Putin and sports officials welcome lifting of ROC's suspension
Russian political and sports officials, led by Vladimir Putin, the country’s president, have welcomed the International Olympic Committee’s controversial decision to lift the suspension it imposed on the Russian Olympic Committee, in the wake of an allegedly state-supported doping scandal.
Implying (not for the first time) that the response to the scandal had become the subject of political manoeuvres, Putin said: “We must draw relevant conclusions for ourselves, but I hope that international organisations also will eventually understand that sports must be kept away from problems unrelated to it.”
Critics of the IOC have likewise blamed it for caving in to political expediency with its decision to end the ROC’s suspension ahead of any acknowledgement by the Russian authorities of the allegations of a state-supported doping conspiracy contained in reports by Richard McLaren, the Canadian law professor who led an independent investigation, and by former Swiss president Samuel Schmid who investigated the scandal on behalf of the IOC.
However, Vitaly Smirnov, the ROC’s honorary president said that “the majority of IOC members cannot imagine the Olympic movement without Russia… The athletes played the most important part [at the PyeongChang winter Olympics]. Young people showed such great traits of the [Russian] people as courage and dignity.”
Yelena Valbe, president of the Cross-Country Skiing Federation of Russia, told Sputnik: “I would like to believe that today’s decision of the IOC was a small step toward the end of this [situation]. We are not particularly joyful now, as we hoped that we will get our flag and uniform back at the games.”
The IOC announced its controversial decision to consider reinstating the ROC, but not to allow ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’ to march under the Russian flag at the PyeongChang closing ceremony, only after two meetings of its executive board, with its recommendation eventually receiving unanimous backing from the full IOC Session.
Thomas Bach, the IOC president, said that two failed doping tests by Olympic Athletes from Russia 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.”
Vladislav Tretiak, the president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, said: “It was the right thing to do. We have been waiting for this decision for a long time. We deserved it. Everyone tried to fulfil all these complicated requirements… Each federation was worried about its athletes. We are grateful to our fans for them understanding us and not provoking us to violate the rules. The only violation, which was forgiven, was our hockey players singing the Russian national anthem.”
Alexei Kravtsov, president of the Russian Skating Union, said: “This is a positive, good sign, it is great that our country will participate at the 2020 Olympic Games. Now we have to look ahead, we really want the World Anti-Doping Agency’s attitude toward Russia to change. Its last statements were not very pleasant, the attitude is negative, and we would like it to change.”
WADA issued a statement earlier this week 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.”
In 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.