PARIS: The Olympic movement faces division in a critical week ahead of the Rio Games with a report Monday to set out whether Russia manipulated doping samples, followed quickly by a sports tribunal verdict on 68 Russian athletes demanding to compete in Rio.
A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decision on whether to let the Rio doping laboratory reopen could also hamper International Olympic Committee preparations.
“It’s an incredibly important week that could crack the unity built up on doping,” an international sports federation president who is also a senior IOC member told Agence France-Presse.
A report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren has caused divisions before it is even released in Toronto on Monday with the United States and Canada leading calls for a potential complete ban on Russia from the Rio Games which start on Aug. 5.
McLaren has carried out an independent investigation for WADA of allegations made by former Moscow doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov that even Russian secret services took part in an operation to manipulate Russian doping samples at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
The Canadian investigator said in June that the early results of his work had found “credible and verifiable” evidence to back the allegations made to the New York Times by Rodchenkov who is now in hiding in the United States. He is wanted by the Russian authorities who have strongly denied any state role in doping.
Corruption and subversion
Paul Melia, president of the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport, which carries out anti-doping efforts in Canada, said countries must be ready to ban Russia completely from Rioif the McLaren report confirms the Rodchenkov allegations.
Melia said in a blog that the report “could paint an unprecedented picture of state-supported corruption and subversion of the anti-doping system” in Russia.
“If Monday’s report confirms the Rodchenkov allegations, then the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will have no choice but to ban all Russian athletes from this summer’s Olympic Summer Games in Rio,” Melia wrote. “And it must be the same consequence for the Russian contingent at the Paralympics in September.”
European Olympic Committees president Patrick Hickey said he was “shocked”, however, by US and Canadian efforts to press for a ban before the McLaren report is even released.
Hickey said Beckie Scott, the Canadian chairman of the WADA athletes commission and an IOC member, had sent out an email appeal to back a letter from the US and Canadian anti-doping agencies to IOC president Thomas Bach.
“This letter calls upon the IOC to instigate a wholesale ban of the Russian Olympic Committee team in Rio 2016,” according to Hickey.
“My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree an outcome before any evidence has been presented,” Hickey said.
“Such interference and calls ahead of the McLaren Report publication are totally against internationally recognized fair legal process and may have completely undermined the integrity and therefore the credibility of this important report. It is clear from the email and letter that both the independence and the confidentiality of the report have been compromised,” he said.
“Any proposal for a blanket Russian ban would cause a major split within the IOC,” the international federation president commented to AFP on condition of anonymity.
Despite Hickey’s comments, some European countries are known to support a ban. IOC president Thomas Bach only said last week that the Olympic movement would wait for the report before making a decision.
Russia is already barred from international athletics by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). But the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) could rule as early as Tuesday on an appeal by 68 Russian athletes who say they should be allowed to compete in Rio.
The IAAF has said that only long jump athlete Darya Klishina could compete in Rio, and then under a neutral flag. Bach said last week that Klishina should be allowed to take part under the Russian flag.
Pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva is among the 68 hoping for a last-minute ticket to Riofrom CAS.
Whistleblower and 800 meters runner Yuliya Stepanova, who has refused to race for Russia, must wait to see if an Olympic ethics board accepts her request to take part as a neutral.
With the Rio countdown becoming more urgent, the IOC also faces having to send thousands of Games samples out of Brazil for testing unless WADA renews the licence for the Rio de Janeiro anti-doping laboratory.
The Rio lab was suspended on June 24 for not meeting international standards and a WADA commission is due to rule this week on whether to give a new permit. AFP