LAUSANNE: IOC president Thomas Bach said Wednesday that athletes and federations face tough sanctions up to a lifetime ban as he warned that doping has hit “an unprecedented level of criminality”.
The International Olympic Committee leader also stepped up calls on Russia to clear up accusations of interference in testing at its doping laboratory during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
In a new sign of pressure on Russian sport, the New York Times said US prosecutors have started an investigation into doping by Russian athletes.
With 31 athletes from 12 countries already facing a ban from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August after new tests on samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Bach warned of new punishment if accusations against Russia were proved.
The allegations against the Sochi laboratory are “very detailed and therefore very worrying”, Bach said in a commentary published in newspapers around the world.
“Should the investigation prove the allegations true it would represent a shocking new dimension in doping with an …unprecedented level of criminality,” added Bach.
He said sanctions “could range from life-long Olympic bans for any implicated person, to tough financial sanctions, to acceptance of suspension or exclusion of entire national federations like the already existing one for the Russian athletics federation.”
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) suspended Russia in November after the World Anti-Doping Agency said there was a “state-sponsored” doping campaign in Russian athletics.
Bach warned that a WADA inquiry into Russia’s actions in Sochi in 2014 could “greatly influence” whether its athletes are allowed to return for Rio.
“Should there be evidence of an organised system contaminating other sports, the international federations and the IOC would have to make the difficult decision between collective responsibility and individual justice.”
Bach even said sporting authorities would have to consider whether the ‘innocent until guilty’ maxim should still be applied to the “contaminated” federations.
With doping scandals mounting, the IOC announced Tuesday that 31 athletes from the 2008 Beijing Olympics had failed tests after their samples were reexamined.
The athletes are from 12 countries.
Some 454 Beijing tests were re-examined and the results from 250 samples retested from the 2012 London Games will be announced in a week, IOC officials said.
Bach said: “This decisive action will most likely stop some dozens of doped athletes participating in the Rio Olympic Games.”
He said in a separate briefing that the new testing had uncovered athletes “who participated in Beijing and in London and may have qualified for Rio.”
The IOC executive board has demanded that WADA start “a fully fledged investigation” into allegations that Russia’s secret services and sports ministry subverted testing at the laboratory for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
This has been alleged by a former head of the Russian anti-doping agency now in hiding in the United States.
The IOC has instructed its lab in Lausanne to re-examine samples from Sochi “using the most modern and efficient methods at its disposal.”
The Sochi samples are stored for 10 years in the facility in Lausanne.
Russian authorities have strongly denied any wrongdoing. But it faces a desperate struggle to get back into the IAAF so its athletes can compete in Rio.
The IAAF is to take a decision on June 17 on whether to let the All-Russian Athletics Federation back into the global body.
He said he had not had any communication from President Vladimir Putin over the sporting scandal however.
Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Sunday that his country was “sorry” and “ashamed” over the doping violations.
But he added that it was “absurd” to believe that Russian athletes were involved in systematic doping at the Sochi Olympics.
Mutko insisted it would be unfair to stop Russian athletes competing in Rio.
US authorities have meanwhile opened an investigation into the allegations of government-orchestrated doping in Russia, the New York Times reported, quoting two people with knowledge of the probe led by the US attorney’s office in New York.
Prosecutors are investigating Russian government officials, athletes, coaches, anti-doping authorities and others who could stand to profit, said the Times.
Even though the case involves people living outside the United States, US courts allow prosecutors to bring cases against foreigners abroad if there is at least a tenuous connection to the United States. AFP