportional punishment for doping transgressions.”
Last December, the IOC ruled that selected ‘clean’ Russian athletes could take part in the PyeongChang winter Olympics, 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 ruling followed a major doping scandal in Russian sport centred on the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics. However, the IOC did suggest that if the OAR delegation abided by a strict set of criteria during the games, the restrictions might be lifted for the closing ceremony.
OAR won 17 medals, including two golds, at the PyeongChang games.