International Olympic Committee Decides Not To Ban Russian Team

Jul 24, 2016
Originally published on July 25, 2016 8:54 am

The International Olympic Committee has announced that it will not impose a blanket ban on the entire Russian team from the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro despite evidence of state-sponsored doping.

Instead, it has called on sports federations to carry out assessments on individual athletes to determine whether they can compete.

The decision is an attempt to balance "the desire and need for collective responsibility versus the right to individual justice of every individual athlete," IOC President Thomas Bach said in a teleconference with reporters on Sunday.

"This may not please everybody on either side," he said, "but still, the result today is one which is respecting the rules of justice and which is respecting the rights of all the clean athletes all over the world."

The individual federations "should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete's anti-doping record, taking into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete's sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field," the IOC's decision reads.

The decisions by individual federations will then be reviewed by an arbiter from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, it says. Athletes who are cleared will then be "subject to a rigorous additional out-of-competition testing programme."

Additionally, any Russian athlete who has ever been sanctioned for doping is not eligible to compete.

"This is a very ambitious timeline, but we had no choice," Bach told reporters. Opening Ceremonies are on August 5.

NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow parsed out where the major international players stood on the issue on Weekend Edition Sunday:

"The World Anti-Doping Agency called for a blanket ban. So did the U.S. anti-doping agency. They said Russian cheating hurt clean athletes all over the world, so why should clean athletes in Russia get a pass? Some athletic federations have said they'd ban some competitors in their sports, especially those sports that have had a lot of doping problems, for instance — weightlifting. Others like swimming have said that they oppose a blanket ban."

As we reported last month, track and field's international governing body decided to bar Russian athletes from competing in the games over allegations of state-sponsored doping. Last week, appeals from more than 60 Russian track and field athletes were rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

NPR's Tom Goldman explained on Weekend Edition Saturday that the IOC basically had two options going into this meeting:

"Well, the one everyone is talking about, the one you mentioned - the nuclear option, if you will - ban the entire Russian team. That's never been done before due to doping. Another option is the IOC tells individual sports federations to figure out on a case-by-case basis whether their athletes are clean and can compete."

He said either option was likely to provoke criticism:

"If it bans them all, some say - and not just the Russians are saying this - there will be clean athletes kept out of the games, and that doesn't seem fair. And if the IOC falls short of a total ban, critics will say the committee's constant tough talk against doping is just that - talk."

The IAAF had previously granted Russian track athlete and whistle-blower Yuliya Stepanova permission to compete in the games as an "independent neutral athlete" — because of her "truly exceptional contribution to the protection and promotion of clean athletes."

But now, because of today's ban on athletes with previous doping sanctions, the IOC says Stepanova will not be eligible to compete.

Meanwhile, some delegations are starting to arrive at the Olympic Village in Brazil. One team didn't like what it found there. Australia's delegation head Kitty Chiller said the team would not move into their allotted building because the Village "is simply not safe or ready."

She adds: "Problems include blocked toilets, leaking pipes, exposed wiring, darkened stairwells where no lighting has been installed and dirty floors in need of a massive clean." During a stress test Saturday that the building failed, "water came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was 'shorting' in the electrical wiring."

Chiller says alternative arrangements have been made for athletes that are arriving in the next three days.

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The International Olympic Committee is stopping short of a blanket ban on all Russian athletes from competing at next month's games in Rio. But the committee said Russian athletes do bear, quote, "collective responsibility" for a state-sponsored doping program. And now they'll have to meet some tough conditions if they do want to compete. NPR's Corey Flintoff joins us now from Moscow. Corey, what are those conditions?

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Well, one is that the individual athletic federations for each one of these sports will make the call on whether the Russian athletes can compete. You know, so for instance, the International Weightlifting Federation or the International Swimming Federation or tennis would decide on an individual basis who could who could go to Rio. Another condition is that no athlete can participate if they've ever served a suspension for doping. Those who are cleared to compete will be subject to extra-intensive drug testing.

HU: So how will this decision play with some of the global anti-doping organizations, which had said that the entire Russian squad should be banned because the Russian government ran a program to help athletes cheat?

FLINTOFF: Well, as you know, for instance, the World Anti-Doping Agency called for a blanket ban. So did the Russian - the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. They said Russian cheating hurt clean athletes all over the world, you know. So why should clean athletes in Russia get a pass? Some athletic federations have said they'd ban some Russian competitors in their sports, especially those sports that have had a lot of doping problems, for instance, weightlifting. Others, likes swimming, have said that they oppose a blanket ban.

HU: How do some of those specific sanctions that you laid out, like the ban on athletes who've served suspensions previously for doping - how does that play out for one of the main whistleblowers?

FLINTOFF: Well, one of the main whistleblowers was a Russian runner named Yulia Stepanova, who came forward after she had served a suspension for doping. She won't be able to compete. And, you know, one of the reporters at the news conference today asked, well, what kind of message does that send to athletic whistleblowers? And Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said, we intend to support her. We intend to invite her to the Olympics as our guest, and we meant to make it clear that, you know, we support what she did.

HU: And finally, only is there enough time for Russian athletes and their federations to go through all these new steps?

FLINTOFF: Well, that's a good question. Thomas Bach said there is enough time. He said that, you know, many of these athletic federations have already been working on the problem. You know, they know the athletes that they're dealing with from Russia. In many cases, they already know their drug testing histories. And, you know, they're in a good position to make decisions rather quickly.

You know, the other thing is that this is something that separates out an argument that the Russians have been making for a long time, you know, that clean athletes in Russia were being cheated of their chances to compete. Now that argument will no longer hold water. And I think that's going to going to make for a very interesting continuing story as we go along.

HU: Indeed. That's NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow. Corey, thanks.

FLINTOFF: Great. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.